Belle Vernon alumnus achieves NCAA wrestling success
While Belle Vernon Area High School enjoyed possibly its greatest wrestling seasons ever in 2007-08, one of the Leopards’ wrestling alumni has concluded a fine collegiate career at Gannon University in Erie.
A.J. Sayles, a 174-pound senior, placed sixth at the NCAA Division II East Regional Championships held Feb. 29-March 1 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
Sayles advanced to the quarterfinals by pinning Scott Hayslip of Anderson University in Indian before losing by pin in 3:57 to second-seeded Chris Gibbs of West Liberty College in West Virginia. He then reached the consolation semifinals with a 20-7 victory over American International (Springfield, Mass.) College’s Nick Laurino and a 4-0 decision over Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania’s Chris Barrick. Sayles was then defeated 4-0 by Jeremy Shreckhise of Limestone University in Lexington, Ky., and pinned again by Gibbs in 6:51 for fifth place.
He finished the season with a 22-13 overall season with five pins. Sayles’ career record for the Golden Knights was 54-52.
An honors student during his scholastic days, Sayles was a two-time section runner-up and WPIAL qualifier for Belle Vernon and recorded the best overall individual record as a senior.
At Gannon, Sayles began wrestling at the 149-pound class as a freshman in 2003-04. Three of his seven victories came at the 2004 NCAA II East Regional where he placed fourth and qualified for the NCAA II National Championships that were held that year in Mankato, Minn. His first collegiate dual victory helped Gannon earn a 27-15 victory over Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
After a 2004-05 red-shirt season, Sayles increased his win total to nine and made a second straight appearance at the NCAA Division II Nationals after a second-place finish at the East Regional. He also placed second at the prestigious Ashland University Simonson Invitational in Ohio.
During his junior 2006-07 season, Sayles finished fourth on the team in victories with a 16-8 overall record but narrowly missed a third straight trip to the Nationals after finishing fifth at the East Regional. He also had three pins.
Wohar sings anthem
Stephanie Wohar, a junior at Ringgold High School, sang the national anthem prior to the WPIAL Quad A Girls Basketball Championship game on Feb. 23 at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center. Inspired or not by Wohar’s fine rendition, Upper St. Clair defeated Peters Township.
Wohar is actually the second Ringgold High School to sing the national anthem prior to a WPIAL championship. Brianna Pry, a senior who is a member of Ringgold’s girls volleyball team, sang the anthem at the WPIAL soccer championship last November at Elizabeth High School.
“We at Ringgold are extremely proud of Stephanie,” said Lloyd Price, Ringgold’s first-year athletic director and a Ringgold graduate. “She has not only excelled in academics and arts, but she is a school leader and very involved in the community. She is a role model for young adults.”
She is the daughter of Dr. Stephen and Karen Wohar of Monongahela.
Elias hired at Albert Gallatin
Bill Elias was recently hired as the new head football coach at Albert Gallatin High School.
He began his coaching career as a defensive coordinator at Laurel highlands High School in 1966 and later served two stints as the Mustangs’ head football coach from 1973-77 and 1981-87.
Elias also previously coached at Belle Vernon Area, Frazier and California Area high schools as well as then California State College under Hal Hunter from 1977-80. He had been out of coaching for a decade before serving as an assistant coach at Albert Gallatin under Chuck Colborn, who guided the Colonials from 2001 through 2006. Tim Tracy, a longtime assistant coach and teacher at Uniontown Area High School, coached Albert Gallatin last season.