Westmoreland wrestlers suffer tough losses at PIAAs

Saturday, March 10, 2018 | 10:39 PM

HERSHEY — The sweetest place on Earth turned sour for Westmoreland County wrestlers at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships Saturday.

Three close losses, including one controversial call, left the wrestlers and their coaches with a bad taste in their mouths from supposedly the sweetest town in the state.

Norwin freshman Kurtis Phipps, Franklin Regional junior Colton Camacho and Belle Vernon senior Zach Hartman left Giant Center with tough losses.

The only county wrestler to celebrate was Kiski Area heavyweight Isaac Reid (23-0 this season, 129-24 career). He defeated Erie Prep junior Kawaun DeBoe, 3-1, to capture his first title and the school's second.

Phipps ((39-1) now knows how his brother, Drew, feels about losing in the finals.

Seneca Valley's Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (46-8) defeated Phipps in a thrilling 106-pound final, 1-0 in ultimate rideout. Herrera-Rondon wouldn't allow Phipps to score from the bottom position in the last 30-second overtime period.

Neither wrestler scored a point, but Herrera-Rondon was awarded one in the ultimate tiebreaker period. Phipps defeated Herrera-Rondon, 1-0, in the WPIAL final March 3 on a penalty point.

Drew Phipps, now at Bucknell, dropped a 1-0 decision to Stroudsburg's John Jakobsen in the 195-pound final in 2016.

“Honestly, I didn't care what the score was as long as I won,” Herrera-Rondon said. “It was an exciting match the whole time. It was a flip discus, and it landed in my favor. I knew I had to capitalize when I was in that position.”

Herrera-Rondon almost escaped a few times from Phipps' grasp but could not.

“I learned a lot from that match, and it gave me a boost to improve,” Herrera-Rondon said. “I did more at practice. More pullups, more pushups and more reps.”

Phipps was trying to become Norwin's first state champion.

Camacho (40-3, 102-18) built an early 3-0 lead, but Erie McDowell junior Jeffrey Boyd rallied for a 5-4 victory. Boyd (36-2) fought off a late attack.

“I made a couple tactical errors,” Camacho said. “Mentally, I was good. I didn't let the crowd get to me. I wrestled pretty well for the most part. I did what I could to get the win, but it just didn't happen.”

Camacho said one thing he must do is get stronger. He said Boyd was bigger than he was.

Like Norwin, Belle Vernon doesn't have a state champion yet. Hartman (43-2, 170-25) came close, but a controversial stalling call with 10 seconds left tied the score with Erie Prep junior Carter Starocci. A Starocci takedown in overtime yielded a 6-4 win.

While Hartman was composed about the loss and the call, coach Mike Doppelheuer was not. Doppelheuer, who is a registered PIAA official, said Hartman was trying to turn Starocci to his back when the stall, his second of the match, awarded Starocci a penalty point.

“I would say it was a crappy call, but I can't dwell on it,” Hartman said. “No matter what happened, I had to fight through it. I'm not sad about. I'm going to use it to my advantage to propel into college.”

Hartman will attend Bucknell.

The WPIAL ended up with four champions. Joining Herrera-Rondon were Shaler junior Ryan Sullivan (113), Canon-McMillan senior Logan Macri (120) and North Hills sophomore Sam Hillegas (126), who won his second consecutive state title.

Sullivan (42-1) defeated West Chester Henderson sophomore Killian Delaney, 4-3; Macri (39-2) edged returning state champion Doug Zapf (47-5) of Downingtown East, 3-2; and Hillegas (32-1, 75-1) stopped Central Dauphin senior Chris Wright, 4-2.

Also coming up short in the finals from the WPIAL was Albert Gallatin senior Tim Wallace (182), who became the school's highest finisher.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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