Assistant Sports Editor

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling.

When Chris Mary put together one of the greatest wrestling teams in the area at Canon-McMillan High School in 2010, most believed we would never see a team that strong again.

It took a little more than a decade for Waynesburg to come along and dominate the state under head coach Joe Throckmorton.

Both schools have a long and illustrious history and the teams they put together were, and are, phenomenal.

Mary’s Big Macs won four WPIAL titles and five state team titles in four seasons. They defeated Central Dauphin twice, once in the team semifinal and once in the team finals. Most believed the semifinal meeting should have been the finals matchup.

Those were two of the best dual meets wrestled that I have ever witnessed.

“I follow it in the Observer-Reporter now,” said Mary. “I haven’t seen very much for obvious reasons.

“I’m really happy for Waynesburg and it’s program. Joe Throckmorton and I have had a mutual respect and it goes back to the Joe Ayersman days.”

Waynesburg and Canon-McMillan had different paths to success. The Big Macs start to glory came against Kiski in 2010, when a gimpy Michael Hull limped out at heavyweight and won the final match to ice a 33-27 victory.

The Raiders first step to glory came in their own gymnasium last year, awaiting the outcome of their match with Canon-McMillan. Ten tiebreakers later, Waynesburg had its victory and never looked back.

The Big Macs made history in 2012 by placing eight wrestlers in the state tournament in positions 1 through 8. It’s unlikely that will ever happen again.

The Raiders made history by sending five wrestlers to the finals of the state tournament, winning three. That was one more than the 1943 Waynesburg team.

“What those kids did at a small school reminds me of what we did at Chartiers-Houston,” said Mary of his alma mater that won a Class 3A team title with a Class 2A enrollment in 1982. Waynesburg has Class 2A enrollment but chooses to wrestle up a classification.

In 2013, Canon-McMillan’s Brendan Price won the last and deciding match over Central Dauphin’s Scott Elvin, who beat Price three times before. The score of the bout was 4-3.

The previous year was just as close with Canon-McMillan defeating Central Dauphin, 28-25, in the semifinals.

“We were blessed to four-time state qualifier Connor Schram, and Dalton Macri.” said Mary. “Cody Klempay put a lot of points on the board for us. Alex Campbell and Klempay were pinners. Cody Weircioch was a state champion. Solomon Chisko, Dario Dobbin and Colton Shorts had some big wins for us. We were loaded top to bottom.”

Waynesburg knocked off Bethlehem Catholic in the state team semifinals last year, thanks to a slam of Nate Jones in the lightweights. Though Nazareth beat them in the finals, most felt that this would be the Raiders’ year.

No one could stop them this year. Waynesburg was so good that teams didn’t want the bother of competing. Are you listening Seneca Valley?

In the end, Waynesburg tore up Erie Prep, Williamsport and, interestingly, Central Dauphin to win the state title that was never in doubt. That’s how good they were.

No team is exactly the same the following year but Waynesburg changed. It got better. Only the pandemic could have stopped the Raiders this season. That’s why it was so important to enjoy every aspect of it. The Raiders put on a show worth watching. And now that the season is over, it slowly becomes a wonderful memory. Until the next team comes along.

Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at jtuscano@observer-reporter.com.

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