A-K Valley girls wrestlers ready for shot at WPIAL gold, spots in regionals

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Thursday, February 15, 2024 | 8:37 PM


Ava Golding is undefeated against WPIAL opponents this season.

The Kiski Area sophomore, 21-4 overall, has earned the No. 1 seed at 136-pounds for the inaugural WPIAL girls wrestling championships set for Saturday at North Allegheny High School.

“You never know what to expect until you see your name there,” said Golding, who owns 16 pins, two decisions, two major decisions and two tech falls in her 21 victories. “But when I saw it, I knew that it was the start of having to get the job done on Saturday.

“I am anxious but also excited to get to Saturday. I am ready to compete to win a WPIAL title. It is all about wrestling my best and also making it to regionals. There is some pressure, but I try not to think about it. I can only control myself and what I can do on the mat.”

Golding, 14-0 this season against WPIAL opponents, is one of three No. 1 seeds from the Alle-Kiski Valley. The others are Plum sophomore Saphia Davis at 124, and fellow Plum sophomore Alaina Claassen at 235.

They lead a larger group of 15 A-K Valley wrestlers who have earned top-eight seeds.

Wrestling Saturday begins at 9 a.m. in all weight classes and will continue through the championship quarterfinals and the first round of consolations.

The semifinals and third round of consolations will be at 1 p.m., with the fourth consolation round at 2:30, and all place matches, including the championship finals, at 4.

All of the times are approximate.

There will be full wrestlebacks from the Round of 16, and the top six finishers advance to the Western Regional Tournament on March 2 at Canon-McMillan.

The top four from regionals move on to states March 7-9 at Hershey’s Giant Center.

“This is another great step for girls wrestling to be really recognized as a sport,” said Davis, 22-2 overall this season after going 8-9 in girls matches last year.

She is 17-1 against WPIAL opponents this season. Her only loss came at the hands of Connellsville’s Trinity Moore by fall Dec. 9 at the season-opening Butler tournament.

Davis won’t get a chance to avenge the defeat as Moore (21-2) is the No. 2 seed at 118.

But Davis knows the 124-pound bracket will be a challenge. Davis met No. 2 seed Paige Jox, a sophomore from Mt. Lebanon, in the semifinals of the North Allegheny Tournament on Feb. 3.

The two wrestled into overtime with Davis winning 2-1 on an ultimate tiebreaker.

Jox is 27-3 with 20 pins, a major decision and a tech fall.

“I am really ready for Saturday, and it also is one step closer to, hopefully, a trip to states,” Davis said. “There is a little pressure for me to get to the championship match, but I am confident in myself that I can do it. All of the girls who are ranked are really good, and I know it won’t be easy to win the title.

“It’s going to be a tough competition. There are some simple things with technique that I am working on. I’ve been going live and doing some conditioning to keep sharp.”

Claassen, 28-5 overall in two seasons of varsity wrestling and a state place-winner last year, returned to competition in late December after recovering from knee surgery last March.

She was pinned in her debut match but proceeded to win all but one of her next 15 matches. She is 10-0 against the WPIAL, and of her 14 wins, 11 are by fall. She also owns an 8-0 major decision over No. 3 seed Zoey Murphy from Southmoreland.

Originally seeded second at 235, Burrell junior Bella Stewart had a decision to make earlier this week.

Also a member of the Bucs girls basketball team, Stewart found out Monday that the WPIAL Class 3A first-round game against Keystone Oaks was set for Saturday at noon at South Park.

That created a conflict, and after some thought, she decided to be there for her basketball teammates.

Stewart, a midseason addition to the Bucs girls wrestling lineup, went 5-1 overall. All of her victories were by fall including wins against Valley and Fox Chapel.

“I know that people tell you to think about yourself, but I was thinking about my teammates and what we had accomplished all season,” Stewart said. “I don’t want to let my team down. It was a tough decision, but I felt it was the best decision to go to basketball. As much as I wanted to go and wrestle, I just couldn’t this weekend.”

Stewart said knowing that she is only a junior and has next year to come back and make a run at postseason wrestling glory made the decision a little easier.

“That definitely played into it, and, hopefully, there won’t be this conflict again. It (stinks) to not be able to do both,” she said.

WPIAL Girls Wrestling Championships

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024

North Allegheny High School

Alle-Kiski Valley Seeded Wrestlers

(Subject to change)

100 pounds

Miranda Lajevic, junior, Knoch, No. 3 seed, 18-9

Yasmin Martinez, senior, Valley, No. 5 seed, 11-0

106

Zainaya Jones, freshman, Valley, No. 2 seed, 8-3

Atia DiGioia, sophomore, Fox Chapel, No. 6 seed, 9-7

112

Ella Campbell, freshman, Burrell, No. 4 seed, 8-4

Braylee Ireland, sophomore, Knoch, No. 6 seed, 12-10

124

Saphia Davis, sophomore, Plum, No. 1 seed, 22-2

130

Yuqi Zhou, junior, Fox Chapel, No. 6 seed, 15-9

Addison Claassen, freshman, Plum, No. 7 seed, 19-8

136

Ava Golding, sophomore, Kiski Area, No. 1 seed, 21-4

Emma Leiendecker, junior, Plum, No. 8 seed, 14-9

170

Arianna Bernard, junior, Valley, No. 2 seed, 9-1

190

Caroline Perez, freshman, Plum, No. 7 seed, 4-5

235

Alaina Claassen, sophomore, Plum, No. 1 seed, 14-2

Vie Filar, junior, Fox Chapel, No. 4 seed, 8-4

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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