Burrell’s Oswalt, Valley’s Schuffert rebound after narrow losses, take 3rd at regionals

Saturday, February 24, 2018 | 11:18 PM

Ian Oswalt had other goals for Saturday night than wrestling in the third-place match at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional.

But when his best-laid plans went awry, the Burrell freshman made the most of it.

Oswalt secured third place at 113 pounds in his first trip to the Southwest Regional at IUP, beating Blairsville's Jack Bruce, 6-1, to do so. He overcame an ultimate tiebreaker loss to Glendale's Brock McMillen in the Saturday afternoon semifinals to win a pair of consolation matches and claim third.

“It's not where I wanted to be, obviously, but you have to bounce back,” Oswalt said. “You can't let that get to you. If I don't care after I lose that and I take sixth, it's just going to put me in a bad spot at the state tournament. I want to place high in states, maybe even win it.”

Adversity comes almost as a rule during the individual wrestling postseason, and Valley coach Dane Johnson said it takes mental toughness to overcome.

One of Johnson's wrestlers, junior David Schuffert, showed his own bounce-back ability. After dropping a controversial match in overtime to Bishop McCoy's Josiah Jones in their 285-pound semifinal, Schuffert won his two consolation matches to place third.

“I wanted to be on top,” Schuffert said. “(But) I feel pretty proud right now because I'm going to states, and I took third here.”

Schuffert said it was difficult to recover from the semifinal loss — “I was so close; they just messed me up on that,” he said — but he wanted to come back harder. He beat Central Cambria's Nate Martin, 3-0, in the third-place match.

“I couldn't be more proud of him,” Johnson said of Schuffert, who also is dealing with the death of his grandmother last week. “I'm thrilled on how he wrestled. Dealing with a tough loss like that, sometimes it's difficult to bounce back. I thought he did an unbelievable job, and I'm really happy for him.”

If nothing else, their hardships Saturday only motivated Oswalt and Schuffert more for the PIAA championships March 8-10 in Hershey.

“I was tighter this weekend,” Oswalt said. “I just want to go out there and have fun.”

Added Schuffert: “I can't wait.”

While Schuffert becomes Valley's first PIAA qualifier since Jihad Ratliff in 2016, Burrell will send five wrestlers to Hershey. Seniors Corey Christie and Shaun Gates, junior Austin Mele and freshman A.J. Corrado will join Oswalt after earning top-six finishes.

Like Oswalt, Christie wrestled in the semifinals, where he fell to Chestnut Ridge's Justin McCoy. He won his first consolation bout before dropping a 2-1 decision to Juniata's Tyler Wileman.

Corrado and Gates both lost their first-round matches Friday and followed with four consecutive victories in the consolation bracket to reach the third-place match before ultimately dropping hard-fought decisions. Corrado lost, 4-3, to Jacob Powers of St. Joseph's Catholic Academy in the 132-pound third-place match, while Gates fell, 1-0, to Portage's Cole Sossong to finish fourth at 160.Mele also lost his first match but battled back through the consolation bracket to reach the fifth-place match at 170, where he lost to Chestnut Ridge's Levi Hobson.

Burrell finished fourth in the team standings.

“(We got) a solid five guys,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “It's hard to predict who it's going to be. I thought overall our guys wrestled pretty well that advanced through.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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