Evan Henderson loves to think of himself as the underdog.
He might not have been in that role on Sunday night at the 37th annual Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Fieldhouse, but his team certainly was.
It worked out well for the high school senior from New Florence and the Pennsylvania team, as the team of all-stars from the Keystone State beat the best seniors from the rest of the United States 27-18.
In a night filled with upsets, Henderson managed to beat Monroeville, Ohio’s Cam Tessari for the second time this season.
Tessari, who won four state titles and went 189-3 in high school, scored the opening takedown 23 seconds into their
“I wasn’t expecting him to shoot there,” said Henderson, who wrestled at United High School before transferring to The Kiski School, where he won two prep national titles. “I wrestled him once already and he wasn’t a shooting guy; he was an underhook guy. Then he comes out there and (ankle) picks me. Picks me a couple times, actually.”
Henderson escaped to cut the lead in half, then countered another Tessari shot with a defensive takedown for a 3-2 lead.
A scramble at the end of the period brought big cheers from the large crowd, but didn’t result in any points.
Henderson reversed Tessari in the second, then rode him out for a 5-2 lead entering the third period.
“I’m thinking, ‘You know what? I beat you (and) I’m going to beat you again. That’s what I’m going to do,’ ” Henderson said of his mindset. “I just went out there and said ‘I am not letting you do this to me. So, let’s go.’ ”
Tessari chose the neutral position in the third and tried a throw attempt that Henderson rolled through to avoid any further damage – at least on the scoreboard.
“My neck hurts and my nose is beat up,” Henderson said with a big smile that proved that the win was more important to him than the temporary pain he was feeling.
“I feel like crap right now. I’m hurting.”
Tessari added a takedown with eight seconds remaining, but Henderson held on for a
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to wrestle in this thing,” Henderson said. “Then I went to prep school and I’m like ‘No, they won’t pick me.’ And then they picked me! I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’m like, ‘yeah!’ ”
Henderson and Wyoming Seminary’s Terrance Jean-Jacque are believed to be the first prep schools picked for the Pennsylvania team.
The Keystone State got off to a quick start as Parkland’s Mike Ottinger beat Minnesota’s Destin McCauley, who was a five-time state champion with a 286-6 record, 6-4 in the opener.
“I was like are you kidding me?” Henderson said. “Are you kidding me? He’s beating this kid, Destin McCauley, who is supposed to be No. 1 in the country? That pumps me up.
“That pumped the whole team up.”
Tamaqua’s Garth Lakitsky got an injury default victory over New Jersey’s Andrew Campolattano, who was 175-1 and a four-time state champion, to give Pennsylvania a 9-3 lead.
Derry Area’s Travis Shaffer, who was scheduled to wrestle in the undercard, filled in the main event by stunning Hunter Stieber – Tessari’s high school teammate – with a 7-2 victory. Shaffer was named the Pennsylvania squad’s outstanding wrestler after beating Stieber, a four-time state champion with a 203-2 record.
Penn State recruit Morgan McIntosh of Calvary Chapel, Calif., was named the U.S. team’s outstanding wrestler after he pinned Muncy’s Ryan Hembury at 189 pounds.
New Oxford’s Jordan Conaway got another surprising victory for Pennsylvania, as he beat Evan Silver, a four-time champion from New Jersey’s Blair Academy at 112 pounds.
The United States battled back to tie the dual at 15, but Wyomissing’s Nick Hodgkins, Reynolds’ Mason Beckman and Henderson added three straight victories for a 24-15 edge.
Franklin Regional 125-pounder Nico Megaludis sealed Pennsylvania’s second win in three years by beating Michigan’s Conor Youtsey, a three-time state champion with a 203-2 record, 9-3 in the final match.
Henderson thinks the U.S. squad overlooked the Pennsylvania team, which is now 17-20 all time.
“I think they did a lot, because they don’t know how tough we are,” he said. “I wrestle in preps. We have some tough guys in preps, but I know there are a lot more guys in public schools that nobody ever sees. Some of these guys, the country doesn’t know about. But we’re coming out here and wrecking stuff.”
The District 7 (WPIAL) all-star team did some wrecking of its own in the preliminary match, posting the first shutout in the history of the event with a 42-0 pasting of the top wrestlers from Michigan.
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