Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bethlehem Catholic moving to Class AAA

   In a move that surely will be applauded by several Class AA teams, state power Bethlehem Catholic is expected to wrestle in Class AAA beginning next season.
   The Golden Hawks are making the move in what is described as a voluntary upgrade, given the deadline for schools to declare up in classification for the PIAA's next two-year cycle has long since passed. Numbers for the next cycle were released for all sports in mid-December.
   The move was unanimously passed by the District 11 committee, and will take effect if it is also passed by the PIAA Board of Directors at their May 21 meeting. That is expected to happen.
   Through local media reports, Becahi coach Jeff Karam says the school has had internal discussions of such a move for about a year.
   "We're always looking for new challenges and always trying to find ways to improve," Karam told Nick Fierro of Allentown's Morning Call. "We feel like moving up now is the right time. I'm happy the District 11 committee approved it and I think it's going to be terrific to compete against the Triple-A teams in the postseason. We're just going to have to work extra hard."
   Bethlehem Catholic has won four consecutive PIAA Class AA Team Duals championships, and has also been a dominant force in the individual postseason.
   If nothing else, it certainly changes the landscape in Class AA, where it was a battle for second place in early February in Hershey.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flood City Showdown

   This year's Flood City Showdown will take place this Sunday, April 6, with a 3:05 p.m. start at Westmont-Hilltop High School. It again features some top seniors from the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference against those from the WestPAC and Heritage Conferences.
   Below are the tentative matchups, courtesy of Westmont coach Matt Beaujon:

110 - Carlos Chavez, Ligonier Valley vs. Tommy DeArmitt, Berlin *
126 - Jake Warren, Bedford vs. E.J. Custer, Berlin
132 - Ryan Easter, Bedford vs. Tanner Hetrick, Meyersdale
141 - Garrett Thomas, Bedford vs. Seth Deist, Meyersdale
145 - Nick Naglic, Richland vs. Corey Fritch, North Star
160 - Mike Laue, Somerset vs. Dereck Croyle, Ligonier Valley
175 - Landon Lohr, Somerset vs. Chance Williams, Bedford *
190 - Kevin Horner, North Star vs. Gavin Berkley, Meyersdale *
285 - Aaron Gill, Cambria Heights vs. Austin Buttry, Chestnut Ridge *

* - Non-Scoring bout for team purposes

Friday, March 28, 2014

No Sense in 20-man bracket

   The PIAA has made a number of changes in both team and individual wrestling over the past few years, and I've been quite outspoken against them.
   Yet again, I find myself on the other side of the fence as it appears another change, negative in my opinion, is forthcoming.
   This week, the steering committee moved to expand the individual brackets in Hershey from 16 to 20 in each weight class, both Class AA and Class AAA. It was approved by unanimous decision, and the PIAA Board of Directors will vote on the matter in May. If passed, the change goes into effect for next season. What it means specifically is that each region will get one additional state qualifier. So in Class AA, the Southeast and Southwest Regionals will each get six representatives, while the Northeast and Northwest Regionals will each get four.
   According to Executive Director Bob Lombardi, who was quoted by Pennlive's Jeremy Elliott, the board will likely pass the motion without much opposition.
   Bad move.
   Lombardi goes on to say that the field is pretty deep and the addition of four wrestlers won't hurt the tournament's integrity or timing.
   He also mention's the state championship won by Bethlehem Catholic's Jake Riegel at 106 pounds in Class AA. Riegel was a fifth place finisher in the Southeast Regional the week before.
   Riegel had a fantastic tournament, and he got hot at the right time. Bravo, let's tip our cap to him, not use it as a basis to say a sixth place regional placer deserves more.
   I haven't had the time to research how many fourth or fifth place regional finishers have won state titles (maybe this will be my summer project), but Riegel's accomplishment is by far the exception rather than the rule.
   It makes absolutely no sense in my mind to make this change just for a few rare examples.
   Regarding the timing, and I'm assuming Lombardi means the state tournament schedule, remember that the PIAA made changes three years ago to the format. Main reason there: Oh yeah, timing. There was very little time between Class AA and Class AAA sessions, especially on the Saturday of the event.
   While no mention of a new schedule has been proposed should the bracket change take effect, are we to assume that the days will be longer. Probably. Are we looking at an 8 a.m. start on Thursday and Friday, or even 7 a.m., which means like 6 a.m. weigh-ins? Or is a Wednesday night start or a Sunday finish under consideration?
  My other real problem: This doesn't just affect the state tournament. It means the place bouts at regional tournaments become watered down. Now, instead of go-or-go home situations in fifth place bouts at the Southeast and Southwest Regionals, and third place bouts in the Northeast and Northwest, all those wrestlers involved that deep in the tournament have already punched their ticket to Hershey.
   Those bouts are among the most exciting ones all season long.
   I really like the quote of Boiling Springs head coach Rod Wright in Elliott's piece, which you can see at
   Wright says: "How about working harder? How about wrestling harder? How about training harder?"
   My thoughts exactly.
   Unfortunately. we live in a society that, it seems at least in athletics, is becoming more of a "Let's give everyone a medal for participation" mentality, rather than rewarding more for hard work and values that make our youth better people through sports in whatever they choose to do later in life.
   My main message to the PIAA: If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

