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Butler’s Sloboda wins WPIAL title in wild fashion

Butler's Santino Sloboda celebrates his victory over Norwin's Landon Sidun after their 114-pound WPIAL championship match Saturday at Canon-McMillan High School. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (3/2/2024)

CANONSBURG — A high school championship wrestling match is scheduled for 360 seconds.

Butler sophomore Santino Sloboda needed all but four of them.

After being taken down by Norwin’s Landon Sidun with 22 seconds left — putting him behind 4-3 in their WPIAL 3A 114-pound title match Saturday at Canon-McMillan High School — Sloboda scored a reversal with four seconds remaining to attain a 5-4 victory and improve his season record to 36-0.

“That match was an absolute classic,” Butler coach Scott Stoner said. “Santino kept his cool on the mat. He wrestled as strong a mental match as he did a physical one.

“The Sidun kid is ranked No. 1 nationally in his weight class. All we’ve been hearing was how he was going to beat Santino up. He (Sloboda) has been hearing that, too. But he stayed right with him.”

Sloboda becomes Butler’s third-ever WPIAL boys wrestling champion, joining Cole Baxter and Christian Sequete.

“I got pinned in the finals here last year,” Sloboda said. “All I’ve wanted was to get my name put up on the wall of the (Butler wrestling) room as a WPIAL champion. Now it’s gonna be there. This is awesome.”

Sloboda improved his career varsity wrestling record to 76-3. Sidun, a freshman, dropped to 37-2.

In the girls West Regional, Butler senior Ana Malovich won the 118-pound weight class by pinning Connellsville’s Trinity Moore in 3:14. Malovich (15-0) also pinned Moore in the finals of the WPIAL tournament two weeks ago.

“It’s fun making history,” Malovich said. “I was the first girl to wrestle in the WPIAL boys tournament, was our first WPIAL girls champion, now I got the West Regional ... But I don’t think of thosse things while I’m wrestling.

“When I’m on the mat, it’s all about just getting the job done.”

The Golden Tornado’s 142-pound freshman, Anastasia Manchester, placed third on Saturday and will join Malovich at next weekend’s girls state tournament in Hershey.

Butler 133-pounder Kase Chopp placed fourth and will join Sloboda in representing the Tornado at the boys state meet. Seneca Valley 121-pounder Connor Smith placed fourth in the boys meet and the Raiders’ 148-pounder Hannah Hornick took second on the girls side. They will be headed to Hershey as well.

Knoch 100-pound junior Miranda Lajevic placed third in the girls meet and also qualified for the state tourney.

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