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No. 11 Pitt-Johnstown collects 8th straight PSAC title by blanking Shippensburg

Feb. 23—A Pitt-Johnstown season that started poorly and included adversity throughout for coaches and wrestlers alike ended with smiles all around Thursday at the Sports Center.

The Mountain Cats beat Shippensburg 46-0 to cap a perfect 7-0 run through the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and celebrated with a trophy, marking the eighth consecutive season that Pat Pecora's team earned at least a share of the PSAC championship.

Pitt Johnstown (15-2, 7-0 in PSAC) dropped its opening dual, 20-14 at West Liberty, then saw its 53-match home winning streak snapped with a 21-20 loss to Findlay on criteria in December. There were bigger issues as well, as senior standout Alex Weber saw his career cut short by injury and as Pecora continues to battle lung cancer.

Through it all, Pecora and assistant Tyler Reinhart kept the program moving forward and the wrestlers kept responding.

"From the first match of the year, at West Liberty, we've gotten better every single match," Pecora said. "We only had two setbacks, and they were both close and both in the first term. We got better as the year went on. That's what I look for. That means, as a coach, you're getting more out of them."

While Pecora was working to get more out of his wrestlers, he was also gaining something from them. Reinhart said their energy, passion and bond that they share helped Pecora cope with his health issues.

"I think it's the best thing," Reinhart said. "It's what keeps him coming every day. That's what wakes him up every morning. That's his motivation to keep doing this. He has nothing to prove. He doesn't need to keep doing this, but this is his life. He's built a legacy here and we're going to keep doing this together."

The Raiders (1-16, 0-7) were no match for the Mountain Cats with no ranked wrestlers and forfeits at 125 and 184.

Forest Hills graduate Byron Daubert, one of seven seniors honored prior to the dual, was sick and unable to wrestle.

"I felt bad that Byron couldn't go out," Pecora said.

Rather than have 125-pounder Trevon Gray accept a forfeit and then give six points back at 133, Pecora bumped Gray to heavier weight, where he scored a 21-5 technical fall over Cal Lederer in the first of eight bonus-point victories for the Mountain Cats.

Mason Myers and Jacob Ealy each followed with technical falls to make it 15-0

Richland grad Cooper Warshel scored an 11-3 major decision over Kyler Everly at 157 ahead of falls by Dillon Keane and Tony Salopek that made it 37-0.

Noah Gnibus collected a forfeit at 184, and Dakoda Rodgers had the lone close bout of the night — a 6-5 victory over Trey Shoemaker — before Isaiah Rodgers closed out the dual with his 14th fall of the season.

"It was about putting a stamp on the conference," Pecora said of the shutout victory. "We had to win this match to beat everybody in the conference, win the dual meet championship. We wrestled well. As a team, we're looking very good right now."

That wasn't the case when the season opened three and a half months ago.

"You don't necessarily want to say that was the best thing for you, because you never want to lose," Reinhart said, "but at the end of the day, I think it was. It kind of woke us all up and made all of us get back together. It took Coach, myself and all the guys."

College wrestling's all-time leader in victories, Pecora talks often about how every member of the team plays a role in dual meet success. On Thursday, he praised the efforts of seniors Oggie Atwood, Colby Keane and Will Small for what they've done for the program as well as Daubert, Ealy, Weber and Dillon Keane.

"I'm just real proud of them," he said. "They're a good group."

He also spoke about how much Reinhart, who became the program's first-ever full-time assistant coach last season, has meant to the Mountain Cats.

"Tyler is an integral part of this program," Pecora said. "I couldn't do it without him. He does so much, especially this year."