Bentworth’s Chris Vargo pulls huge upset at 2A wrestling Southwest Regional

Saturday, March 2, 2024 | 10:07 PM

ALTOONA — Ask Bentworth senior Chris Vargo what it means to win four regional wrestling championships, and the response might seem surprising.

Even after a convincing decision Saturday against a nationally ranked opponent.

“Right now, it doesn’t mean (anything),” Vargo said.

On a night when Frazier standout Rune Lawrence notched his fourth pin over a two-day period — and third in less than a minute — matching Vargo with his fourth regional title, as well, Vargo garnered the loudest ovation from a capacity crowd at Altoona High School during the two-day PIAA Class 2A Southwest Region wrestling tournament while turning back Bishop McCort Catholic superstar Jax Forrest.

Ranked No. 2 in the United States at 127 pounds, according to FloWrestling, Forrest was no match for Vargo’s tenacity before and during their bout.

“You have nothing to lose when you wrestle any of the Bishop McCort guys,” said Vargo, after his rousing, 13-7 decision over the heralded McCort sophomore. “Everyone hates on them, but I have a lot of respect. They work tremendously hard. So, for me, I just go out there, and I was having fun. It helped with the crowd. The crowd was awesome. It was definitely loud. It gave me a lot of motivation and momentum.”

Bishop McCort produced six individual champions among seven qualifiers for the final round, with Forrest suffering the Crimson Crushers’ only loss.

“We’ve got a state title to win yet,” Vargo said. “After we’re done here, I might look back at this and be like ‘(Oh), yeah.’”

Vargo (38-2) already was looking ahead to the PIAA tournament later this week with an eye toward a possible rematch with Forrest.

“You’ve got to beat him twice to prove it’s not a fluke,” Vargo said.

Meantime, Lawrence followed his stellar Friday bouts at 215 that produced pins in 15 and 18 seconds and another in 1 minute, 19 seconds, with a 41-second outcome against Josh Ryan of Mt. Union.

For Lawrence (29-1), whose season was interrupted in December when he sustained a knee injury at the Ironman Tournament in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and took his only loss on a medical forfeit, it’s been business as usual. He shrugged at the notion he hadn’t broken a sweat during his latest action.

“It’s boring to watch 2-1 matches, so when I perform, I want to make it as exciting as it can be,” he said. “I just think it comes out a lot from the style of how you wrestle. I always wanted to be dominant, even when I was little. I always went after people, so nothing really changed there.”

Staying healthy is Lawrence’s biggest priority, he said.

“The more you’re on the mat, the more potential it is to get hurt,” he said. “So the way I look at it: Get in, get out.”

The top six finishers in each weight class qualified to move on to the PIAA tournament from Thursday through Saturday in Hershey, among them a total of 38 WPIAL wrestlers after Saturday’s final day of the Southwest regional.

Other WPIAL champions among the group were Jorden Williams of Chartiers-Houston, a 5-3 winner over Easton Mull of Chestnut Ridge at 114; Elijah Brown of Belle Vernon, who edged Braedon Welsh of Fort Cherry, 3-2, at 172; and Brenan Morgan of Central Valley, who came away with a dominating performance against Dylan Pitzer of Mt. Pleasant at 285, posting an 18-3 technical fall in 4:28.

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