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Fatigue worth it for A-K Valley wrestlers during sectionals, WPIAL 1st round | TribLIVE.com
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Fatigue worth it for A-K Valley wrestlers during sectionals, WPIAL 1st round

Doug Gulasy
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Doug Gulasy | Tribune-Review
Burrell’s Austin Mele works to pin Laurel’s Reed Kissick in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA individual wrestling championships Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, at Canon-McMillan High School.

Austin Mele sported a split lip and a sore elbow late Friday night at Canon-McMillan. He also had a smile.

With the individual wrestling postseason underway, injuries are common. And while Mele suffered a couple, he still was standing at the end of the first day.

Mele advanced to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AA championships with a pin of Reed Kissick in their first-round bout in the 160-pound weight class, bouncing back from a loss to Frazier’s Thayne Lawrence in the finals of the Section 3-AA tournament earlier in the night.

“(I’m) a little tired,” Mele said. “Not like when I’m on the mat or anything, but when I’m just sitting around, there’s a lot of sitting around. I make sure I’m up and ready for my matches, try to get ready for the match as best as possible.”

The WPIAL changed its Class AA postseason format this season, holding the first round of the WPIAL tournament on Friday, a half-hour after the three section tournaments concluded.

While the adjustment allows for a fully formed consolation ladder, it also made for a long day for some. The section tournaments began at 3 p.m., and the WPIAL first round wrapped up at around 10.

“Five matches is enough for me,” said Highlands junior Blake Clark after he beat South Park’s Garrett Ammon by major decision in a first-round WPIAL match at 145 pounds. “I’ll tell you that straight-up. I see why they have the law for the five matches because it’s not healthy at all.”

Clark was looking to go home and ice his knees after he placed third in the Section 3-AA tournament and then beat Ammon to advance to the WPIAL quarterfinals.

But while the day proved to be tiring, Clark was glad for the opportunity to wrestle into the quarterfinals after being disappointed with his section finish.

“Having the first win helped out a lot,” Clark said. “It’s going to help out tomorrow a lot.”

That was the hidden benefit of putting everything in one day: It gave wrestlers a quick bounce-back opportunity, even if it left them bloodied and bruised like Mele. He split his lip — “it was gushing everywhere,” he said — and landed on his elbow wrong in his loss to Lawrence, a defending PIAA champion, but he made up for that defeat quickly.

“I just wanted to go out and try to get the match over with as fast as possible,” Mele said. “I don’t want to tweak anything. Tomorrow I’m probably going to have the same kid in the WPIAL finals, so I want to prepare myself the best for that.”

Burrell has 11 wrestlers in the quarterfinals: Shawn Szymanski (106 pounds), Nick Salerno (113), Ian Oswalt (120), Trent Valovchik (126), Bryan Gaul (132), Noah Linderman (152), Mele (160), Ricky Feroce (182), Zach Rupert (195) and Jacob Bell (285). Dominic Holmes and Danny McCarthy are in the consolation bracket.

Clark and 113-pounder Jrake Burford made it to the quarterfinals for Highlands, with Brock White, Jeremiah Saunders and Jeremiah Nelson in the consolation bracket.

Valley has 120-pounder Travis Lasko, 170-pounder Noah Hutcherson and heavyweight David Schuffert in the quarterfinals, with Micah Hughes, Kain Stone, Logan Rose and Matt Ashbaugh in the consolation bracket.

The quarterfinals begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, with semifinals at 12:20 p.m. and championship and consolation finals at 5. The top seven finishers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s PIAA Southwest Regional at IUP.

“Those first few matches were a good warmup to get into the WPIAL bracket,” Feroce said. “It’s nice. I like it.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.