With PIAA title, Thomas Jefferson’s Finnerty finishes 44-1

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Sunday, March 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson’s wrestling team didn’t have a great season, but it was a good year for the Jaguars.

TJ’s Brian Finnerty didn’t have a good senior season; it was great.

In fact, Finnerty ended his brilliant career as the best of the best in the TJ wrestling program.

A Kent State recruit, Finnerty captured the first PIAA individual wrestling championship in school history, winning the 215-pound title March 12 at Giant Center in Hershey.

“The only way I can describe Brian’s state tournament is that Brian had the most matches he has ever ‘Brian’-ed,” TJ coach Michael Ladick said. “Brian has this unorthodox style that is incredibly hard to compete against, and throughout the entire tournament, sections and all the way to PIAAs, he seamlessly adjusted within seconds when he felt necessary to find scoring opportunities or not give any points up when needed.”

Finnerty outlasted Belle Vernon senior Cole Weightman, 6-5, to win the state crown and wrap up his senior season with a spectacular 44-1 record. Finnerty reeled in three points in the final minute to post a come-from-behind victory.

“I’m honestly so lost for words,” Finnerty, 18, said. “It’s been a dream to win this tournament. After winning, I ran over to my coaches and gave them hugs. I was just in complete shock, and I wanted to celebrate with them.

“I’m so thankful for everyone supporting me throughout my journey and all the hardship I had to overcome to be here.”

Finnerty, TJ’s captain, kicked off the season with four pins, improved to 14-0, then won his final 30 matches and in one torrid stretch registered 11 consecutive pins and 12 in 13 matches.

He defeated Weightman in a championship bout on three consecutive Saturdays, winning section, WPIAL and PIAA titles. All three were by one point.

“Brian has been the leader of this team the entire year,” Ladick said. “He knew it was his time to shine, and he helped the younger guys immensely. I’m obviously biased, but I think it is fair to say that Brian has solidified himself as an unrivaled savviest, smartest and most accomplished wrestler in Thomas Jefferson history.”

Finnerty’s four-year career record is 121-29 with 56 falls and five technical falls. He won at least 30 times the past three years and joined an elite list of TJ grapplers who attained 100 victories in their careers.

Finnerty was 16-9 as a freshman, 31-12 as a sophomore and 30-7 as a junior. He won two section titles, was a section runner-up once, finished first regionally this year and third last year.

His 121 wins eclipsed the school record (117) held by 2003 graduate Michael Goslicky that stood for 19 years.

Finnerty logged his 100th career win Jan. 12 with a fall in 42 seconds against Albert Gallatin’s James Standish. He broke Goslicky’s record with his 118th career victory March 10 in a 3-1 decision against Lucas Doyle of Council Rock South in the state tournament.

The Jaguars may have another state champion or two in the works as freshman Maddox Shaw placed third at 126 pounds at the PIAA finals.

Shaw went 41-6 with 30 of his wins being falls. He was a section champion, regional runner-up and led the team in pins.

Shaw started his varsity career by pinning his first nine opponents. He defeated Nazareth’s Braxton Appello-Fries, 8-2, to secure third place at the state tournament.

“Maddox is so much fun to be around,” Ladick said. “For him to get to experience the state tournament as a freshman was an unmatched opportunity. He showed how much he’s grown after he lost a tough match in the semis then came back to take third in a dominant fashion in a loaded bracket. It was incredibly impressive.

“His season was an absolute grind, and he handled it with an incredible amount of maturity. Maddox is driven, focused on his offseason training and will be a great leader for our team next year.”

Finnerty said competing at the state tournament along with Shaw was a career highlight. Finnerty and Shaw combined for 42 points to propel the Jaguars to 10th place out of the 115 Class 3A schools that had at least one PIAA competitor.

“We were able to celebrate afterwards,” Finnerty said. “Maddox and I were so excited after what we accomplished that day, getting to experience the journey together and bringing home medals.”

Another top wrestler for the Jaguars is Bode Marlow, a 132-pound freshman who finished 35-11 with 17 pins this season. Marlow corralled third place in the section.

Marlow, one of five quarterbacks listed on the TJ football roster last fall, began his varsity career with seven wins and four falls in his first eight decisions. He then picked up steam in January by winning 13 matches (with seven pins) in a row.

“Bode found his stride after winning the county tournament,” Ladick said. “He had a lot of success as the season progressed, along with being an absolute sponge in the practice room.

“For two freshmen to get over 30 wins is quite an accomplishment, and they’ll surely be leading the charge in the years to come.”

Logan Timko, a 285-pound senior, wrapped up his year with a 22-12 record and 18 pins. He placed third in the section.

After losing two decisions Jan. 8, Timko won 10 of his next 12 bouts with eight falls.

“Logan had a phenomenal senior season as only a second-year wrestler but a legitimate competitor by taking third in the county and in the section,” Ladick said.

The TJ wrestling program was hit by heavy graduation losses and ended up 10-10 this season. The Jaguars had strung together five straight winning seasons highlighted by an 18-1 record in 2018-19.

But the future remains bright for the TJ grapplers.

Shaw and Marlow will be complemented by the likes of sophomore Brady Fitz (24-15, 17 falls) at 145, juniors Gabe Galioto (12-8) at 138 and Aidan Stella (10-6) at 120 and freshman Shephard Turk (8-8, 7 falls) at 285.

“Brady is a grinder with so much heart and leadership qualities in the practice room and in matches,” Ladick said, “and is undoubtedly looking forward to build upon what he experienced and learned at the WPIAL tournament.”

Galioto was 15-15 as a freshman and has been in double digits in victories all three years. He has been a section runner-up twice.

Also, Justin Leske (215) and Gavin Pollock (138), both sophomores, won three of their first five decisions in their first year on the team. All three of Leske’s wins were falls.

“After the insanity of last year, I can say the time this season with my coaching staff was an absolute delight,” Ladick said, “and I know we all enjoyed the $9 Hershey’s milkshakes we crushed this weekend.”

Other members of the TJ century club are Mark Generalovich (2006), Patrick Graham (2006), Braeden Flinn (2015), Dom Devine (2016), Alex Weber (2019), Brian’s brother Brendan Finnerty (2020) and Michael Zacur (2021).

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