John Rizzo waited four years to get one. Nick Roberts picked up his third, but still is haunted by the one that got away. And Justin Patrick gave Ligonier Valley its first in more than three decades.
Those three – plus Conemaugh Township’s Cory Berchick and Forest Hills’ Cody Law – won Southwest Regional Class AA Wrestling Tournament titles on Saturday evening at Cambria County War Memorial.
Rizzo, who has won the past two PIAA championships at 285 pounds, captured his first regional title by beating Berlin Brothersvalley’s Jacob Craig 16-6 at 220 pounds.
“I never won it before, but that was never one of my goals,” Rizzo said. “It’s always to win states.”
Now maybe Rizzo can escape the ribbing he’s taken from his Richland teammates and coaches.
“They always kid me, (saying) ‘We’ve got a two-time state champ but no regional champ,’ ” Rizzo said.
North Star’s Roberts won his third regional championship by scoring a technical fall over Bellwood-Antis’ Jared Woomer in 3:25.
Like Rizzo, Roberts has already won a pair of PIAA titles, but the Cougars’ 120-pounder was motivated by his loss in last year’s regional finals.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “You never want to lose. I only won this tournament three times, and it still sucks, but you’ve just got to do the best that you can. I thought I did a pretty good job, other than my first match, when I didn’t really get warmed up. But I wrestled pretty well overall this weekend.”
So did Law, who was No. 1 in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings for most of the season before losing to Central Cambria’s Tony Risaliti in the District 6 championship match. Law, who had beaten his club practice partner twice earlier in the season, held off Risaliti for a 5-4 victory and the regional championship.
“I think losing (two weeks ago) made a big difference,” Law said of the district finals. “I kind of got my head on a little bit straighter. I came back in a little more aggressive, more focused.”
Berchick became Conemaugh Township’s first regional champion since Chris Speranza won the third of his three titles in 1996.
“It was great,” Berchick said after beating Blairsville’s Drew Doak 3-1 in the finals. “Great accomplishment. It just shows that Conemaugh Township’s back on the map. We’re ready to go.”
Berchick will be going to Hershey this week for the PIAA tournament, as will the other top five placewinners in each weight class.
Ligonier Valley has been waiting even longer than Conemaugh Township for a regional champion. Patrick’s 8-2 victory over Claysburg-Kimmel’s Josh Brown made him the school’s first since Jack Kessler did it in 1980.
Patrick said that he and his older brother Josh, who placed third at 113, were each hoping to etch their names in the Ligonier Valley history books.
“We both wanted to be the champ because there hasn’t been Southwest champ in 35 years,” he said.
Bedford’s Ryan Easter (113 pounds), Forest Hills’ R.J. Brydon (145) and United’s John Blankenship (170) each finished second.
Claysburg-Kimmel, which got championships from James Dodson and Ty Dively, won the team title with 77 points. Burrell, Jefferson-Morgan, Chartiers-Houston and Blairsville rounded out the top five. Bedford and Forest Hills tied for sixth while Chestnut Ridge was eighth.