Wyatt Henson

Marc Billett / For the Observer-Reporter

Waynesburg’s Wyatt Henson reacts after winning the Class AAA 138-pound state championship with a 4-3 decision over Sam Hillegas of North Hills in the finals March 7 in Hershey.

HERSHEY – It’s hard enough to win a state wrestling title under normal circumstances.

There is never any reason to give your opponent extra motivation.

But Saturday afternoon, this tweet was making the rounds among the Waynesburg High School wrestling team and its fans from Pat Mineo, who is administrator of #The Wrestling Room:

“Sam Hillegas wins his semifinal bout and points over to Wyatt Henson, who was wrestling in his own semi, and yells HE’S NEXT! I think he’s amped for some revenge. That 138 lb final will be fireworks!”

There were fireworks but all from Henson as he became Waynesburg’s 32nd state champion with a 4-3 decision over Hillegas, a two-time state champion from North Hills, in the 138-pound weight class at the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis gave the Washington-Greene County area a second champion with a 6-0 win over Donovan McMillon of Peters Township in the 182-pound final.

Henson won a Missouri state title last year before moving back to Waynesburg. He has lived in seven states and moved nine times.

“This so awesome,” said Henson (47-4). “I always wanted to be a state champion from Pennsylvania. I was born in State College. I want to stay here and win another state championship for Waynesburg.”

Waynesburg nearly had a second title but Kurt Phipps of Norwin held off a late rally that saw a 5-0 lead end in a 7-6 victory at 126 pounds.

“He’s a goer,” said Waynesburg head coach Joe Throckmorton. “He’ll take it to anybody. Rocco is young and he’ll be back.”

Waynesburg’s Mac Church finished third at 106, Cole Homet was fifth at 132 pounds and Luca Augustine was sixth at 160 pounds.

Henson used the same double-leg takedown he used to beat Hillegas by the same score in last week’s WPIAL Championships at Canon-McMillan High School.

Church, a freshman from Waynesburg exacted a measure of revenge when he won a 1-0 decision over Matt Repos of Central Dauphin in the battle for third place at 106 pounds.

Church made a second-period escape stand as he rose Repos for the final period.

These two wrestlers were involved in a controversial ending when they met in the quarterfinals, where Repos won a 2-1 decision in ultimate tiebreaker.

The winning point came on a penalty point for Church’s third caution of the match with 22 seconds left /in the UTB. Church believed Repos caused the caution by moving first.

“He’s a tough kid,” Church said. “He takes good shots and moves well.”

There were no cautions called this time.

In Class AA, Shane Kemper stood on the awards stand, his nose swelled and possibly broken. His warmup pants covered two knees that were scratched and, at one time, bloody.

It was a rough but satisfying tournament for Kemper, a junior at Burgettstown High School who finished sixth at 152 pounds.

Kemper was one of three local wrestlers to earn medals in the PIAA Clast AA wrestling championships. His brother, Riley, finished fifth at heavyweight.

McGuffey’s Garrett Boone finished eighth at 195 pounds.

“It’s a long weekend and a lot of hard wrestling going on,” said Shane Kemper. “Everyone is going to get beat up so it’s just about holding up and getting through it the best you can.”

Shane Kemper dropped a 6-0 decision to Wesley Barnes of Southern Columbia in the fifth round of consolations. That put him against Ryan Weyandt of Forest Hills and he lost a 16-4 major decision.

Boone dropped into the battle for seventh place after getting pinned by Parker Moore of Phillipsburg-Osceola in 1:27. He was pinned in 44 seconds.

Riley Kemper fell into the fight for fifth place after losing a 5-1 decision to Jalen Stevens of Myerstown in the sixth round of consolations. Kemper won a hard-fought 3-2 decision from Bronson Strouse of Tamaqua.

“I learned a lot from this tournament,” said Riley Kemper, who will play football at Robert Morris next fall. “I learned how to persevere through hard stuff and to never give up.”

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.

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