This time, Liam Flaherty is better prepared for the rigors - both physical and mental - of the PIAA Wrestling Championships.

Not only does Flaherty have another year's experience behind him, but he knows what to expect when he strides onto the mat at Giant Center on Thursday morning for a first-round match at 120 pounds in Class AA.

"Last year, it was overwhelming," Flaherty admitted. "This year I'm not going to be as nervous and I can be more relaxed."

Flaherty (29-6) is a sophomore who wrestles for Everett. He is, however, a student at Southern Fulton who competes for the Warriors under a PIAA co-op program.

Last year he advanced to states - where he went 0-2 at 113 -  by placing fifth in the Southwest Regional. Just last weekend, he was crowned the champion of that same regional.

Flaherty said, "I thought I was wrestling pretty well, so I believed in myself."

The sophomore eked out 1-0 and 2-1 victories to start his tournament, then met up with the No. 1 seed, Tyler Griffiths of Southmoreland, who was 33-0. But Flaherty pounded out a 7-2 victory to advance to the final.

"I put together a couple of moves and wrestled a good match," Flaherty said. "I didn't give up any bad points, either."

In the final he met up with Zach Clark of Northern Bedford, who had beaten Flaherty the week before in the District 5 final. This time, Flaherty and Clark were tied 0-0 after regulation and the sudden victory overtime. In the second tiebreaker period, Flaherty started on bottom and was able to gain a reversal and nearfall for a 4-0 win.

Flaherty said, "He got high and I was able to suck him under and get back points."

At states, Flaherty received a bye in the preliminary round. He will then face the winner of Sam Sallot of Harborcreek (38-8) and Colin Leonard of Northern Lebanon (39-17) in the first round.

"I don't even really know who the favorite is at my weight," Flaherty said. "I think a lot could win. I just wrestle whoever they put out there in front of me."

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