Malovich finishes 2nd in PIAA wrestling

3 other county wrestlers place in tourney

John Enrietto Eagle Sports Editor

March 10, 2024 Last Updated: March 11, 2024 09:27 AM Sports

Butler's Ana Malovich pins Connellsville's Trinity Moore during WPIAL wrestling championships at Canon-McMillan High School on Saturday, March 2. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (3/2/2024)

HERSHEY — Ana Malovich went down fighting.

That was the description Butler girls wrestling coach Nathan Bottiger gave of his 118-pound senior after she dropped a 13-7 decision to Savannah Witt of Palisades in their PIAA wrestling title match Saturday at the Giant Center.

“Ana scored an escape in the final 15 seconds, but couldn’t do anything more with it,” Bottiger said. “She fought to the bitter end. I’m proud of her. I’m so proud of the way she handled this whole season.

“Savannah is ranked fifth in the country. She dropped down from130 pounds to wrestle at this weight. She was physically stronger, but Ana stayed with her.”

Malovich (18-1) scored an escape and takedown late in the second period pull within 7-5 entering the final two minutes. Witt chose to begin on the bottom for the third period, scored an escape, takedown and near-fall points to put the match away.

While Bottiger admitted that “this isn’t what we wanted,” he looked at the positive side.

“Ana still made (school) history by finishing second,” he said. “She wrestled an outstanding tournament.”

Malovich won her first three matches by pinfall, entering the finals.

“Ana and other girls like her out here are true pioneers,” Butler boys wrestling coach Scott Stoner said. “She gained a lot of toughness wrestling on the boys team all those years. Everyone should be proud of her.”

Three other county wrestlers placed in the tournament. Knoch’s Miranda Lajevic, wrestling at 100 pounds in the girls tournament, lost in the quarterfinal round, but rebounded to place third.

Lajevic pinned Hattie Mack of Hempfield in 1:37 of their consolation semifinal match. She then pinned Ella Hesener of Parkland in 3:53 in the consolation finals.

Lajevic said after the Western Regional that she felt she could place among the top three at the state meet. She placed seventh last year.

“I’m short, but I feel like I still have an advantage with my strength,” she said.

In the boys tournament, Butler sophomore Santino Sloboda dropped a 6-4 decision to Curtis Nelson of Ridley in the semifinals. He gave up the winning points in the final few seconds of the match.

Sloboda wound up placing sixth.

“That semifinal was the exact opposite of how Santino won the WPIAL final,” Stoner said. “He had the lead, but was looking for more points. He got rolled over, got caught in a scramble and gave up the points with four or five seconds left.

“That loss definitely affected him mentally afterward. It’s known as the ‘Semi Slide’ out here. You come that close to the state finals ... It’s hard to get charged up again after that.”

Sloboda dropped decisions of 5-1 and 2-0 in consolations to place sixth. His two-year varsity record is 78-6 and he has yet to lose a regular season match.

“Santino still has some work to do,” Stoner said. “He’s a Division I caliber college wrestler, potentially, but has to learn how to bounce back emotionally after tough losses.”