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Williamsport takes 4th at state duals

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Braden Bower returns Waynesburg's Colton during the semifinals of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

MECHANICSBURG – Looking across the gym floor, Williamsport coach Brian Nasdeo pointed toward Waynesburg Central. The Raiders were on their way to their first PIAA Class AAA Team Wrestling championship. Nasdeo’s Williamsport team had just finished fourth in the tournament, having lost in the semifinals to Waynesburg.

“That team is no joke,” the Millionaires’ seventh-year coach said. “This was a learning experience. But any time you place top four in the state, hell yeah it’s positive.”

The Millionaires walked out of Cumberland Valley High School holding a trophy Saturday. But they also walked out with just a little bit more experience and the knowledge that it is good enough to compete with the other teams in the gym. After dropping its semifinal to Waynesburg, 50-13, the Millionaires lost in the third-place match to Spring-Ford, 36-32. Its fourth-place finish was the first state medal won by a District 4 team at the PIAA Class AAA Team Wrestling Championships.

“It feels really good. The celebration is going to be great,” Williamsport’s Braden Bower said. “It’s validation that the work we’re putting in is working.”

“This shows how much coach has been working us and how much time he’s put in for us and how far we’ve come as a team,” Williamsport heavyweight Charles Crews said. “(Waynesburg) is a really good team, and that showed how much we need to work on as a team. But I feel like next year we can be back here competing for a state title.”

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Cael Nasdeo works on top against Waynesburg's Ky Szewczyk during the semifinals of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

In the past, competing for a team state title like the Millionaires did Saturday may have seemed like a pipe dream. In this COVID crazy year, everything seemed possible. Consider that Williamsport and Spring-Ford placed in the state tournament for the first time. Waynesburg Central earned its highest finish ever. Only Central Dauphin was the grizzled veteran in this format. And it took a win in the final bout over Bethlehem Catholic earlier in the week to reach this point.

But none of the teams wrestled scared. None of the four teams acted as if they didn’t belong, because they certainly did. Williamsport didn’t look nervous. It didn’t look as if they felt out of place. This was right where they belonged. Not even a loss to Waynesburg, which is ranked sixth in the country, could shake their confidence.

Williamsport may have lost to the Raiders’ stud-filled lineup, but they battled where they could. They forced the Raiders to be on top of their game.

Look at Bower’s performance as the prime example. A top-10 ranked wrestler all season, Bower qualified for super regionals but finished fifth there in a weight class which produced four of the top-five finishers at the state tournament. He earned a little revenge Saturday, beating Waynesburg’s Colton Stoneking, 8-4, at 132 pounds. Stoneking finished fifth at the state tournament.

That kind of performance has always been what Bower was capable of. He defeated nationally-ranked Pierson Manville win a win-or-go-home match at the Northwest Regional tournament just to get to super regionals. But he put all this abilities on full display in his two matches Saturday. First, it was the win over Stoneking where Bower caught him in a granby roll and turned it into three near-fall points at the end of the second period.

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Carter Weaver tries to turn Spring-Ford's Ryan Depore during the third place match of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

He fought off a furious rally by Stoneking in the third to win, 8-4, in one of the most attention-getting wins of the four matches wrestled in the tournament Saturday. Bower followed it up with a thorough dismantling of a technical fall against Spring-Ford to cut into an early Rams lead.

“I just wanted to show that I could be up there, too,” said Bower, who missed last season with a shoulder injury. “I know Stoneking placed at states, so that’s a little revenge for me, but I wanted to get points for my team, too. This makes me more motivated. I’m definitely ready for next year.”

“Braden wrestled excellent. It’s been a slow grind with that injury,” Nasdeo said. “It’s a lot of recovery and a lot of mental hurdles to get over.”

Other than Bower’s win over Stoneking, Waynesburg’s best wrestlers took care of business in the semifinals. The Raiders got bonus points from state qualifier Joe Simon (113 pounds), state champ Mac Church (120), state runner-up Cole Homet (138), state runner-up Rocco Welsh (152) and state champ Luca Augustine (172). Two-time state champion Wyatt Henson earned a 7-4 win over state sixth-place finisher Riley Bower.

