Pair of Quaker Valley wrestlers work together to make state tournament

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 11:25 PM

Quaker Valley senior Austin Pantaleo’s fourth wrestling injury in five years nearly sidelined him from the sport for good.

Instead, it put Pantaleo and sophomore Patrick Cutchember on an intertwining path to be the only Quakers to qualify for the PIAA tournament. Cutchember placed second at 182 pounds in regionals, and Pantaleo was sixth at 170.

“With two torn ligaments in December, I wasn’t supposed to come back on the mat,” Pantaleo said. “After all the injuries I had, I accepted defeat for a while and considered giving up. But I also love to be with my teammates, to wrestle for the little kids that come to watch us and to wrestle for our community. It’s a family.”

Cutchember moved from 170 to 182, the weight class Pantaleo planned to compete at this season, shortly after the injury.

Pantaleo saw the run Cutchember was on, which included a win over the top-ranked wrestler at 182, and told him to stay at 182 in late January when he was cleared to return.

“It just shows how much character Austin has that he would do that,” Cutchember said. “It shows how good of a person and how good of a teammate he is that he would drop to 170 and tell me to wrestle at 182, where I’m more confident. It turned out to be the best move for both of us.”

Cutchember won his first three matches at regionals, including a nail biter against Penns Valley’s Andrew Sharer. Tied 0-0 in the third period, Cutchember chose bottom.

“The kid threw his legs in. Patrick sat him under and reached back for the kid’s head,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Heinl said. “He caught his head, stuck him and pinned him. There are very few kids who can do what Patrick did. It’s tough to teach.”

Cutchember won 7-4 against Burrell’s Ricky Feroce to advance to the finals, where he lost by the same score to Ellwood City’s Austin Walley.

“Walley is one of the top guys in the state, and I was able to keep it close against someone like that,” Cutchember said. “If I’m on my best day and he’s not, I might have a chance (in states). Anything can happen.”

Pantaleo, who recently committed to Shippensburg, lost in the fifth-place match to Meyersdale’s Drake Gindlesperger.

He also won three consecutive consolation matches by pin, including a victory over Burgettstown’s D.J. Slovick, which qualified him for states. The win avenged a loss to Slovick at the WPIAL tournament.

“I got up screaming in excitement after that match,” Pantaleo said. “My phone blew up. The first person to message me was Conner Redinger, and, yeah, I wasn’t supposed to be one of the guys going to states. It just really hit me after how much these guys care and how much they helped me get to this point.”

Donovan Cutchember’s storybook comeback ended at regionals, a week after winning the WPIAL championship at 220. Back on the mat after two knee injuries, he finished eighth.

“After everything Donovan went through, he comes back to win section and WPIAL titles, something no one can take away from him,” Patrick Cutchember said. “Going into that last match (at regionals), he put it all on the line. I’m very proud of him.”

Logan Richey, Amir McCrackin and Michael Carmody each lost their matches in their first regional appearances. Redinger did not compete because of injury.

“I was happy they got the experience at regionals, and hopefully it leads to more success,” Heinl said. “I expect big things from them next year.”


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