Two More PSU Prospects Good as Gold

Future Nittany Lions grab PIAA AAA crowns at 152 and 220 pounds to cap a big weekend for Penn State at the state tournament in Hershey.

HERSHEY -- Future Penn State wrestlers Garett Hammond and Thomas Haines won individual gold Saturday night at the PIAA AAA individual championships at the GIANT Center

Hammonds won by decision, 8-5, over Cumberland Valley's TC Warner at 152 pounds. Haines also nabbed a decision, 7-2, over Boyertown freshman Jordan Wood in the 220-pound final.

Hammond was the first future Lion to take the mat on this night, dueling with Warner in a re-match of last winters' AAA 145-pound final that Hammond won, 12-9.

The Chambersburg senior trailed 4-1 heading into the third period, but escaped off the whistle to cut the deficit to 4-2 before taking down Warner moments later to tie the bout. It was then that Warner called for an injury timeout, giving both wrestlers a brief breather. But it was a moment of confidence for Hammond, too, and he cut Warner out of the stoppage to give the Cumberland Valley standout a 5-4 lead.

“I cut him when it was 4-4, and I told my coach I was going to cut him,” Hammond said. “They told me stay on his head, and he's going to panic. He did, and as soon as he came up I shot and it worked out.”

It marked Warner's last lead of the night, as Hammond quickly drove through a high-crotch shot, a move he perfected all weekend, to re-take the lead 6-5, and reached the margin of victory with a turk tilt that netted a pair of near fall points, completing the comeback and ending his final high school season with an exclamation mark.

“I knew I was down, but I thought, it was the end of the second period,” Hammond said of his mind-set heading into the third. “I just knew I needed to keep my head, and start scoring. I knew my conditioning was a little better, and I felt really fresh, so I just needed to start making opportunities and finding opportunities. I knew I needed to get my pace going, and the opportunity presented itself, and I made it work.”

He'll likely compete in the Dapper Dan Classic next weekend, something he feels he has a good chance of getting into now that he has a state title.

“It's a huge relief for me, and I'm very excited for my family,” Hammond said. “It brings us close together, and they do a lot for me, and I really appreciate everything. My coach, too. I feel pretty satisfied, and excited, and happy.”

Haines took the mat as the GIANT Center was clearing out for the weekend, but his match packed plenty of excitement in front of the smaller yet energetic crowd. The Solanco junior took a 2-1 lead into the second period after scoring on a single-leg takedown. But Wood tied it with an escape before the period was up.

It led to a wild third period, one where Haines took control after defending a deep Wood single leg shot and took advantage of the freshman's repositioning to slide around him for a takedown to re-take the lead at 5-2. That came before he scored a pair of back points with what he described as a can-opener like turn, and he rode out the period from there

“Once I got underneath him, I thought now I'm in a little bit of trouble, and I have to start working,” Haines said of the third period scramble. “He should have just left it there, and it would have been a stalemate.”

The title felt different from the one a year ago Haines said, and with good reason. The end of his state title match last winter with Nazareth's Aaron Bradley ended with some unfriendly dialogue and some shoving, leaving Haines walking off the GIANT Center floor to some boos and an uneasy feeling. But this year was a 180 degree turn from that, as the junior left the mat in his black and gold singlet to applause from the crowd, and a smiling group of family and friends.

“The terms of the victory were a little bit better. Last year, I lost my head,” Haines said. “It didn't make me or the sport look good at all, so this one feels better, actually.”

Future Lion Matt McCutcheon also took the mat in the AAA finals, but the Kiski Area senior dropped a 6-1 decision to Hampton's Jacob Hart in the 195-pound title bout, scoring his only point with a second-period escape.

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