Canon-McMillan’s Nijenhuis stuns 2-time champ, named Outstanding Wrestler at PIAA Class AAA finals

Saturday, March 9, 2019 | 10:55 PM

HERSHEY — How do you win the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championship’s Outstanding Wrestler award?

You easily handle a two-time state champion in the finals.

That’s what Canon-McMillan junior Gerrit Nijenhuis did Saturday at the Giant Center, defeating Susquehanna Township senior Edmond Ruth, 8-3, to win the 170-pound title.

Ruth defeated Ligonier Valley grad Robert Patrick in Class AA in 2017 and 2018, but Nijenhuis was a different animal.

He quickly took down Ruth and produced to build his lead.

“I wanted to make sure I dictated the pace and the speed of the match,” Nijenhuis said. “I went out firing right away and not sitting back. I went right to my offense and, if did that, I’d win, and that’s what happened.”

Nijenhuis said when he got into a scramble with Ruth he didn’t have time to think, he reacted.

“I was able to come out on top,” Nijenhuis said. “The game plan was to maintain my focus and not get caught up with all the hype. Go in and don’t let him dictate how I wrestled.”

Nijenhuis was one of four WPIAL wrestlers to grab Class AAA state titles.

The others were Franklin Regional sophomore Carter Dibert (106), Seneca Valley sophomore Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (113) and Kiski Area senior Darren Miller (126).

There were actually three bouts that were all-WPIAL matchups.

Dibert defeated Seneca Valley sophomore Dylan Chappell, 7-2; Herrera-Rondon topped Franklin Regional freshman Finn Solomon, 10-5; and Miller edged Franklin Regional senior Colton Camacho, 6-5.

Kiski Area senior Cam Connor (152), Mt. Lebanon junior Luke Stout (182) and Upper St. Clair senior heavyweight Jake Slinger all fell in their finals bouts and settled for second place.

Dibert got a quick five-point move in the first 25 seconds of the match and cruised to a 7-2 victory. After pulling off the win, he leaped to his feet and clenched his fists.

The victory reversed a 5-1 sudden victory loss to Chappell in the WPIAL finals March 2.

“Last week I think I was a little more cautious,” Dibert said. “I was a little more feeling him out. This week I just wanted to get to my stuff, really just get to a lead and build on it.”

Miller used a first-period takedown to grab the advantage in his 6-5 win against Camacho.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Miller said. “I was able to live my dream. … This was just a miracle to me.

“Not being able to come last year pushed me to the next level. I realized I had to get in the room. I was training every day. I knew at that moment I wanted to be on top the following year.”

Herrera-Rondon said Solomon fought him well.

“Finn is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever wrestled,” Herrera-Rondon said. “He’s a scrambly kid. I just wrestled tough.

“Last year’s title was really sweet because I wasn’t one of the top dogs. This year is just as sweet, just not as dramatic.”

Herrera-Rondon defeated Norwin junior Kurtis Phipps, 1-0, to win the 2018 title at 106 pounds.

Phipps dropped his second consecutive finals match, losing to Nazareth junior Sean Pierson, 8-5.

While Phipps declined comment, Norwin coach Vince DeAugustine said he couldn’t have been prouder of his wrestler because of the distractions he went through prior to the match.

After beating Council Rock South senior Shane Hanson-Ashworth, 5-3, in the semifinals, Phipps spent most of the day at the hospital getting five stitches and having his injured left foot checked out.

“He really fought through some pain,” DeAugustine said. “I’m surprised he wrestled as well as he did with the stitches and the torn tendon in his left foot. He gutted it out and did well.”

Pierson was able to get the first takedown in the match when it looked like Phipps was going to get it on the edge.

“That was a step back and he caught Kurtis,” DeAugustine said. “That kid is good.”

Connor dropped a 10-2 decision to Owen J. Roberts senior Daniel Mancini at 152.

Stout reached the finals but dropped a 7-1 decision to Cathedral Prep senior Carter Starocci at 182.

Slinger (39-1) suffered his first loss of the season, falling 3-0 to Cathedral Prep senior Kuwaun DeBoe (39-0).

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .


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