Little Eagles Head Coach Dan Sullivan, Johnathan Sullivan (8th Place at 12&U 200lbs), Collin Havers (2nd Place at 12&U 135lbs), and Youngsville Junior High Coach Tim Suydan.

Little Eagles Shine at Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling State Championships

March 27, 2024

PITTSBURGH – State tournaments tend to be fraught with moments of utter elation and moments of agonizing defeat. Sports can be very volatile in this way. The 60th Annual Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Youth State Championships this past weekend proved this as the Youngsville Little Eagles bore witness to the capricious nature of postseason tournaments.

Emanating from the University of Pittsburgh’s Peterson Events Center, ten Little Eagles wrestlers took on some of the best youth wrestlers the state has to offer.

In the 8 & under division, Parker Drake turned in a strong showing at the 110-pound weight class. Drake began his tournament with a win by pin in 1:57 over Richard Lindley of Chartiers Houston. Drake lost his second match by fall, but rebounded by securing another pin in 1:57 over Brantley Dille of Saegertown. Drake concluded his tournament with a hard fought 7-1 loss to eventual medalist Liam Purdy of Grove City.

In the 10 & under division, Brian Riel made his second trip to the PJW state tournament. This time he was competing in the 150-pound weight class. Riel dropped his opening bout by fall and fell into the consolation bracket. In his second consolation bout, Riel faced off with James Stitt of Philadelphia. After a scoreless first period, Stitt chose down and scored a reversal that sent Riel to his back. Riel was unable to fight off his back before surrendering the fall at the 1:40 mark.

In the 12 & under girls’ division, Maci Hodak opened with a first-round forfeit win. In her quarterfinal bout, Hodak faced returning state champion Aunnika Imler of Claysburg-Kimmel. Imler scored a quick takedown and Hodak was able to fight off various pinning attempts before giving up the fall at 1:20. Hodak dropped a heartbreaking 6-3 match to Austyn Holtry of West Perry in the consolation quarterfinals. Hodak held Holtry on her back for a full set of near-fall points as the match wound down. But she wasn’t able to secure the fall before time ran out resulting in the final margin.

In the 12 & under boys 65-pound weight class, Ronnie Shellhouse dropped his opening bout by fall to Daniel Spicer of Downington West. In his consolation bout, Shellhouse faced off with Eli Hind of Waynesboro. Hind scored two takedowns, one in the first period and one in the second period and made them hold up for the duration of the match to knock off Shellhouse by the score of 4-0.

In the 115-pound weight class, Brayden Patch made his inaugural trip to the PJW state tournament. Patch opened his tournament with a match against Jace Weld of Glendale. Weld, leading 2-0 after two periods of action, scored a reversal early into the third period and picked up the fall with just 25 seconds left in the match. In his consolation bout, Patch turned in a barn burner of a match against Jaxson Pierce of Oxford. Pierce earned an escape with 37 seconds left in the match. Patch began firing off repeated shot attempts, trying desperately to score the winning points. He was nearly successful in doing so, but the final buzzer sounded before Patch could convert on his final shot.

At the 125-pound weight class, Tucker Sanford made some noise. Sanford lost by fall in 2:00to former state champion Vincenzo Ierubino of Central Bucks West in his first bout. Sanford opened consolation action by pinning Mason Felton of Jefferson Morgan in 2:32. Sanford then upended Area VI champion Ty Dudash of West Middlesex 3-0 in a dominant showing from the top position. Sanford followed that up by pinning Area XII champion Antonio Cintron of North Pocono in 1:41 to reach the blood round. Sanford gave up a first period takedown against his opponent Xavier Moore of Yough and couldn’t make up the deficit as he dropped a very tight 2-0 decision to fall just short of making the podium.

In the 135-pound weight class, the Little Eagles had two wrestlers: Brenton Myers and Collin Havers.

