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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

PIAA Class AA preview and predictions

The Class AA tournament, which begins Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey, should be a good one. Here's the schedule for the weekend along with a quick preview of each weight and how I think they'll finish.
9 a.m. Preliminaries
12:15 p.m First-Round Consolations
9 a.m. Quarterfinals

10:45 a.m. Second-Round Consolations
6:30 p.m. Semifinals and Third-Round Consolations
9 p.m. Fourth-Round Consolations
2 p.m. Championships and all Medal-Round Matches

This class is Darian Cruz's to lose. The Bethlehem Catholic junior is 39-2, with losses to Matthew Kolodzik of Miami Valley High School and Billy Rappo of Council Rock South. Kolodzik won an Ohio state championship on Saturday and Rappo is the favorite to win the 113-pound title in AAA this weekend, so neither will stand in the way of Cruz, who is ranked second nationally by Intermat.
Unfortunately for Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick, he's on the same side of the bracket as Cruz. That means he'd need to pull off a massive upset to finish better than third.

Predictions: 1. Darian Cruz, Bethlehem Catholic 2. Tyler Vath, Saegertown 3. Justin Patrick, Ligonier Valley 4. Korbin Myers, Boiling Springs 5. Cody Blankenship, Kane 6. Colin Maschack, Tamaqua 7. Trent Neely, Smethport 8. Jaryd Flank, Wilson Area

People have been awaiting this for months. Kittanning sophomore Jason Nolf is 83-0 in his career with a PIAA title, a victory over two-time champion Nick Roberts of North Star under his belt this season and a No. 3 national ranking (at 120 pounds). Trinity's Ryan Diehl, a junior who is 34-0 this season, won two West Virginia state championships before transferring to the Harrisburg-area school and pinned Nolf in the offseason.
While Nolf and Diehl are on a collision course, the destination is the semifinals instead of the championship match, since they're on the same side of the bracket (although I'm not sure it makes much difference with multi-mat placement rounds).
The good news for Ligonier Valley's Josh Patrick and Bedford's Ryan Easter is that they're on the opposite side of the bracket from Diehl and Nolf, but that doesn't mean either has an easy matchup. Easter gets Matt Williams of Pen Argyl, who memorably threw his headgear when Bedford bumped Easter away from him in the PIAA Dual-Meet Championships. Patrick, meanwhile gets Boiling Springs' Joe Byers, who finished second in the state at 103 last season.

Predictions: 1. Ryan Diehl, Trinity 2. Joe Byers, Boiling Springs 3. Jason Nolf, Kittanning 4. David Sheesley, Mifflinburg 5. Vito Pasone, Meyers 6. Matt Williams, Pen Argyl 7. Josh Patrick, Ligonier Valley 8. Seth Carr, South Fayette

North Star's Nick Roberts will be seeking a third PIAA
title, and the path got to it got much easier when Kittanning's
Jason Nolf dropped to 113 pounds.
This weight would have had a lot more intrigue to it if Kittanning's Jason Nolf hadn't dropped to 113 pounds. As it is, North Star's Nick Roberts, who is ranked fourth nationally by Intermat, will be the clear favorite to win his third PIAA title. It won't be a walk in the park, however. He could have Bermudian Springs' Brad Farley, who is 40-1, in the quarterfinals and Bethlehem Catholic's Zeke Moisey, who gave Roberts his toughest match in last year's state tournament, in the finals.
Meyersdale's Collin Day, has thrived as an underdog in the postseason, a role he'll continue to play as he gets Northeast champ Cole Walter of Mifflinburg in the first round.

Predictions: 1. Nick Roberts, North Star 2. Zeke Moisey, Bethlehem Catholic 3. Brad Farley, Bermudian Springs 4. Cole Walter, Mifflinburg 5. Jarray Norris, Sharon 6. Jared Woomer, Bellwood-Antis 7. Nate Schwab, Smethport 8. Logan Everett, Williamson

All eyes will be on Derry Area's Jimmy Gulibon here, as he attempts to become just the 10th wrestler in history to win four PIAA titles. While he's certainly favored to do so, he does have another former state champion - Schuylkill Valley's Arty Walsh - on the opposite side of the bracket. But Gulibon, who Intermat has ranked first nationally, should be able to make history on Saturday afternoon, assuming that the knee that he injured at POWERade is OK (and he told me at regionals that it is).
Central Cambria's Ben Rager was ranked second in the state headed into last weekend, but he lost twice without ever getting a chance to prove himself against Gulibon. Rager won't have to wait long for an opportunity for redemption, as he gets Walsh in the opening round.
Chestnut Ridge's Shane Pfaunmiller drew Northwest champion Corey Bush of Ridgway in the opening round.