NHSCA Entries

   There are a few local (actually all Chestnut Ridge) wrestlers on the latest entry lists for this weekend's NHSCA National Championships in Virginia Beach. They are below:

Middle School Nationals
105 - Jared McGill, Chestnut Ridge

High School
Sophomore Nationals
152 - Brandyn Beaver, Chestnut Ridge
152 - Josh McGill, Chestnut Ridge
182 - Conner Buttry, Chestnut Ridge

   In other Chestnut Ridge wrestling news, the Lions will again be returning to both the Brookville Ultimate Duals and the Powerade Tournament for the 2014-15 season. The Ultimate Duals will again feature Brookville, Burrell, Reynolds, Saegertown, and a sixth team to be named along with Chestnut Ridge.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Class AA State Tournament Breakdown

   The final weekend of the high school wrestling season is fast approaching. Below is the tournament schedule and a look at each weight class in Class AA.
    For more coverage, check out the Bedford Gazette each day this week for previews and full coverage of the tournament by yours truly.
   In Tuesday's edition: Feature on returning state placewinners Ryan Easter and Austin Buttry
   In Wednesday's edition: Feature on trio of sophomore qualifiers
   In Thursday's edition: Capsule preview for each of the eight locals plus my tournament picks

PIAA Class AA Tournament Schedule
   9 a.m. - Preliminary Round, 1st Round consolations
   9 a.m. - Quarterfinals, 2nd Round consolations
   6:30 p.m. - Semifinals, 3rd and 4th Round consolations
   2 p.m. - 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th place bouts

Link to brackets:

Tournament Glance
   106 - In my opinion, this weight is fairly wide open with a number of possible finalists. Athens freshman Brian Courtney and Central Cambria freshman Max Murin are unbeaten and on opposite sides of the bracket, but it's no sure thing that either of them reach the final. Bishop McDevitt's Jon Pipa, on Murin's side, is highly regarded. Tri-Valley's Sammy Hepler won the Thomas Subaru Tournament, which included victories over Chestnut Ridge's Aaron Burkett and Penn Cambria's Nolan Link. Link has given Murin all he's wanted in the District 6 and SW Region finals. Hepler, Burkett, and Link are all in the top half. Burkett drew Brockway's Ryan Carlson, whom he beat 4-2 at the Ultimate Duals.

   113 - The favorite here is Bethlehem Catholic's Luke Karam, though just slightly maybe over Palisades' Jacob Wasser. Karam, who beat Wasser 2-1 in the SE Region final, was the 106-pound runner-up last year while Wasser was fourth at the same weight. Wasser against Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths could be a dandy of a quarterfinal. Huntingdon's Collin Glorioso suffered two straight losses, his first two of the season, on Saturday and finished fifth in the SW Region. His prize for that: Drawing Karam in Thursday's opening round. Last year, Karam beat Glorioso in the 106 semifinals, 11-0. Bedford's Jonathan Gabriel is in his first state tournament and will see Line Mountain's Cameron Newman, the NE champ, first.

   120 - The first returning state champion is here with Derry's George Phillippi, who won it all at 113 as a freshman. Boiling Springs' Korbin Myers is on the opposite side all the way at the bottom of the draw. That quarter of the bracket could be the toughest one, featuring Myers, Forest Hills' Triston Law, Warrior Run's Zack LeBarron, and Berlin's Joey Swank. Up top, the first round winner between Redbank Valley's Willie Gruver and Tri-Valley's Caleb Bordner could make a lot of noise.

