BURGETTSTOWN – Joey Vigliotti can blow out the candles on his birthday cake along with the dust off the WPIAL section championship banner that hangs in the Burgettstown High School gymnasium.
The Blue Devils’ wrestling coach, who is in his third season, can thank his underclassmen for the late birthday gift.
Trailing by one point with three bouts remaining, 160-pound freshman D.J. Slovick pinned his opponent in 34 seconds. Sophomore Turner Lehman earned another fall in the following bout early in the second period as Burgettstown secured a 39-34 victory over Beth-Center to win the Class AA Section 1 title Wednesday night.
It is the first section championship for Vigliotti as a head coach and for the Blue Devils since 2010.
“Since I first started (as an assistant) with Terry Havelka, it seemed like every year it was second place, then another second, then third, then back to second place again,” said Vigliotti, who was still out of breath after the dramatic win.
“It was time. It was time to get the job done. We had a group of kids ready to do that.”
The Blue Devils opened the night with a 48-30 victory over McGuffey, while Beth-Center dominated Washington 54-15. The Highlanders defeated Washington for third place, 54-12.
All four teams previously qualified for the WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament that begins next week.
The quick, convincing pin from Slovick, who won all 15 of his matches by fall entering the night, brought the home crowd to its feet and gave Burgettstown a 33-28 lead.
“I embrace it,” Slovick said of being one of the final weight classes to wrestle. “It’s a head game for me. I have all the pressure and just let it all out. I block everything out. I can’t hear the fans. I can barely hear my coaches.”
Slovick brought the large contingent to its feet before Lehman blew the lid off the gymnasium.
Twenty seconds into the second period, Lehman forced even more pressure and flattened out for the pin at 2:20.
“I knew a pin was possible from being in the same position a couple of times at practice,” Lehman said. “I just got as flat as I could. Last year, I was the last match in the WPIAL quarters. It didn’t end how I wanted. Tonight, it was redemption.”
Beth-Center, which won Section 1 Subsection B for the No. 2 seed, led a majority of the championship match. Starting at 195, Dominic Fundy and Jacob Baker earned back-to-back pins to take a 12-0 lead.
After surrendering the lead for the first time after a forfeit at 132, the Bulldogs regained a 28-21 advantage with a major decision from Trevor Pettit (138) and a technical fall from Todd Fisher (145).
Burgettstown rebounded with Shane Kemper (152) winning by forfeit and the two match-changing pins from Slovick and Lehman.
“They are brawlers,” Vigliotti said of the two underclassmen. “They fight and don’t care about names. They don’t wrestle names. There are a lot of kids that lose matches because of that. They are kids that put their head down and get to work, no questions asked.
We are confident in every match we wrestle. It comes down to heart. There is no secret recipe. It shows with these kids. The job isn’t done, though. We want the big one.”