Werner grabs silver medal
Luke Werner’s 2017 trip to Hershey for the PIAA wrestling tournament can be simply defined as a fun experience.
It was the greatest run he’s ever had at the Giant Center and it culminated with a silver medal performance, following a 13-3 defeat to Northampton’s Julian Chlebove during Saturday night’s 120-pound 3A championship.
It marked the third time in as many weeks that Werner lost to Chlebove in a finals situation, dropping both the district and regional titles to the Northampton sophomore.
However, that doesn’t take away from what he’s been able to accomplish as a Hurricane wrestler or how he performed in his Hershey finale.
Werner wrestled as well as anyone in the tournament, posting a 17-1 technical fall to open the tournament against Wilson’s Brandon Connor, following up with a 15-6 major decision in the quarterfinals over Hempfield’s Vincent DiStefanis before making his first finals appearance with a 10-7 decision over Pennridge’s Matt Parker.
It was a tournament to remember, one where he had fun despite coming up just short of state gold.
“Every other year I’ve lost in the quarters or before, so I feel like I did my best,” Werner said. “I think this year more than any other year, I just tried to have fun. I just love the environment out here. Every match I just wanted to put on a show.”
Putting on a show against Chlebove was an impossible mission, as Werner was the only wrestler to score on the two-time state champion, as Chlebove dominated the bracket, outscoring his opponents by a combined 41-3.
Werner finishes his senior year with a 36-6 mark, but added to his all-time career win total, pushing it to 141 victories as a new benchmark for future Hurricanes to strive for.
But through it all, the four-time state qualifier and three-time state medalist certainly left his mark on the program.
“We’re a better program because Luke’s involved in it and we’re better now since Luke came into it,” said head coach Jody Karam. “That’s a hell of a compliment for him, because this program has been around for a long time.”
Werner was the only Hurricane to medal of the four qualifiers in the tournament, as Anthony Emig (160), Gunner Anglovich (170) and Damen Moyer (182) were bounced on day two of the tournament.
Emig lost his first two bouts of the tournament by a combined four points, while Anglovich saw his tourney end in the second round of consolations, losing to Solanco’s Ben Root 6-3, to finish his run in Hershey.
Moyer was one win away from coming home with a medal, but he lost in the third round of consolations to Penn Trafford’s Matt McGillick 5-2.
Moyer was the lone underclassman from Liberty’s contingent and got a taste of what Hershey is all about.
“It was a very positive experience for Damen because he saw what it takes and how important it is to be ready to go out here,” said Karam. “I think he saw that he was really close to placing, being only one match away, and it makes it a lot more realistic for him coming back next year to place.”
On the other side of town, Evan Callahan (220) saw a disappointing end to his Patriot career, as he was forced to medically forfeit from the competition because of a knee injury that he suffered in the semifinal round of regionals.
Freedom head coach Brandon Hall knew Callahan wasn’t himself the second he saw him warm-up on the Giant Center mats and after getting pinned in his first bout by Jake Slinger of Upper St. Clair in 3:31, a tough decision had to be made.
“He saw a doctor early in the week and they said he had an LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) tear,” said Hall. “You could tell he was in a lot of pain, because he couldn’t even get into his stance. He said he felt a pop on his first shot in the match [against Slinger]. It’s a hard way to go out because I felt a healthy Evan was the best wrestler in the weight class.”
Callahan’s injury occurred in his right knee, the same knee he needed surgery on after football season. He leaves Freedom with two districts titles and this year’s regional championship to go along with his sixth-place medal from Hershey a year ago.
While the ending wasn’t what anyone had hoped for Callahan, Hall knows better days lie ahead for the future Harvard wrestler.
“This was an emotional decision for all of us,” Hall said of having Callahan bow out of the tourney. “This isn’t the way he wanted to end his career and he didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but I’m just so proud of him. What lies ahead of him is greater than what he’s done in the past. Evan’s got a real bright future.”
Ryan DeLoach (182) also saw his run at Hershey end prematurely, as he went 1-2 in the tournament and was eliminated in the second round of consys.