Wrestling Roundup: PIAA AAA Quarters

Clash of future Nittany Lions highlights another strong session for Penn State commits at the state tournament in Hershey.

HERSHEY, Pa. -- As fate would have it, a pair of future Penn State grapplers met in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA championships at 195 pounds. And with both heading for the normally drama-free wrestling room of Cael Sanderson at University Park this summer, fate made sure to throw a little bit of drama their way, too.

Kiski Area senior Matt McCutcheon got a leg up on his future Nittany Lion teammate Friday afternoon in a half filled GIANT Center, decking Council Rock South's P.J. Steinmetz in overtime at the 6:55 mark to win and move on to Saturday's semifinals. Steinmetz, meanwhile, was sent to the consolation bracket.

“I don't know what I was supposed to do there. He's hard to turn,” McCutcheon said. “I just had to focus on getting the takedown in overtime.”

He ended up getting more than that, though, as his throw in the middle of the mat was racking up near fall points before he cranked Steinmetz's shoulders to the mat. The story of this match, though, was how it got to overtime.

McCutcheon (36-1) opened the scoring with a second-period reversal after a scoreless first period, coming up through Steinmetz's legs and out to grab a lead he held into the third. But Steinmetz (40-2) received a penalty point after McCutcheon was hit for stalling with less than a minute to wrestle, and then tied the bout with a second left when the Kiski Area senior latched down on Steinmetz's left ankle, prompting a quick fist in the air from the head official. That call sent the bout to overtime tied at two, where McCutcheon controlled most of the action in before earning the fall.

“He said I sat down on the ankle too long, but I was trying to climb up with one second left,” McCutcheon said. “I just caught him there at the end.”

It was lost on neither competitor that future matches will come at the benefit of the Penn State program as a whole, rather than just their individual pursuits of gold this weekend, and they embraced in the center of the mat afterward.

“It was a battle out there, and I'm sure there's going to be a bunch of battles in the room once we're teammates,” McCutcheon said. “I said we'll be teammates next year, and nice match, and he said good job and good luck in your next match.”

Jovan Reyes of Allentown Dieruff will be McCutcheon's Saturday opponent in the semifinals. The junior is now 35-2, and won his quarterfinal bout by decision 11-7.

In consolation action later Friday, Steinmetz beat Jeff Pickel of Lampeter Strasburg 6-5. He will now face Tommy Rayhart of Big Spring in the third round of consolations, the first of three matches he must win to rally back for third place.

Hammerin' Haines

Thomas Haines had no problems in his preliminary bout Thursday, picking up a rather painless technical fall. And while he didn't trail against Coatsville junior Michael Boykins in his 220-pound quarterfinal bout Friday, a late third period takedown grew a 2-1 lead to a 4-1 advantage, giving the Solanco junior plenty of breathing room in the final seconds of his second match of the tournament.

“Being conditioned really helps, and I have better speed then most of the guys, so that really helps,” Haines said. “Being used to the arena, that's a big thing.”

The junior first experienced the thrill of state championship weekend at GIANT Center a year ago, winning a state title at 220 pounds by pinning his way to the finals before winning by major decision (10-2) in the championship. It was that eye-opening experiencing that the junior credits for not having wide eyes this time around, even if he really didn't have them a year ago, either.

“It's obviously a really big arena, and much more people than would be at a normal high school event,” Haines said. “It's so much more of an advantage when you know what to expect. The noise gets in your head and you can't hear the coaches [if you're not experienced], and you feel like all these people are looking at you when they're really not. It's a huge advantage.”

Haines continues his tournament Saturday morning opposite Freedom High senior Evan Kauffman, who he pinned a year ago in 1:04 in the semifinals.

Unlike the rest of the Penn State commitments in Hershey, Haines still has one more high school season to go. But is still happy his commitment is out of the way.

“I've always been a fan of Penn State. My family always has watched football and wrestling, and we have season tickets up there for wrestling,” Haines said. “I just love it, and when Cael got there, I was like, wow, this is the full package. It's a beautiful campus, too. You can't really beat it.

“It's nice to not have the question of wanting those emails [from college coaches] and wanting them to talk to you. It's a lot more relaxing.”

Hammond Handling Foes

Garett Hammond is hungry to stand on the number one podium again this year in a new weight class. The 152-pounder had no problem getting one step closer Friday afternoon.

The Chambersburg senior (45-6) sent Pine-Richland's Brendan Burnham to the consolation bracket by with a tidy 16-0 technical fall victory in 4:28, thrice rocking Burnham for three-point tilts to go along with three takedowns and an escape to reach the margin of victory.

“I like this place a lot, and I think coming to these big tournaments, I get a little more excitement,” Hammond said. “You're all working up to this point at the end of the year, so all the losses that came before them matter, but they don't. No matter what your record is, you get excited wrestling on the biggest stage.”

Hammond opened the bout with a nifty shot and he eventually circled around on for a 2-0 lead. He quickly converted to a tight waste tilt to take a 5-0 lead after the initial two minutes of wrestling. After a neutral second-period start, the senior shot in again and circled behind Burnham for a takedown before setting back-to-back three-point tilts to close the second period with a 13-0 lead.

He then closed the match by bursting out of Burnham's grasp to start the third and then used a quick shot and takedown to finish off Burnham before 30 seconds were gone in the third.

“My coach wanted me to go on top, but I wanted to start on bottom to get every position out of the way,” Hammond said. “I probably have a tough one tomorrow against the Central Dauphin kid, and I'll probably do a little bit of workout tonight.”

But Hammond spoke to soon, as the Central Dauphin wrestler he spoke of, Austin Rose, fell shortly after Hammond headed to the locker room in ultimate tiebreaker, 2-1. It means Hammond will face Greensburg Salem senior Tyler Reinhart in Saturday's semifinal bout.

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