Myers began his tournament against returning state medalist Shawn Verdecchio of Chichester. Myers fought off his back multiple times to deny Verdecchio the pinfall. Ultimately, Verdecchio picked up a 16-0 technical fall victory over Myers to send him to the consolation bracket. In his consolation bout, Myers fought hard in a very physical match against Xander Johnston of Meyersdale. Myers again proved to be difficult to pin down. Johnston threw multiple pinning combinations at Myers, but none were very fruitful as Myers bowed out with an 11-2 loss.

Havers began his march to the finals with a bye and then pinned Kaleb Gonzales of Hopewell in 47 seconds. He followed that up by pinning Jarrett LeMasters of Westmont Hilltop in 29 seconds and winning by 16-0 technical fall over Michael D’Appolonia of Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals. Havers found himself down 5-0 after an early takedown and cradle by Dallastown’s TJ Krebs, but scored a reversal and near-fall points to bring the score to 5-4. Havers put on another tough ride in the second and scored two additional near-fall points to go up 6-5. Havers gave up two near-fall points on another cradle by Krebs with just 18 seconds left in the match but was able to break Krebs‘ hold and pick up the fall with just 8 seconds left to make the state finals. The come-from-behind victory set off a cacophony of cheers from the Youngsville wrestlers and fans in attendance. In the finals, Havers squared off with familiar foe Shawn Verdecchio. Verdecchio scored a takedown when he countered Havers shot, but Havers quickly escaped to make it 2-1. Havers gave up a locking hands point on a mat return in the second period and was unable to score in the third period to finish as the state runner up at 135lbs.

At the 160-pound weight class, a banged up Ryker Chase looked to fight through a nagging shoulder injury. Chase opened his tournament against Jake Vassen of Sharpsville. Chase’s shoulder impaired his ability to fight off Vassen’s repeated upper body ties and a half nelson that scored the fall. In his consolation bout, Chase faced Jaxon Felmy of Mifflinburg. Chase was able to fight off one pin attempt, but not the second one as he fell to the eventual state medalist by fall.

Last, but not least, was Johnathan Sullivan at the 200lb weight class. Sullivan began his tournament with a forfeit win over Cooper Bliss of Port Allegany. Sullivan then won by fall in 2:19 over Garnet Valley’s Will Sitler to set up a showdown with Corry’s Brody Nickerson in the quarterfinals. Sullivan fell behind 1-0 in the second period thanks to a locking hands point. Sullivan chose down to start the third and Nickerson employed a tight arm bundle to pick up the fall with just 2 seconds left in the match. With the loss, Sullivan entered a do-or-die match against Ligonier Valley’s Dante Macioce in the blood round. Down 1-0 in the third period, Sullivan scored an escape, a takedown and three nearfall points to knock off Macioce by a score of 6-1. Sullivan would go on to drop a 10-0 major decision in the consolation quarterfinals and a 6-0 decision to finish in 8th Place.

“I’m glad to see the hard work these kids are putting in is paying off. They’ve been pushing each other in practice to get better and it’s great to see that effort be rewarded.” said Little Eagles head coach Dan Sullivan.

“This weekend was yet another example of how brutal and unforgiving wrestling is in Pennsylvania,” added junior high coach Tim Suydan “Some of our matches were decided by a single mistake and that speaks to the razor thin margin for error these kids are working with. Collin is our first PJW state finalist since 2002 when Jordan Cooke won it all and Mike Sullivan took 4th. He is also our highest state place winner since 2004 when Jordan took fourth. We have a lot of young talent in our program. To have our less experienced kids like Brayden, Maci, Tucker, and Ryker in the position to be here and be competitive at a tournament like this so early in their careers should bode well for the future. Overall though, they did the only things we’ve ever asked of them: wrestle hard and don’t quit. We’re so proud of them for their efforts and for representing themselves in the way they did.”

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Subscribe to our newsletter

White Cane Coffee presents Coffee & a Conversation

Don't Miss