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Districts on tap

Sheffield’s Finch begins final postseason quest

Times Obsever File Photo by Cody Elms Ethan Finch, a senior Division I University of Pittsburgh commit, became Sheffield High School’s all-time wins leader a couple of weeks ago and is the top seed entering Saturday’s District 9 wrestling championships.

There have been a lot of changes to the 2020-21 high school wrestling season.

This weekend, for wrestlers from Sheffield, Eisenhower, and Youngsville high schools, the goal is the same as always – to advance.

Certainly, the five Eisenhower Knights and two Youngsville Eagles who qualified for Saturday’s one-day District 10 Class 2A Championships at Sharon High School would like to come out as champions. But the top five wrestlers in each weight class advance to the following weekend’s regional tournament, also at Sharon High School.

That also goes for Sheffield, with the top three in each weight class at Saturday’s one-day District 9 Class 2A Championships at Clearfield High School advancing to 9/10 regionals the following weekend at Sharon.

“Ethan (Finch) is on a mission this year,” said Sheffield coach Jack Rice. “He’s met every goal but one. He wants that state championship medal. His drive and determination still amazes me and I feel if he continues wrestling the way he’s been, he will achieve his goal.”

Finch, a senior Division I University of Pittsburgh commit, became Sheffield High School’s all-time wins leader a couple of weeks ago. He is currently 21-0 on the season, and 102-37 on his career. He was a sixth-place medal winner at states as a junior.

In addition to Finch, who is seeded first at 189 pounds for the D9 championships, Sheffield has six wrestlers seeded in the top four in their respective weight classes, which is the best forecast Rice remembers.

“As far as the ranked wrestlers, it’s not a surprise as the culture has shifted in the room,” said Rice. “The boys see what it takes and they ran with it. They’re young and going to be a force the next few years. I’m excited to see what they can do. I’d be extremely happy to see three or four qualifiers. I could see even more if they took top four. Unfortunately, they are only taking top three this year. This weekend should be interesting. I love this time of year. Win or lose, you really get to see the heart and soul of our athletes.”

For Sheffield, Chase Kyler is seeded second at 106 pounds, Collin Brown second at 113, A.J. Barnes fourth at 120, Cooper Traister fourth at 152, Landon Mead third at 160, and Danah Campbell fourth at heavyweight.

Five Eisenhower wrestlers and two from Youngsville advanced to Saturday’s District 10 Championships after the Section 3 Class 2A tournament Saturday at Saegertown. Jake Williams (132), Easton Hedman (138), Gannon Jaquay (152), Cole Kellogg (120), and Cael Black (215) moved on for the Knights while the Eagles’ Collin Clough (145) and Ian Mancuso (113) also advanced.

Like Sheffield’s Finch, Eisenhower junior Cael Black is a returning state medal winner, finishing sixth at 220 pounds last year, one of only two sophomores to earn a state medal. But this season is nothing like last season.

“At this point of the season, especially with COVID being the distraction and disruption it has been, getting through is the key,” said Eisenhower coach Kris Black. “We have always approached the sectional tournament with that mindset. I can’t speak for all the guys, but I would believe that getting through to districts was a relief for them. Not because they didn’t think they would, but moreso because they didn’t know if they would have the opportunity/chance with teams/schools getting shut down daily.

“The expectations are the same for all the guys this week… Find a way to get to regionals,” said Coach Black. “For some of them, their goal is to be a district champ, and others will be focused on getting to the following week. But, the bottom line is that every guy in the Sharon gym this weekend is coming in 0-0, so it is a fresh start for all of them. I believe they all have a legit chance of moving on.

“This season has been unique in numerous ways, unlike any I have coached before,” said Coach Black. “I think the season overall went well; we started a little slow going 0-5 at Greenville, but the guys worked hard and really progressed and it showed in the fact that they were 5-0 at the end of January at the Sharon duals. We had a very young team this year, which takes some time to develop that mindset of the varsity practices and match intensity level. Throw in there we were shut down from practicing for a mandatory three-to-four-week stoppage; it is not ideal conditions for a team to be successful, but I was really happy with our leadership. … Easton (Hedman), Jacob (Williams), Gannon (Jaquay), and Cael (Black) pushing these guys and helping them get better and leading by example with their work ethics. Depending on who was quarantined, most nights we started seven out of the 12 weights we filled with a freshman or sophomores. And with us losing two senior starters this year, hopefully some of that young experience will pay off in the future. But, to truly answer your question, it isn’t about satisfying my goals, it is about each wrestler achieving each of theirs, and the ultimate goal is to let these guys finish their season on the mats with wins and losses, not being shut down because of a virus. The Giant Center in Hershey is where every wrestler wants to finish their season and that is where we hope to be in a few weeks.”

It’s been a goal Youngsville senior Collin Clough has had all season.

“Collin’s long-term goal is still to qualify for states, but he’s taking it one step at a time,” said Youngsville coach Paul Clough. “Short-term goals: Advance each week. Last week, that meant top twp\o. This week, it means top five. He’s got the talent, but needs to wrestle with confidence. Collin needs to wrestle his match, not his opponent’s, control the pace and stay on his offense. He’s a tough kid that can be competitive with anyone in the state when he’s on. He needs to find that switch.

“He’s got a tough draw for the quarterfinals,” said Coach Clough. “Kaeden Berger of Reynolds is a two-time state place winner with over 100 wins. My goals for Collin are the same as they are for any senior. I don’t want him to end his high school career with regret. I’d like for him to wrestle with confidence and leave it all on the mat. If he accomplishes what he set out to do, great. If not, at least walk off with your chin up, knowing that you gave all you had.”

Mancuso, a sophomore, is making his first appearance at districts, “quite an accomplishment for a first-year wrestler,” said Coach Clough. “I’m excited to see how he handles the next level of competition and hope he rises to the challenge. In the few matches he’s had this year, Ian has proven to be a competitor and whatever happens this week is nothing compared to what I think we can expect from him the next two years.”

To lessen the amount of wrestlers at the PIAA championships on March 12-13, two “super regionals” in each of the 2A and 3A classes will follow regionals. In 2A, Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12 form one super regional. Districts 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 are in the other. The top four wrestlers from each super regional weight class qualify for the one-day state tournament. All eight wrestlers who qualify for states will earn medals. In 3A, Districts 1, 2, 11 and 12 comprise one super regional. Districts 3, 4/9, 6, 7, 8 and 10 make up the other. Again, top four from each super regional in every weight class advance to states.

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