Only Cael Nasdeo (major decision) and Crews (forfeit) also earned wins for the Millionaires.

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Devin Harris tries to reverse Waynesburg's Zander Phaturos during the semifinals of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

“Some of the guys need to learn it doesn’t matter who is over there, you have to fight them,” Nasdeo said. “You can’t give up points because of the guy’s name until you figure out you can wrestle with him. You got to figure it out in the beginning.”

Williamsport fell into an early hole against Spring-Ford in the third-place match. State qualifier Dominic Ortlip earned a fall from neutral in a bout he was trailing, 3-0, to Devin Harris at 120 pounds. It was 16-0 before Braden Bower earned his technical fall. And Williamsport trimmed that lead to 16-14 with a decision from Carter Weaver and a fall from Riley Bower.

But state qualifier Zach Needles used a controversial second-period takedown to post a 4-2 win over state qualifier Roman Morrone at 152 pounds in a key toss-up bout. Not even falls from Sebastian Robinson, Crews and Nasdeo could make up for the 15 bonus points the Rams scored.

Saturday’s results also couldn’t take away from what a remarkable season this was for Williamsport on a number of levels. The Millionaires earned the first team state medal in school history. It had two individual state placewinners and a state finalist for the first time in 26 years. It became a staple in the state’s team rankings. And it put the rest of the state on notice that the Millionaires are to be reckoned with.

It’s why there were so many smiles as parents snapped pictures of the entire team with their fourth-place trophy. Maybe it wasn’t the finish they wanted, but it was a finish, as one of the top four teams in the state, they surely earned.

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Riley Bower earns back points against Spring-Ford's Matt Offner during the third place match of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

SEMIFINALS

Waynesburg Central 50, Williamsport 13

106: Cael Nasdeo, Will, maj. dec. Ky Szewczyk, 10-0.

113: Joe Simon, WC, pinned Luke Segraves, 1:18.

120: Zander Phaturos, WC, maj. dec. Devin Harris, 13-2.

FRANK DIMON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport's Sebastian Robinson tries to turn Spring-Ford's Xavier Cushman during the semifinals of the PIAA Class 3A Team Duals championship at Cumberland Valley High School Saturday.

126: Mac Church, WC, won by forfeit.

132: Braden Bower, Will, dec. Colton Stoneking, 8-4.

138: Cole Homet, WC, maj. dec. Carter Weaver, 11-3.

145: Wyatt Henson, WC, dec. Riley Bower, 7-4.

152: Rocco Welsh, WC, maj. dec. Roman Morrone, 16-4.

160: Nate Stephenson, WC, pinned Connor Hunsberger, :54.

172: Luca Augustine, WC, tech. fall Sebastian Robinson, 21-5, 4:12.

189: Eli Makel, WC, pinned Ryan Dunlap, :18.

215: Noah Tustin, WC, pinned Charlie Lundy, :54.

285: Charles Crews, Will, won by forfeit.

Takedowns: Waynesburg 28, Williamsport 4.

Records: Williamsport (12-7); Waynesburg Central (15-0).

THIRD-PLACE MATCH

Spring-Ford 36, Williamsport 32

113: Vinny Ortlip, SF, maj. dec. Luke Segraves, 12-2.

120: Dominic Ortlip, SF, pinned Devin Harris, 2:41.

126: Quintin Smith, SF, won by forfeit.

132: Braden Bower, W, tech. fall Gus Carfagno, 21-6, 4:56.

138: Carter Weaver, W, dec. Ryan Lepore, 8-2.

145: Riley Bower, W, pinned Matt Offner, 3:22.

152: Zach Needles, SF, dec. Roman Morrone, 4-2.

160: Jack McGill, SF, pinned Santino White, :21.

172: Sebastian Robinson, W, pinned Xavier Cushman, 1:10.

189: Aaron Judge, SF, pinned Ryan Dunlap, 2:34.

215: Joey Milano, SF, tech. fall Charlie Lundy, 16-1, 1:40.

285: Charles Crews, W, pinned Ian Harvie, :22.

106: Cael Nasdeo, W, pinne Cole Smith, 2:29.

Takedowns: Williamsport 16, Spring-Ford 12.

Records: Williamsport (12-8); Spring-Ford (14-1).

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