Eisenhower’s Black, Jaquay, Bauer, Sheffield’s Finch make history at NW Regional
SHARON, Pa. – It’s hard to put into perspective just how special and rare the Class AA Northwest Regional was for Warren County wrestling.
Four from Warren County – Eisenhower’s Cael Black, Logan Jaquay and Joey Bauer, and Sheffield’s Ethan Finch all advanced to the championship finals in their respective weight classes on Saturday.
Two of them – Jaquay and Black, captured NW Region titles, and both Finch and Bauer will be joining them at the PIAA championships in Hershey.
It’s the first time in program history that the Knights have two Northwest Region champions in the same season, and the first time they will be sending three wrestlers to states.
With his 34th win, Black also broke the EHS record for most victories as a freshman.
“It was one for the history books,” said Eisenhower coach Kris Black. “Two, three weekends ago, Josh Bortz came up with this phrase ‘Full Send.’ That’s the kind of mentality they took on these last couple of weeks.”
Here’s a look at each wrestlers run through the regional.
(Eisenhower, 195-pound champion)
Quite simply, Black (34-8) is in rarefied air as a freshman. He was the only 9th grader from the Northwest Region to win a title and one of just five freshmen to capture a region crown statewide in Class 2A. Of the 27 freshmen in 2A who qualified for the state championships, 16 are in the 106 and 113-pound weight classes.
After finishing fifth at the D-10 championships, Black won his prelim match on Friday, setting up a showdown with D-10 champ Parker Harvey of Titusville in the quarterfinals. Black had wrestled Harvey close before, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock that he was able to pull off that win. What was stunning was his pin of Harvey in just 33 seconds.
That set up a semifinal date with Hayden Linkerhof of Corry, the fifth showdown of the season between the two talented freshman. It was Black who took the rubber match, 11-9, setting up a bout with Conneaut Austin Kelly for the title. Kelly had a magical run of his own, after injury defaulting to Black in the fifth-place match a week earlier at districts.
Black capped off his run to the title with a thrilling 3-2 win over Kelly and will go into the PIAA championships riding an incredible wave of momentum.
“He had a full send weekend,” coach Black said. “I don’t know how to explain it. He was on. He was ready for that breakout weekend. We knew it was there after taking fifth at sections and districts. He peaked this weekend. It’s a different animal for those freshmen at upper weights. To have success at 195 as a freshman speaks volumes as far as your mental preparation. You know you’re going to be battle older, stronger guys.”
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Logan Jaquay (Eisenhower, 113-pound champion)
Following his region title, Jaquay can now claim the status of state championship veteran, as he will be making his second consecutive trip to Hershey.
He captured his title by beating General McLane’s Andrew Brest in a final for the second time in as many weeks.
On Friday, Jaquay (34-3) had a bye before meeting Jamestown’s Chase McLaughlin in the semifinals. After falling behind 2-0 early in that match, the Ike junior rallied and took control for a 7-2 victory.
That set up a date with Harbor Creek’s Connor Pierce in the semifinals. Jaquay earned a major decision over Pierce on Jan. 31 in a team dual preliminary round matchup, but the talented Huskie freshman gave Jaquay all he could handle this time around. Ultimately, Jaquay prevailed with an 8-7 victory to set up yet another meeting with Brest.
After a 6-4 win over Brest for the D-10 title, this match wasn’t as close, with Jaquay earning a 9-2 victory.
“Logan, all three matches he wrestled this weekend he gave up the first points,” Black said. “He dominated every kid that he wrestled. That’s pretty huge for a kid to do that at this level. He’s hitting his full stride right now. He looked really good in every aspect. His focus is getting back to that podium.”
He will go into states wrestling his best as he looks to add a second PIAA medal to his trophy case.
“There is nothing better than having the experience at states,” noted Black. “It’s an enigma. If you’ve never been there, it can be intimidating. He’s a mentally tough kid.”
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Ethan Finch (Sheffield, 170-pound second place)
It’s been quite a run for Finch (29-9), the talented sophomore who was coming of ‘Most Outstanding Wrestler’ honors at the District 9 championships a week earlier.
He was equally impressive in getting to the finals at Sharon and becoming the first Sheffield wrestler to qualify for states since Ed Renninger in 2006.
On Friday, after receiving a bye into the quarterfinals, he earned a 3-0 decision over Jamestown junior Jed Goodlin.
That set up a matchup with Corry junior Matt Petrilla in the semifinals. Finch was dominant from start to finish in that matchup, winning 10-0 to get himself to a championship match for the second consecutive week.
That set up a showdown with Greenville senior Brady Gentile, who in his semifinal win over Cole Toy of Reynolds, picked up his 40th win of the season, 13-10.
And while Gentile earned a 14-7 decision over Finch in the finals, the Wolverine standout heads to states wrestling at a very high level.
That bodes well not only for the PIAA championships, but for the coming years as well, something coach Jack Rice alluded to.
“He’s just wrestling really well, peaking at the right time and continuing on the roll he’s been on” Rice said. “We’re going to go down there and see if he can pull off a few matches.”
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Joey Bauer (Eisenhower, 220-pound second place)
Bauer has only lost twice in the last two weeks – both times to unbeaten Greenville senior Jacob McMaster (44-0).
The Eisenhower senior, who now boasts a record of 30-7, needed just 1:04 to pin Jamestown sophomore Zach Nesevich in the quarterfinals.
The set up a re-match with Reynolds’ Wyatt Owen, who Bauer also beat in the semifinals at D-10.
Bauer pinned Owen this time around.
The only time McMaster has wrestled a full match in the last two weeks was against Bauer. His other four matches were won via pin, there in the first period and one in the second.
And, while he earned a 16-6 major decision over Bauer in the finals this time around, Bauer has put together a great postseason, and he looks to cap off his amazing career by making some noise at states.
“Being a senior, he’s been on a mission,” coach Black said. “A lot of kids say that, but he’s really focused on that goal. If there was almost anyone else other than McMaster, he probably wins. I’m happy for him, making it to states as a senior. Every high school kids dreams of getting to that state tournament and placing. He’s got that opportunity.”
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Saturday marked the end of the season for Eisenhower’s Alex Barnett, Josh Bortz and Gannon Jaquay, as well as Sheffield’s Nick Knowles and Youngsville’s Jake DeSimone .
Barnett lost a consolation match, 3-2, to the eventual third-place finisher and state qualifier Jason Bratt of Harbor Creek. “For Gannon, being just a freshman, the fact that he made it there and had intense matches is huge,” Black said. “It’s (132) a tough draws, but he came after those guys. Gannon is one of our huge bright spots. I’m so proud of him. He’s scrappy, tenacious and it doesn’t matter who you put in front of him.
“Josh was sick this weekend, him and Alex both. Alex has been for two weeks. Josh, this weekend it kind of hit him Thursday night. To win 30-plus matches this year, his improvement level is off the charts. Josh is another one of those bright spots coming back. Sky is the limit. He’s a workhorse, always has a good attitude.
“Alex epitomizes what Eisenhower wrestling is about. He always does the extra thing. He’s been one of the leaders since his sophomore year. I felt terrible that he was sick. He gets into overtime against Bratt … if we win the flip, we probably win that match and we might be taking four guys to states. He’s just such a great kid.”