Three A-K Valley girls capture titles at Keystone State Championships

Saturday, April 17, 2021 | 7:29 PM

Ava Golding, Alaina Claassen and Arianna Bernard wrestle for Team Namaste at Battleground Training Center in Vandergrift, and after the Keystone State Championships in early April, they all can call themselves state champions.

The wrestlers won state championships in their respective weight classes during the event held at the Monroeville Convention Center two weekends ago, and they did so in dominating fashion.

“It was definitely a cool experience,” Golding said. “I was pretty nervous.”

Competing in her first state tournament, Golding, who has wrestled for three years, defeated her first two opponents by major decision before running into Samiyah Rahming of Philadelphia in the championship bout of the ages 11 & 12 114-pound division.

Golding trailed throughout her match after Rahming scored four points on a takedown and a near fall in the first minute. Golding scored a reversal in the first period to cut the lead in half, but the scoring halted until the final 17 seconds when she scored an escape and a takedown to earn the victory.

“I shot to get the takedown, and the ref wasn’t calling it and she had my head,” Golding said. “But at the very last second, the ref called the two. I wasn’t paying attention to the score so even after I got my two, I didn’t think I had won. Then I looked at the score and saw that I had won.”

While Golding squeaked by for her state title, Bernard and Claassen dominated their competition.

In the 135-pound junior high division, Bernard didn’t allow a point on the way to her third state title. After receiving a first-round bye as the top seed, she pinned her first two opponents in 53 seconds and 1:23, respectively, to earn a spot in the finals. Then, with a takedown in the first period and a near fall in the second, Bernard earned a 4-0 decision.

“It’s definitely very exciting, and I’m very proud of myself,” Bernard said. “Not many people can do what I did. I put in a lot of work, and I train to be the best. If I find someone that beats me, I train to beat that person and I set a goal for myself to beat that person. Then I do it.”

Claassen captured her third state championship as well. In the ages 11 & 12 145-pound bracket, Claassen pinned two of her opponents in 17 seconds or less, earned a 15-1 major decision and won her final match with a 5-2 decision.

“I’m pretty proud of myself,” Claassen said. “I worked pretty hard, especially this year because I knew that the girls were going to be pretty tough, so I worked really hard.”

With weight classes spread out in girls wrestling, Claassen had to work all season to get to her desired weight for the state tournament, which made it that more satisfying to win.

“It was hard, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle because I’ve done it before,” Claassen said. “I had to run 2 to 4 miles a day during school, which is tough, then double practices every day. I was just working my hardest. It was definitely satisfying.”

Though Golding is from Kiski Area, Bernard is set to enter ninth grade at Valley and Claassen attends O’Block Junior High School in Plum, they formed a bond while wrestling with Team Namaste.

That bond also helped them push each other at the state tournament.

“We were all right after each other,” Bernard said. “So Ava went, then Alaina went, then I went. So Ava won, and it was so exciting. Then Alaina won, and it was so exciting. Then I was like, ‘Well, I have to win now.’ ”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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