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.


Marc Billett/For the Observer-Reporter

Gerrit Nijenhuis of Canon-McMillan strikes a pose in March after becoming the 170-pound state champion in the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships in Hershey.

He will go from the chaser to the chased this season.

That’s what happens when you win a PIAA wrestling title.

But Gerrit Nijenhuis seems more than prepared to face that situation.

“I’m treating this year no differently,” said Nijenhuis. “I still have the goal of winning another title. I don’t want to dwell on last year. I just want to concentrate on this year and winning another one. Guys are going to bring their ‘A’ game when they wrestle me. I hope they do.”

Nijenhuis, a senior at Canon-McMillan High School, defeated two-time state champion Edmond Ruth of Susquehanna Township in last year‘s 170-pound final of the PIAA championships in Hershey. That earned him the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award in Class AAA.

Nijenhuis said the reaction of the community after he won was inspiring.

“Canon-McMillan is an amazing wrestling community,” said Nijenhuis, who was the Outstanding Wrestler on the Observer-Reporter All-District Wrestling Team. “It’s in the culture now to expect at least one state champion each year. It’s awesome. They are no strangers to the history of state champions and it’s pretty cool.”

Nijenhuis is sure to get everyone’s best shot as he enters into the final season of high school wrestling career before moving on to Purdue University. Nijenhuis got off to a good start in the preseason by winning the Super 32 tournament. He wrestled at 182 pounds, up a weight from last year’s 170.

“I’ve been wrestling a lot more this summer than I did last year,” he said. “I wrestled pretty well (at the Super 32). I was training with (Young Guns coach Jody Strittmatter), getting ready for it. I had a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth from last year, finishing second. I wanted to make sure I got it done this year.”

Intermat has Nijenhuis ranked third in the nation behind Patrick Kennedy of Minnesota and Dustin Plott of Oklahoma. The wrestler Nijenhuis beat in the Super 32 tournament, John Poznanski, is ranked fourth in the country at 182 pounds.

Nijenhuis finished his junior season with a 44-3 record and has a career mark of 134-16.

Mark Dec. 20 down on your wrestling calendar. The Big Macs will be hosting a quad meet at home with Hempfield, Kiski, and Seneca Valley.

“Canon-McMillan has always been competitive and the expectation has always been to win a WPIAL (team) title,” he said. “I know the team didn’t like how we competed last year at the quad meet. I think we’ll come out a lot more ready this year.”

The Henson problem

Wyatt Henson, a junior at Waynesburg High School, got caught up in a new PIAA rule that punishes transfers after the sophomore season.

Henson wrestled at Waynesburg as a freshman before moving to Missouri after his father, Sammie, lost his job as the wrestling coach at West Virginia University. Wyatt Henson won the Missouri state title at 138 pounds, then decided to move back to Waynesburg.

The PIAA rule was established to prevent an athlete from competing for two schools in the same season and possibly tipping the scales for the postseason.

Henson, who committed to Iowa in the offseason, was deemed eligible by the WPIAL to compete in the regular season but not the postseason. Henson is expected to appeal to the PIAA.

The new rule stops teams from possibly packing lineups with better athletes, who did not start the year with that team.

Because of the length of the postseason in some sports, an athlete could compete in the postseason in one state, then transfer in time to compete in the postseason of another state.

I have mixed feelings about this new rule. It’s understandable that the PIAA would want to stop a transfer who takes advantage and strengthens a team unfairly. But there are many transfers that happen that are out of the control of an athlete, such as a parent changing jobs or a family situation such as a divorce.

If Henson is available for the postseason, the Raiders will be at a legitimate contender for the Class AAA team title.

Rule changes

The most interesting rule change deals with tournaments.

If the tournament director allows, a team may enter two wrestlers in the same weight class if the 16-man bracket is not full.

The Chartiers-Houston Tournament, which kicks off the season Dec. 6-7, will allow such a move. The Powerade tournament at the end of the month at Canon-McMillan will not because it has junior varsity tournament the day before it begins.

The stalling process has changed slightly. The first call of stalling will be a warning. Then the opponent will be given one match point on the second and third offenses and two more points and choice of position on the next restart for the fourth warning. The fifth offense results in disqualification.

A stalling call will be awarded if shoelaces become untied.

Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at

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