HERSHEY — Clearfield Bison wrestler Luke McGonigal pulled off a stunner of a comeback in his semifinal bout Saturday morning and will now advance to Saturday night’s 7:00 p.m. PIAA-AAA Finals, which will be aired live by the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
McGonigal (36-1) found himself down 2-0 only 22 seconds into the bout against Albert Gallatin’s Tim Wallace (37-3), the Southeast (WPIAL) Region champ, and had to play catch up the rest of the way.
After another 22 seconds elapsed, McGonigal picked up a reversal to tie the match at 2-2, only to have Wallace escape 15 seconds later to take a 3-2 lead, which was the score at the end of one period.
Down to start the second, Wallace escaped after only 10 seconds to a 4-2 lead. The last 1:50 of the period was wrestled on their feet and McGonigal had to head to the final period down by two.
There was alot of action the first minute and a half of the final, but no scoring as McGonigal couldn’t escape the strong ride from Wallace.
Then it got crazy. McGonigal escaped with 35 seconds left to cut the deficit to one at 4-3. Wallace got hit with a stall warning at the 18 second mark, then there was a flurry at the edge of the mat and it looked like Wallace would come out on top. McGonigal somehow came up with the potential winning takedown with three seconds left and a 5-4 lead for the first time, sending the Bison faithful into premature celebration, but Wallace was awarded a penaly point for interlocking right at the buzzer, sending the match to overtime!
Riding his new found momentum, McGonigal was the aggressor from the outset and took Wallace down for the 7-5 sudden victory.
To cap off the emotional victory, it was the 100th of McGonigal’s career, the first Bison junior to ever reach that mark.
McGonigal’s “date” for his championship final match, a Bison first since Sean Owen’s winning appearance in 2008, is the defending state champion Mike Labriola (43-0) from Bethlehem Catholic. Labriola, heading to Nebraska next year, was seventh as a freshman and third in the state as a sophomore before winning the title last year.
Four other Northwest Region champs will be in search of their first PIAA gold medals as well – Bellefonte’s Brock Port at 145, Erie Cathedral Prep’s Carter Starocci at 152, Mifflin County’s Trent Hidlay at 160, and General McLane’s Ethan Laird at 195.
Nazareth leads the team race 98.5 to 85 over Bethlehem Catholic, but both squads have six wrestlers competing for medals in the final session.
Complete results can be found by clicking here, courtesy PA-wrestling.com.