Mac Church has found it a struggle to get up for some matches during his final wrestling season at Waynesburg Central High School.
But that will not be the case when he makes a fourth consecutive appearance at the PIAA Class 3A tournament, which begins today at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“It’s hard for me to get up for some of these matches. It’s been a problem all year,” said Church, after winning his third gold medal at the WPIAL Class 3A Championships, which concluded Saturday at Canon-McMillan High School.
“I just don’t have the same adrenaline that I had in the past for these matches. It’s tough wrestling the same kids over and over.”
Church will continue his athletic and academic career at Virginia Tech.
“I’m never satisfied with what I do,” Church said. “In my head, I haven’t done anything. My goal is to win NCAA titles. I’m ready for the college scene.”
But before he can move on to the college scene, Church has one more tournament at the high school level.
“But the state tournament is different,” Church said. “I can always get up for that. That’s what I’ve been working for all year ... to get back to Hershey and win a third title.”
Church is a three-time PIAA medalist. He placed third as a 106-pound freshman, first as a 120-pound sophomore, and first last year at 132.
This year, Church is the top seed at 145 pounds. He has a 32-2 record, which includes a 3-2 loss to Jayden Robinson of Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.) in the Powerade Tournament final, and a 4-3 loss to Bethlehem Catholic’s Kollin Rath in the PIAA Team Tournament.
“It was not a perfect year for me,” Church said. “I took a loss at team states and I took a loss at Powerade, but those losses were good for me. I felt I was the more aggressive guy in both matches. It showed me that I can’t let those matches be that close.”
Waynesburg teammate Rocco Welsh is also a three-time PIAA medalist. He was a PIAA runner-up at 126 and 152 in his first two appearances, then won a title last year at 172.
Welsh actually considered skipping his senior year at Waynesburg.
“I actually considered spending the year training at the Olympic Training Center,” Welsh said. “The choice I made was to stay in high school another year. I made this choice and had to stick with it.”
Welsh (39-0), one of four remaining unbeaten wrestlers from the WPIAL, is back to defend his title at 172 and is the top seed.
“I’m definitely grateful and excited to be here,” said Welsh, an Ohio State recruit. “I’m focused. I want to get my second state title. I’ve got to handle business.”
Welsh and Church will be joined by three Waynesburg teammates: Eli Makel, Brody Evans, and Nate Jones.
“We don’t have the team we’ve had the last few years, but we still have five going to Hershey,” Church said. “Eli and Nate have never been to states before. That’s exciting for them. Brody’s been there before.”
Makel (43-3) won the 215-pound title at the WPIAL tournament with a 5-1 win over Connor Jacobs of Armstrong.
“I never placed at WPIALs. The goal was to win one,” Makel said. “I never placed at states. The goal is to win there.”
Evans (28-11) placed second at 189 after losing 5-1 to Pine-Richland’s Vaughn Spencer. Jones (31-11) placed fourth at 152 pounds.
Canon-McMillan is sending three wrestlers to Hershey, including junior Tanner Mizenko, who is the top seed at 107 pounds after pinning Butler’s Santino Sloboda in the WPIAL finals.
“It’s another gold medal to look for,” said Mizenko, when asked about the state tournament. “I’m coming for that gold.”
Mizenko is making his second trip to Hershey. He placed fourth in the PIAL last year, but made a quick exit from the state tournament.
“I may have lost twice at Hershey last year, but I learned a lot,” Mizenko said. “There’s another level of wrestling up there. We’re the best state ... there’s no doubt. It pushes you beyond any limit.”
Mizenko will be joined by Big Mac teammates Andrew Binni (42-5) and Matthew Furman (36-5). Both placed second in the WPIAL.
Trinity has two entries: Ty Banco and Blake Reihner. Both have made a previous appearance at Hershey.
Banco (38-3) is seeded No. 5 at heavyweight after winning the WPIAL title with a pin of Penn-Trafford’s Joe Enick. He qualified for the state tournament as a 215-pound sophomore and posted a 2-2 record. Last season, he fell one win short of qualifying.
“It’s go time now,” Banco said, when asked about returning to Hershey. “I just have to work hard like I have all season.”
Reihner (35-7) placed third at 139 pounds. Last season, he placed third in the WPIAL at 132 and posted a 2-2 record at Hershey.
Other area wrestlers who qualified for the PIAA tournament are: Peters Township’s Chris Cibrone (29-11), who placed third in the WPIAL at 145); and Ringgold’s Jake Conroy (40-4), who placed fourth at 189.
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