WPIAL dominates PIAA finals in Class AAA

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 11:53 PM


HERSHEY — It was another dominating year for the WPIAL at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships Saturday.

There were six state champions from the WPIAL headed by two-time champion Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis (182). District 11 had three champions.

Four all-WPIAL finals were contested.

Norwin senior Kurtis Phipps used an early five-point move to defeat Waynesburg freshman Rocco Welsh, 7-6, at 126 pounds. Phipps is the first Norwin wrestler in 84 years to win a state title.

Waynesburg junior Wyatt Henson edged North Hills senior Sam Hillegas, 4-3, to claim the 138-pound class. Henson used two takedowns, including one in the final period to clinch the win.

Nijenhuis won his second title by defeating Peters Township junior Donovan McMillon, 6-0.

“This is sweet, but the first one is always special,” Nijenhuis said. “I just made sure I didn’t make a mistake and let him in the match.”

Mt. Lebanon senior Luke Stout claimed the 195 title by defeating Bethel Park senior Luke Montgomery for the sixth this season, winning 12-1.

Stout joined his brother Kellan as a state champion. Kellan was a state champion in 2015. His brother Mac, competing at 170, almost came up with a win. He was leading 8-5 when Stroudsburg junior Lenny Pinto reversed him and recorded a pin.

The other champions were surprises.

Latrobe freshman Vinny Kilkeary won the 106-pound final by pinning Erie Prep sophomore Jason Van Dee in overtime.

Hempfield junior Ethan Berginc claimed the 113 title by defeating Cedar Cliff junior Aiden Lewis, 3-2.

The WPIAL ended up with 34 medalists.

Phipps held on for his win, fending off a late surge by Welsh.

“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Phipps said. “It’s such an honor, and I’m glad to do it for anyone back home. I hope the young guys watching me feel they can do it. It’s possible at Norwin.”

Kilkeary’s win against Bethlehem Catholic freshman Ty Kasak was one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. Kilkeary won 14-10 with a five-point move in the final seven seconds.

“This feels good,” Kilkeary said. “I just kept working hard every day. I felt it would be a close match. I pulled him to one side, his head popped up and I hit it. It felt good when the official slapped the mat.”

Berginc, a junior at Jeannette, which co-ops with Hempfield, gets to see his name on the wall in his high school with five other state champions — Matt Lebe (2001), A.J. Graves (2005), Derrick Hall (1985), Greg Hall (1974) and Randy Brasco (1977). Officially, however, he is Hempfield’s 12th state champion.

“I’m Jeannette’s first Triple-A state champion,” Berginc said after his thrilling 3-2 win against Cedar Cliff junior Aiden Lewis at 113.

“I’m still a little bit surprised,” Berginc said. “I came in clear-headed, got to my attack and got the first takedown and that’s all I needed to win the match.”

Losing in the finals were Seneca Valley junior Dylan Chappell (120) and Hempfield junior heavyweight Isaiah Vance.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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