   126 - The question here is whether Bethlehem Catholic's Zeke Moisey, a two-time defending finalist, can finally win a state title. In a not-so-surprising spoiler alert to my picks in Thursday's Gazette, I'm going with Moisey. A likely semifinal opponent in the top half of the bracket is Jefferson-Morgan's unbeaten John Demaske, though his first foe, Tamaqua's Colin Mashack, is no slouch. Hard to read the bottom half here, as several could get out to the final.

   132 - This is a deep weight with a lot of good wrestlers. Right now, unbeaten Ian Brown of Hanover, a three-time medalist, has to be the favorite. Bedford's Ryan Easter could get him in the quarterfinals. Three years ago when they were freshmen, Brown defeated Easter twice in Hershey. That was a long time ago though, but it's worth pointing out for the record. The bottom half is loaded, with South Fayette's Mike Carr, Saegertown's Tyler Vath, Boiling Springs' Kyle Shoop, and Montoursville's Keith Batkowski included.

   138 - Brookville ace Brock Zacherl is favored here on paper. Should Bedford's Garrett Thomas win his opener, he gets Zacherl on Friday morning barring a major upset by Annville-Cleona's Jeff Inman. Like other weights before, I think the bottom half has several possibilities. 

   145 - Will anyone stop Jason Nolf? In another spoiler alert, I'll say no way, as he should finish with a career record of 176-1 and three state titles. An interesting bout in the top half of this bracket is Reynolds' Levi Stoyer vs. Huntingdon's Jacob Oliver. Stoyer, a state medalist last year, handed Oliver his first loss at the time in last month's state duals, a close bout where Oliver had a late chance to win it. Also up top is unbeaten Billy Barnes of Williamson, though the sleeper could be Michael Comunale of Pius X, whom I've heard is a very dangerous mat wrestler.

   152 - The two big favorites are in the top half with Burrell's Steven Edwards and Mifflinburg's Cole Walter a decent bet to meet in the semifinals. Down below, it wouldn't shock me to see a SW Region battle between Blairsville's Andrew Doak and South Fayette's Grant Fetchet in the other semifinal.

   160 - I think this weight is pretty wide open. The likely players in no order are South Fayette's Jared Walker, Milton's Ryan Preisch, Coudersport's Kyle Bova, and Bermudian Springs' Briton Shelton, who are the four regional champions. Keep an eye on Benton's Jeric Kasunic, too.

   170 - Kane's Evan Delong is unbeaten and a returning state finalist. Also on the bottom side is Penns Valley's Corey Hazel, who had a huge pin of Jefferson-Morgan's Bill Bowlen in the SW Region finals. Up top, Bowlen could be in the mix with NE champ Garrett Hoffman of Montoursville and SE champ Nick Cortopassi of Bethlehem Catholic.

   182 - This is a solid group of qualifiers that may not get the talk of other weights. Lancaster Catholic's Stephen Loiseau is the only unbeaten in the bracket. Also up top is Saegertown's Dylan Reynolds, a returning placewinner. Down below, Valley's Terrell Fields served notice that he should be a prime contender with a strong SW Region performance. Fields defeated Blairsville's Scott Thompson, another former placer, in the region final. Thompson could get Loiseau in the quarterfinals. Chestnut Ridge's Conner Buttry drew NE Region winner Isaiah Bobotas of Montgomery for a first rounder.

   195 - Unbeaten Tristan Sponseller of Bermudian Springs appears as the favorite here at 195. There are two other region champions with just one loss — HOPE for Hyndman's Jake Bennett (SW) and Canton's Garrett Wesneski (NE). The other region winner is NW first placer Ryan Morris of Corry.

   220 - SW Region champ Jake Temple of Avella is unbeaten, after an overtime victory over West Branch's Reynold Maines for the title on Saturday. A likely semifinal pits Temple against Bethlehem Catholic's Andrew Dunn, who placed sixth at heavyweight last year. Maines is in the bottom half of the draw along with Reynolds' freshman Cole Rickert and Kittanning's Jacob Robb.

