CANONSBURG — Half the battle to compete with Thayne Lawrence is to summon the courage to step on the mat.

The other half is not bolting out the nearest door after taking the punishment this junior from Frazier High School can dish out.

On this night, the victim was Patrick Cutchember of Quaker Valley.

Lawrence mad quick work of the Quaker Valley freshman. winning a 12-3 major decision in the 160-pound finals of the WPIAL Class AA Championships at Canon-McMillan High School Saturday. 

Lawrence's victory earned him his third straight WPIAL title and keeps him on a path to win four. Only 28 wrestlers have accomplished the feat in WPIAL history.

"No. 3 is really good," he said. "My school never had a three-time WPIAL champ except for me. I've won three really hard-fought titles and next year I hope to come back and win a fourth one."

The top seven wrestlers in each weight class advanced to the PIAA Southwest Region at Indiana University.

Other area wrestlers winning WPIAL gold included Ryan Michaels of Elizabeth Forward at 113; and Dayton Pitzer of Mount Pleasant at 182.

Coming up one win shy were Luke Gelbig of Mount Pleasant at 106; and Jimmy Gwyer of Beth-Center at 120.

Lawrence, a defending state champio, led 5-0 after one and 7-1 after two periods. He came close to turning Cutchember on his back a couple times but just missed getting the pin.

"When I'm wrestling out there, I try to score as many points as I can," said Lawrence. "Sometimes, you're going to give up points. My goal is not to give up any points. I give it everything I've got."

Cutchember was overmatched but gave it a good go.

"I go really hard at practice so I can wear people out," said Lawrence, who raised his season record to 21-3 with the victory. "When I see they're getting tire, that's when I press them."

Michaels polished off Nick Salerno of Burrell with a pin in 5:49 at 113. He led 7-2 after two periods.

"It finally feels like all my hard work is starting to pay off," said Michaels, who raised his record to 35-1 with the win. "I thought I wrestled well today and came in with a game plan and executed it pretty well. Hopefully, I can go into regionals and get a good start for states." 

Pitzer scored seven straight points through the match to take an 8-4 decision from Austin Walley of Ellwood City.

"I wrestled Austin in the Southmoreland Tournament and beat him," said Pitzer, who is now 35-1. "This was sort of a similar match."

Gelbig was shut out, 7-0, by Joey Fischer of South Park at 106 pounds and Gwyer fell 1-0 to Ian Oswalt of Burrell at 120 pounds.

Dom Fundy of Beth-Center did not attend Saturday's session and defaulted out of the tournament. Fundy injured his right knee against Jon Vargo of Beth-Center in Friday's 195-pound final of the Section 1-AA Tournament.

His injury time ran out against Vargo, forcing a default. Fundy, a state runner-up as a sophomore two years ago, defaulted in Friday night's first round of WPIAL Championships.

"He's still gimping around on it pretty good," said Beth-Center head coach Gary Welsh. "I talked to his mom between (Saturday's) session. There was no shot of him coming back and wrestling at his level. His mom said it was worse (Saturday).

"He's got a lot of health issues. He's made a name for himself and it's not by accident."

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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