Penn Hills’ Perkins sets sights on PIAA tournament berth

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Thursday, December 6, 2018 | 9:30 PM


After qualifying for the WPIAL wrestling tournament the first three years of his high school career, senior Justin Perkins will look to make his final season at Penn Hills count as he has his sights on a trip to Hershey for the state tournament.

Last season, Perkins (14-8) lost both of his matches in the 126-pound weight class at the WPIAL Class AAA/Southwest Regional. Perkins was pinned by Canon-McMillan’s Kenny Hayman at 1:50 in the opening round before forfeiting his match in the loser’s bracket.

In the Section 1-AAA tournament, Perkins beat Hempfield’s Jared Brean, 9-2, in the third-place consolation match.

“The first thing I believe is that if you don’t have the mindset, then you’re not going to get anywhere. You got to have confidence. I’m more confident this year,” Perkins said.

“I’m older than most people, and I’m more experienced than most people. If I go out there with a positive mindset, a positive outcome will appear.”

Earlier in the season, Perkins lost to Quaker Valley’s John Rocco Kazalas, 3-2, in the 132-pound championship bout at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic at West Mifflin.

On the road to the championship, Perkins won matches by pin, technical fall and decision. During his sophomore season, Perkins won the 126-pound title at West Mifflin.

This season, Perkins will start the season at 132 pounds but likely will cut down to 126.

“If I wrestle bigger people and stronger people, it’s going to be a little bit easier if I wrestle down because they won’t be as big and strong as the ones I wrestled at the beginning of the year. I will be more confident at a smaller weight,” Perkins said.

With Perkins being the lone senior of the Penn Hills roster, he believes the pressure has kicked up a notch for his final season.

“It always felt like I always had the load on my back, but this year even more. It seems like I’m the one that everyone is focused on since this is my last year. I’m the target, and I’m the one that’s supposed to make something happen this year,” Perkins said.

Perkins will look to provide the senior leadership lost by the departure of heavyweight DeShawn Butler, who is now wrestling at Pitt-Johnstown.

Butler (32-9) finished one match away from qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA tournament after falling to Hempfield’s Isaiah Vance, 4-3.

Butler qualified for WPIALs after finishing second in the Section 1 tournament.

At the Allegheny County tournament in mid-January, Butler finished in third place. He was second at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic and fourth in the Eastern Area Invitational.

“That’s 83 wins and 40 to 50 pins that just walked out the door. He brought a lot of senior leadership last year,” coach Jeremy Packer said.

“He was really big into football and when that didn’t work out for him, wrestling was right there for him, and I’m pleased it worked out for him so he can continue his wrestling.”

The Indians will look to junior Mike DeVito (138) and sophomore Hunter Shields (126, 132) to continue to progress this season with a small roster of eight wrestlers.

“They just have to score points. High tempo and get after their opponents. Don’t make mistakes, wrestle smart. They have the talent between the three of them. They just need to put it all together,” Packer said.

The Indians were scheduled to compete in the Eastern Area Invitational at Gateway over the weekend.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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