Predictions: 1. Jimmy Gulibon, Derry Area 2. Arty Walsh, Schuylkill Valley 3. Nick Zanetta, Keystone Oaks 4. Aaron Toth, Charleroi 5. Ben Rager, Central Cambria 6. Corey Bush, Ridgway 7. Ian Brown, Hanover 8. Zane Heller, Bethlehem Catholic

Bethlehem Catholic's Randy Cruz is ranked sixth nationally by Intermat, but is he even the favorite here? Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings has him third in Class AA while Off the Mat has him second to Biglerville's Laike Gardner, who beat Cruz 4-2 in the Southeast Regional final on Saturday. Cruz was the runner-up at 119 last season, losing to Derry Area's Jimmy Gulibon in the finals, while Gardner finished second at 130, losing to Benton's Coltin Fought. Reynolds' Dylan D'Urso, who also is in this weight, placed third at 130, with his only loss coming to Fought. Throw in Benton's Colt Cotten, who was fourth at 119 last season, and these could be some really fun semifinals.

Predictions: 1. Randy Cruz, Bethlehem Catholic 2. Laike Gardner, Biglerville 3. Dylan D'Urso, Reynolds 4. Colt Cotten, Benton 5. Josh Kwasny, Charleroi 6. James Dodson, Claysburg-Kimmel 7. Matthew Bryer, Cochranton 8. Jake Keller, Curwensville

Last year, Pen Argyl's Mike Racciato beat Reynolds' Adam Matthews 10-2 in the 135-pound final. This year, he could face Austin Matthews - Adam's younger brother - for the championship. Despite last year's title and his 43-1 record, Intermat hasn't shown Racciato any love. Meanwhile, Austin Matthews, who is 45-1, is ranked fifth nationally. Racciato spent the regular season wrestling at 145 (and even 152) before dropping for the postseason. His lone loss was a 7-4 setback to Juniata's Zach Beitz. Matthews has only wrestled above 145 twice this season and his only loss came at the Ironman tournament, where he was pinned by Walsh Jesuit's Nate Skonieczny.
Penn Cambria's Nick Szala could run into Racciato in the semifinals. If Szala were to lose that, he could ended up facing two other District 6 wrestlers - Blairsville's Noah Tarr and Claysburg-Kimmel's Ty Dively - in the consolations.

Predictions: 1. Mike Racciato, Pen Argyl 2. Austin Matthews, Reynolds 3. Nick Szala, Penn Cambria 4. David Batkowski, Montoursville 5. Ty Dively, Claysburg-Kimmel 6. Brock Zacherl, Brookville 7. Noah Tarr, Blairsville 8. Sharron Townsend, Milton Hershey

Juniata's Zach Beitz beat Forest Hills' R.J. Brydon for the District 6 title three weeks ago, then majored him in the Southwest Regional championship last week in Johnstown. There's a very real possibility that they could meet in the finals again. Beitz, who has been ranked No.1 all season, is the favorite, even with Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora on his side of the bracket. Brydon's side includes Northwest champ Evan Delong of Kane and Northeast winner Kyle Barnes of Hughesville, who is undefeated.

Predictions: 1. Zach Beitz, Juniata 2. R.J. Brydon, Forest Hills 3. Ryan Todora, Bethlehem Catholic 4. Kody Pace, Fort LeBoeuf 5. Evan Delong, Kane 6. Ty Herzog, Northern Lehigh 7. Kyle Barnes, Hughesville 8. Adam Kritzer, Line Mountain

Greenville's Cody Copeland, the runner-up at 145 last season, is the favorite here. How dominant has Copeland been? He is 41-0 with 34 pins (and three forfeits). Of his 34 pins, 28 of those were in the fist period, including ones over state qualifiers Kevin Nowakowski of Harborcreek and Drew Doak of Blairsville. Nowakowski hasn't lasted longer than 1:12 in any of his three matches with Copeland, and he's the regional runner-up and is 31-6 against all other competition. In the four matches where he doesn't have pins, Copeland has allowed a grand total of four points.
As Southwest Regional champion, Conemaugh Township's Cory Berhick gets Southeast Regional fourth-place finisher Cody Grohotolski, but that's not easy task. Grohotolski's losses last weekend came to Brandywine Heights' Pete Renda, who is probably the favorite to face Copeland in the finals, and Tri-Valley's Ty Schoffstall, who handed Berchick the only blemish on his 41-1 record.

Predictions: 1. Cody Copeland, Greenville 2. Pete Renda, Brandywine Heights 3. Clay Kocsis, Fairfield 4. Ty Schoffstall, Tri-Valley 5. Cody Grohotolski, Palmerton 6. Drew Doak, Blairsville 7. Cory Berchick, Conemaugh Township 8. Jeric Kasunic, Benton

Forest Hills' Cody Law has beaten Central Cambria's Tony
Risaliti three times this season and lost to him once. They
could meet for a fifth time in the state finals.
Forest Hills' Cody Law has been ranked No. 1 for most of the season by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings, except for when he was replaced by Central Cambria's Tony Risaliti after the Red Devil beat the Ranger in the District 6 final. Now, we'll finally get to see if those two can live up to those lofty standards. Law will be making his first appearance in Hershey, but he doesn't have too much experienced competition on his side of the bracket. Risaliti looks to have the tougher path to the finals, with unbeaten Kurt Meske of Central Columbia, returning placewinner Francis Mizia of Betworth and Southeast Regional champion Sam Scheib in his half of the bracket.

