As an eighth grader, Rocco Welsh knew he was going to be at a disadvantage.
It didn’t stop him from wrestling in The Surge against mostly varsity wrestlers and reaching the 113-pound finals.
Welsh’s debut began by topping Malvern Prep’s Dayton DelViscio, who is a junior, 8-2. DelViscio finished third in the National Prep Championships last year.
“It felt awesome,” Welsh said of the win. “I knew it was going to be a tough match because he’s a little bit bigger than me. I had to wrestle smart. I tried to push the pace the whole match.”
Welsh competes for Waynesburg Central’s junior high team, probably for the final time this season. He isn’t your normal eighth grader though, as he claimed a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling title last year.
The unseeded middle schooler followed his huge upset by using a late reversal to edge Jamestown’s Chase McLaughlin, who was the No. 6 seed and a state qualifier last season, 2-1. Welsh made the finals with another 2-1 win, this one coming over No. 2 seed and Hempfield’s Kyle Burkholder, who finished third in the PIAA last year.
Welsh took on reigning 106-pound Class AAA champion in Seneca Valley’s Alejandro Herrera in the finals. Herrera didn’t succumb to the youngster with a 9-0 shutout.
“I knew it was going to be pretty tough because all of these kids are older than me,” Welsh said after his second round win. “I want to prove myself that I’m just as good as all of them. I knew I had to wrestle my best.”
Welsh wasn’t the only eighth grader competing.
Central Dauphin’s Jake Gilfoil also competed against the varsity guys. He opened with a 19-4 technical fall in 3:45.
He fell into the 106-pound consolations after being pinned in the second round by Dylan Coy.
Gilfoil rebounded with a 3-0 to remain alive. He advanced to the third round of the consolations with a 2-0 win over Latrobe’s Lucio Angelicchio. Gilfoil was then eliminated in the consolation fourth round with a 4-2 loss to Mount Union’s Bryce Beatty.
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