Penn Hills wrestlers find success at holiday tournament

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Friday, January 10, 2020 | 12:53 AM


A high school wrestling season is a long journey where wrestlers hope to peak toward the end of the season.

Coach Jeremy Packer hopes the Penn Hills wrestlers will peak during a long postseason run.

Junior Hunter Shields (9-4) has led the Indians with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the Eastern Area Invitational and the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic.

At the Eastern Invitational, Shields lost to Franklin Regional’s Garrett Thompson by a 12-2 major decision in the third-place consolation match in the 132-pound weight class. Shields was the only Penn Hills wrestler to step on the podium at the Eastern Invitational at Gateway on Dec. 6-7.

At the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic, Shields finished fourth at 132 after losing to Pine-Richland’s Kelin Laffey, 8-2, in the tournament at West Mifflin on Dec. 27-28.

“He wrestled well. He made the semis in both tournaments and he came back through and ended up in the consolation finals,” Packer said.

“He’s a move or two away sometimes from hitting that key move that wins or loses the match. One move can make or break the match. He’s a pretty consistent performer.”

Last season, Shields led the Indians with 26 wins and was one of two WPIAL qualifiers.

The Indians had two other wrestlers reach the podium at West Mifflin last month. Sophomore Steve Tucibat (7-3) finished fifth after defeating Plum’s Paul McClintock by an 11-2 major decision in the 120-pound weight class.

Packer was pleased with Tucubat’s ability to battle back from a loss to top-seeded Foster Cardinale from Brentwood.

“Steve has been a real big surprise. He has won some big matches. He had a bad draw and lost to the top seed early but came all the way back to the consolation matches,” Packer said.

“All the guys want to get on the podium. They always want to make the second day of the tournament. It just showed a lot of fight and fortitude that he was able to lose early and overcome it and battle back.”

Senior Robert Harris (5-4) finished seventh after pinning Highlands’ Tyler Thompson in 3:30 in the 170-pound bout.

The three place winners tied the most podium finishers in program history at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic.

In dual meets, the Indians have lost two of their first three matches. Penn Hills opened with a 66-3 loss to Greensburg Salem on Dec. 11 before beating Woodland Hills, 36-3, on Dec. 18. After the holiday tournament, the Indians lost to Hempfield, 63-6, on Jan. 6.

Even if the Indians don’t factor into the team portion of the postseason, Packer is looking for his wrestlers to focus on what can be accomplished on an individual basis.

“Keep working hard and doing what we’re doing. The second half basically starts right now. We’ve got to keep working hard in the room and stepping up our performance when we get our chances in the dual meets and the tournaments,” Packer said.

The Indians will have one more dual meet at Latrobe before they participate in the Allegheny County Wrestling Championships at Fox Chapel on Jan. 17-18.

In late January, the Indians will be part of the Frank Ferguson Classic in West Virginia before they finish up with dual meets against Riverview and Central Catholic.

“We think we have some good kids that can make it to the WPIALtournament and get out of the section,” Packer said. “Our section is always tough but I have kids that will battle and claw their way out somehow.”

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