How can you argue with perfection?

You can’t.

Gerrit Nijenhuis navigated his way through the dangerous jungle that poses as the high school wrestling schedule.

And the senior from Canon-McMillan was superb at each stop along the way.

He won 47 straight bouts, including the most important one, the 182-pound title match in the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey earlier this month.

It was the second consecutive state title for Nijenhuis and capped an outstanding senior season before heading off to Purdue University to begin his college career.

Nijenhuis dominated his weight class and finished off his final competitor, Donovan McMillon of Peters Township, 6-0, to win that second title under historic circumstances.

That accomplishment tipped the scales and made Nijenhuis the Outstanding Wrestler on this season’s Observer-Reporter All-District Wrestling Team.

It’s the second straight year Nijenhuis has received this honor.

Nijenhuis edged Waynesburg’s Wyatt Henson in the selection process. Henson also won his second state title, taking care of Sam Hillegas of North Hills in the 138-pound finals in Class AAA. Henson, a junior, won a Missouri state title last season before moving back to Waynesburg.

Henson was the only WPIAL wrestler to defeat the senior Hillegas in his varsity career. And he did so twice, once in the WPIAL finals and the second time in Hershey, both by 4-3 scores.

Nijenhuis leads a group of 28 wrestlers on the two teams.

The other wrestlers on the first team were Henson (138), Mac Church (106), Rocco Welsh (126), Cole Homet (132) and Luca Augustine (160) of Waynesburg; Shane Kemper (152) and Riley Kemper (Heavyweight) of Burgettstown; Eli Brinsky (170) and Quentin Franklin (Heavyweight) of South Fayette; McMillon (182), Garrett Boone (195) of McGuffey; Cole Weightman (220) of Belle Vernon; and Evan Miller (220) of Canon-McMillan.

Making the second team were Jacob Houpt (106), Costa Moore (120), Jacob Gardner (126), Tanner Rohaley (152) and Matthew Furman (170) of Canon-McMillan; Nate Yagle (132) and Ethan Barr (160) of McGuffey; Kyle McCollum (120) of Beth-Center; Joey Sentipal (120) of Burgettstown; Noah Tustin (195) of Waynesburg; Robbie West (220) of Fort Cherry; Jonathan Wolf (220) of Jefferson-Morgan; Cameron Carter-Green (Heavyweight) and Tyson Brophy (Heavyweight) of Trinity.

Joey Vigliotti of Burgettstown is the Coach of the Year in Class AA and Joe Throckmorton of Waynesburg earned the honor in Class AAA.

As usual, inclusion in the all-district team was determined by the accomplishments of each wrestler within his respective weight class.

The trip to the top of the awards stand seemed easier for Nijenhuis this season, or maybe it was just the improvement in his talent level that made it appear that way. On the second time through, there were fewer bumps in the road, hardly any unexpected detours and no breakdowns.

There was just dominating wrestling.

So which title was more satisfying?

“They both felt pretty good,” said Nijenhuis. “Nothing is probably going to beat your first time doing that. It’s almost just as good getting it done a second time.”

Nijenhuis’ match with McMillon made PIAA history. It was the first time since the PIAA tournament began in 1938 that two wrestlers from Washington County competed against one another in a state final.

“I didn’t know that,” said Nijenhuis after the final. “I was only thinking about becoming a two-time state champion. It feels amazing. I just go out and wrestle the same way.”

The match also was significant in that it made Nijenhuis the winningest wrestler in WPIAL history. Nijenhuis has a 181-16 career record, one victory more than the previous mark of 180. That record was shared by two Pittsburgh Central Catholic wrestlers: Dane Johnson and Geoff Alexander.

Nijenhuis’ mark will probably be broken next year if Ian Oswalt of Burrell can stay healthy. The state record is 199 wins by Zach Kemerer of Upper Perkiomen.

Nijenhuis became the first two-time state champion at Canon-McMillan since Solomon Chishko won his second title in 2014. He became the 25th state champion in Canon-McMillan history.

Nijenhuis began this tournament with a pin in 1:43 over Jake Marnell of Hazelton, then stopped Joey Milano of Spring Ford, 7-1, in the quarterfinals. Nijenhuis moved into the finals with a 13-2 major decision over Nick Baker of Penns Manor. He controlled McMillon from the start on the way to the 6-0 victory.

Last season, Nijenhuis pulled the upset of the finals in Class AAA when he stunned Susquehanna Township’s Edmund Ruth, a two-time state champion, 8-3, in the 170-pound final. That victory sealed Nijenhuis being named the Outstanding Wrestler in the classification for the tournament.

In his previous two tournaments, Nijenhuis came home with third-place finishes.

Nijenhuis’ last loss came in last season’s WPIAL Class AAA Team Tournament, a 2-1 decision to top-ranked Max Shaw of Thomas Jefferson at 195 pounds. Nijenhuis was giving up 25 pounds and limped off the mat at the end after aggravating a left knee injury. But it healed after some rest and Nijenhuis finished his drop to 170 for the individual postseason.

Nijenhuis won the final 11 bouts of last season, finishing his career on a 58-bout winning streak. He won titles at King of the Mountain, Powerade and the Tri-County Athletic Directors’ Association tournaments.

“My career definitely had some ups and downs,” Nijenhuis said. “But I definitely wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

Outstanding Wrestler: Gerrit Nijenhuis, Canon-McMillan

Class AA Coach of the Year: Joey Vigliotti, Burgettstown

Class AAA Coach of the Year: Joe Throckmorton, Waynesburg

First Team

1. Gerrit Nijenhuis, Sr., Canon-McMillan, 182, 47-0

2. Wyatt Henson, Jr., Waynesburg, 138, 50-4

3. Rocco Welsh, Fr., Waynesburg, 126, 40-8

4. Mac Church, Fr., Waynesburg, 106, 47-6

5. Donovan McMillon, Jr., Peters Township, 182, 41-4

6. Quentin Franklin, Sr., South Fayette, Hvy, 34-5

7. Cole Homet, So., Waynesburg, 132, 44-15

8. Eli Brinsky, Sr., South Fayette, 170, 38-7

9. Luca Augustine, Jr., Waynesburg, 160, 43-10

10. Riley Kemper, Sr., Burgettstown, Hvy, 45-5

11. Shane Kemper, Jr., Burgettstown, 152, 40-12

12. Garrett Boone, Sr., McGuffey, 195, 38-13

13. Cole Weightman, 10, Belle Vernon, 220, 31-4

14. Evan Miller, Sr., Canon-McMillan, 220, 35-17

Second Team

1. Costa Moore, Jr., Canon-McMillan, 120, 31-13

2. Nathan Yagle, Jr., McGuffey, 132, 39-17

3. Ethan Barr, Sr., McGuffey, 160, 45-9

4. Joey Sentipal, Fr., Burgettstown, 120, 40-15

5. Jonathan Wolfe, Jr., Jefferson-Morgan, 220, 25-16

6. Robbie West, Jr., Fort Cherry, 220, 39-10

7. Tanner Rohaley, Sr., Canon-McMillan, 152, 34-10

8. Jacob Houpt, So., Canon-McMillan, 106, 32-15

9. Jacob Gardner, Sr., Canon-McMillan 32-14

10. Matthew Furman, Fr., Canon-McMillan, 170, 36-15

11. Noah Tustin, So., Waynesburg, 195, 22-5

12. Tyson Brophy, Jr., Trinity, Hvy., 24-16

13. Kyle McCollum, So., Beth-Center, 120, 27-10

14. Cameron Carter-Green, So., Washington, Hvy., 28-12

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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