   285 - Lakeview's Sam Breese, the defending 285-pound champion, is unbeaten and at the very bottom of this bracket. He could see Burrell's Allan Beattie in a semifinal. Pen Argyl's Brady Mutton has one loss and won the SE Region. Chestnut Ridge's Austin Buttry, fifth last year, could see Mutton in the quarterfinals. I think the other semifinalist up top will come from the first round winner between Southmoreland's Jake Beistel and Reynolds' Gene Ringer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SW Regional Preview Part 2

   Below is my analysis for 152-285 at the Class AA Southwest Regional in Johnstown this weekend. For the schedule and my look at 106-145, see last post in this blog.

Tournament Breakdown from 152-285

   152 - Burrell's Steven Edwards and Blairsville's Andrew Doak have the byes. Doak's half of the draw appears tougher on paper with Berlin's Taylor Cahill, South Fayette's Grant Fetchet, and South Park's Greg Bulsak all there. Cahill-Fetchet and Doak-Bulsak are likely quarterfinal matchups. Keep an eye on Penns Valley's Seth Decker.

   Predicted D5 wrestler to qualify for states: Cahill.

   160 - South Fayette's Jared Walker and Berlin's Bryce Fochtman got the byes at 160, and these two could very well see each other in another final. Cambria Heights' Levi Niebauer, the other district champ at this weight, is in Fochtman's half.

   Predicted D5 wrestler to qualify for states: Fochtman.

   170 - Penns Valley's Corey Hazel and Jefferson-Morgan's Bill Bowlen are the finals favorites here in my opinion. A highlight quarterfinal if it happens is Somerset's Landon Lohr against Richland's Nico Pecora. Pecora beat Lohr three times in a one-week stretch in January. I give Northern Bedford's Lucas Kolinchak, who is opposite Hazel in the top half, a decent shot to make it through to Hershey.

   Predicted D5 wrestlers to qualify for states: Lohr, Kolinchak.

   182 - Three very good wrestlers highlight the field here at 182 — Blairsville's Scott Thompson, Meyersdale's Gavin Berkley, and Valley's Terrell Fields. Thompson and Fields have the byes. Berkley and Fields are on a collision course for the semifinals. I don't know enough about West Greene's Dalton Wildman and West Shamokin's Brendon Glover, but it appears one or both could make noise. Chestnut Ridge's Conner Buttry could see Wildman in the quarterfinals.

   Predicted D5 wrestler to qualify for states: Berkley.

   195 - HOPE for Hyndman's Jake Bennett received a bye and is on the bottom half of the draw, while United's Tyler Oliver has it up top. Like last season, Bennett enters the regional tournament with only one loss. But he failed to get out last year. The other top wrestlers to watch here should be WPIAL mates Marcus Davenport of Valley and Brad Grinnen of Ellwood City. Berlin's Toby Cahill is in Oliver's half of the bracket.

   Predicted D5 wrestler to qualify for states: Bennett.

   220 - Avella's Jake Temple and West Branch's Reynold "Buzzy" Maines are both unbeaten and have the byes here. Those two appear like the championship final participants, though Kittanning's Jacob Robb could have something to say about it. He's on Maines' side of the bracket. Last month, Robb put a big win on his card by going to heavyweight and majoring Burrell's Allan Beattie, 13-1.

   Predicted D5 wrestlers to qualify for states: None.

   285 - In all my years of being involved with New Jersey and Pennsylvania wrestling in some capacity, I can say I'm looking forward to this heavyweight bracket as much if not more than any other I can remember. That said, next week in Hershey could and should be even better. Sure, we'll probably see the usual 2-1 no-action overtime rideout battle on at least one occasion, but do yourself a favor and hang around for the big boys. Beattie has the top bracket bye, while Chestnut Ridge's Austin Buttry does on the bottom half. In my mind, there will be three or four good 285ers going home this weekend. Also on the bottom are Cambria Heights' Aaron Gill, Southmoreland's Jake Beistel, and Jefferson-Morgan's Ian Wolfe. With Beattie on top are West Branch's Morgan Selepack and Mount Union's Nik Smith, as well as Everett's Devin Reed. Reed could get Smith in the quarters. Those two split a pair of bouts this season.

   Predicted D5 wrestler to qualify for states: Buttry.