JOHNSTOWN — Losing in the semifinals and placing third three years in a row at regionals ignited a burning desire inside unbeaten Ligonier Valley senior Joshua Patrick.
Seconds after watching his younger brother Justin get edged in the finals in the 113-pound division, Joshua Patrick (120) erased the memories of three years of shortcomings by outlasting his nemesis, Bedford’s Ryan Easter, 4-3, in the finals of the PIAA Southwest Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Cambria County War Memorial arena Saturday night.
The top-seeded Easter bested the second-seeded Patrick in the semifinals at 113 at last year’s regional tournament. Patrick then avenged the loss at states when he defeated Easter for fifth place.
Along with the Patrick brothers, four other area wrestlers advanced to the PIAA championships. Blairsville’s Noah Tarr (145), Drew Doak (152) and Scott Thompson (182) and Derry’s Micky Phillippi (113) each punched tickets to Hershey by placing in the top five in their respective weight classes.
Doak and Thompson, both sophomores, each finished second, while Tarr, a senior, and Phillippi, a freshman, each took third.
United sophomore Tyler Oliver (195) got pinned in the semifinals and then dropped a pair of decisions in the consolation rounds to finish sixth.
Blairsville placed eighth with 51 points, and Ligonier Valley took 10th with 45.
The PIAA championships will be held from Thursday to Saturday at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Joshua Patrick (27-0), a two-time state placewinner who already signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Rutgers University, avenged three straight losses in regional semifinal matches with a 5-0 win over third-seeded Nathan Reckner of South Side Beaver.
Patrick then seemingly had victory in hand in the finals before getting hit with a second stalling call with five seconds left in the match, allowing Easter to tie the bout 2-2 and force overtime.
After a scoreless overtime stanza, Patrick lost the coin toss and ended up in top position in the first rideout period. Easter attempted a risky move called a funk from his back, only to get turned by Patrick for a pair of back points to fall behind 4-2.
Needing only to stay off his back in the second rideout period, Patrick controlled Easter’s wrists for 30 seconds and cruised to victory.
“That got to me mentally,” Patrick said of the stalling infraction. “But I stayed focused and got my mentality back. A win is a win so I’m happy, but at the same time I’m not very happy with my performance. But now I know what I’ve got to do to win a state title. That’s my goal. I can’t wrestle like that and expect to win a state title.”
In the finals match before Joshua’s win, the third-seeded Justin Patrick (33-4), who pinned Phillippi in thrilling fashion in the second rideout period in the semifinals, trailed 4-2 to fourth-seeded Seth Carr (South Fayette) before scoring an escape with 1:03 left to make it 4-3.
Justin Patrick threw everything he had at Carr for the last minute in the neutral position, but couldn’t manage to ground the WPIAL runner-up, losing a 4-3 decision.
Phillippi (37-4), meanwhile, became just the fifth wrestler in Derry history to reach the state tournament when he defeated Bentworth’s Jake Rothka, 3-0, in the consolation semifinals.
The second-seeded Phillippi then defeated top-seeded Josh Brown of Claysburg-Kimmel, 1-0, in the third- and fourth-place consolation match.
Phillippi credited former Derry stars Travis Shaffer and Jimmy Gulibon for motivating him to reach such great heights as a freshman.
“I really look up to them and I just knew watching them my whole life that I wanted to be like them,” Phillippi said. “I worked out with Jimmy a lot and I know how hard he worked and how hard you have to work to be that good, so, yeah, they’re a big reason I’m here right now. Without people to look up to it’s hard to do anything good.”
The top-seeded Doak (36-2) earned a workmanlike 3-0 win over fourth-seeded Taylor Cahill of Conemaugh Township in the semifinals. Doak, a runner-up last year at 152, then dropped a 3-1 decision to second-seeded Boe Bonzo of Freedom in the finals.
Bonzo, a senior, handed Doak some payback after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Blairsville sophomore in the finals of the Southmoreland tournament earlier in the year.
“He knew what he had to do to beat me,” Doak said. “He had to tie me (and) stop my offense, and then try to capitalize on it, so tops off to him. He wrestled a great match.”
The second-seeded Thompson (15-1), a third-place regional finisher last year, grinded out a 9-5 win over third-seeded Terrell Fields of Valley in the semifinals.
In the finals, Thompson ran into returning state runner-up and senior Dakota DesLauriers of Burrell. DesLauriers, the top seed, hit a five-point move in the second period and never let off the throttle, beating Thompson, 13-4.
“Now I know what to expect from other top kids like him,” Thompson said. “I matched up with his speed, but he’s really strong and technical. He’s that top kid. No I’ve just got to try to be like him.”
Based partially on a technicality, the top-seeded Tarr (37-3) dropped a 3-2 decision in an ultimate rideout to eventual champion Tanner Sutton (Chartiers-Houston) in the semifinals.
Tarr began the match trailing 1-0 because the bout’s referee noticed that his shoelace was untied.
Tarr scored a first-period takedown and maintained a 2-1 lead before surrendering an escape late in the third period to allow Sutton to tie the match and force overtime.
Neither wrestler scored in the first overtime period, but Sutton managed to hold Tarr down in the first rideout before escaping in the second to secure the win.
Tarr bounced back, however, and notched his third trip to states with wins in the consolation semifinals and the third- and fourth-place consolation match.