Predictions: 1. Cody Law, Forest Hills 2. Kurt Meske, Central Columbia 3. Ty Walter, Mifflinburg 4. Kyle Caggiano, Ridgway 5. Tony Risaliti, Central Cambria 6. Sam Scheib, Tri Valley 7. Randy Perkins Greenville 8. Francis Mizia, Bentworth

Bethlehem Catholic's Elliot Riddick is ranked 10th nationally by Intermat, so he's the favorite, but there's plenty of talent in this weight. Muncy's Troy Hembury is 39-1 while, on the other side of the bracket, Jefferson-Morgan's Dustin Conti is 43-0. Riddick could actually end up with a finals rematch with Bermudian Springs' Tristan Sponseller.
Chestnut Ridge's Tyler Dibert is the unlucky wrestler that gets Riddick in the first round. United's John Blankenship could face the BeCa star in the semifinals, but he'd likely have to get past Hembury first.

Predictions: 1. Elliot Riddick, Bethlehem Catholic 2. Tristan Sponseller, Bermudian Springs 3.Troy Humbury, Muncy 4. John Blankenship, United 5. Dustin Conti, Jefferson-Morgan 6. Craig Cihon, Fort LeBoeuf 7. Garrett Vulcano, Chartiers-Houston 8. Brett Prezekop, Mount Carmel

Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers was the third-place finisher at 171 pounds last season and is 42-0 this season. Unfortunately for him, Wes Phipps, who won the 171-pound championship and is 36-0 also is in the weight class. Phipps is ranked 13th nationally by Intermat. Those two would seem to put everyone else in a race for third place.

Predictions: 1. Wes Phipps, Grove City 2. Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell 3. Jake Mankey, Benton 4. Dylan Evans, Pen Argyl. 5. Tyler Landfried, Greenville 6. Levi Veppert, Northwestern Lehigh 7. Jose Ortiz, Bethlehem Catholic 8. Kyle Mariacher, Mercer

This might be the weakest weight class statewide. Weakest being a relative term, because there still are some quality wrestlers here. Milton's Ryan Solomon certainly fits into that group. He was the runner-up at 215 pounds last season and is 31-1 this year. Hanover's Derek Wolford, who is 34-1, is probably the favorite to make it out of the top half of the bracket.

Predictions: 1. Ryan Solomon, Milton 2. Derek wolford, Hanover 3. Ray O'Donnoell, Saucon Valley 4. Jordan Kitta, Southmoreland 5. Logan Stout, Brookville 6. Alex Svetz, North East 7. Logan Murphy, Boiling Springs 8. Shawn Reynolds, Cambridge Springs

Richland's John Rizzo will be gunning for his third PIAA
Class AA championship this weekend.
Richland's John Rizzo is looking for his third PIAA title, and even though he's finally picking on someone his own size, this might be the best competition he's faced in the state tournament. Rizzo won both of his titles at 285 pounds, but decided to drop to 220 this season, where he'll face more athletic competition. In order to capture his third crown, Rizzo could have to beat Fort LeBoeuf's Evan Daley, a sixth-place finisher at 215 pounds last year in the semifinals and Lackawanna Trail's Eric Laytos - a 2010 champ at 215 - in the finals.
Berlin Brothersvalley's Jacob Craig gets a tough draw, with Seneca's Matt Mongera in the opening round. Should Craig win that, he'd likely have Laytos in the semifinals. Bedford's Jacob Krupa gets Southeast champion Luke Garner of Catasauqua in the first round.

Predictions: 1. John Rizzo, Richland 2. Eric Laytos, Lackawanna Trail 3. Evan Daley, Fort LeBoeuf 4. Cam Cyphert, Cohranton 5. Jacob Craig, Berlin Brothersvalley 6. Greg Kumer, Fort Cherry 7. Matt Mongera, Seneca 8. Luke Garner, Catasauqua

It looked like last weekend would match up the two top-ranked heavyweights in the state in Northern Bedford's Quinton Hixson and Fort Cherry's Corey Garry. But Hixson got hit in a headlock in the quarterfinals and had to settle for third place. Could they meet again? It's always hard to predict this weight class because so many of the matches come down to coin tosses. Garry is in the top half of the bracket along with Northeast champ Nazar Mironenko, who is 39-2 with his only losses coming to Westmont Hilltop's Josh Duplin. Hixson will have to contend with Northwest Regional winner Blake Heim of Reynolds, Southeast champ Malcolm White of Wyomissing and Southwest runner-up Nate Grandelis of Chariters-Houston, among others, in the bottom half.

Predictions: 1. Nazar Mironenko, Mifflinburg 2. Quinton Hixson, Northern Bedford 3. Corey Garry, Fort Cherry 4. Nate Grandelis, Chartiers-Houston 5. Blake Heim, Reynolds, 6. Kirby Mutton, Pen Argyl 7. Malcolm White, Wyomissing 8. Derek Earnest, Hughesville

1 comment:

  1. cool to watch wrestling. I can't imagine that my brother is playing that kind of sports.