T-D HS Wrestling

West Branch Maines
West Branch Maines

Region’s best meet at War Memorial

By: Eric Knopsnyder

Odds are that a future state champion – or two or three or four – will be competing at Cambria County War Memorial Arena today.
There’s also a good chance that he won’t win a Southwest Regional Class AA title on Saturday evening.
Last year, Derry Area’s George Phillippi finished third at the War Memorial but won gold a week later at the Giant Center in Hershey. A year earlier, Bentworth’s Francis Mizia did it by turning the tables on Forest Hills’ Cody Law. Richland’s John Rizzo won PIAA titles in 2010 and 2011 without capturing a Southwest Regional championship either time.
That’s how strong the field is in the competition, which brings together the best wrestlers in districts 5, 6 and 7 for a tournament that begins at 1 this afternoon.
There are no certainties in the tournament, although Kittanning’s Jason Nolf comes as close as any. The 145-pounder will be looking for this fourth Southwest Regional title. He’s 37-0 on the season and 169-1 in his career with a pair of PIAA championships under his belt.
 Nolf is one of four wrestlers – joining Phillippi, Burrell’s Steven Edwards and Avella’s Jake Temple – ranked No. 1 in his respective weight according to Off the Mat.
The top five wrestlers in each weight advance to the PIAA tournament.
A look at how each weight class, with predictions by me and Mark Dugan of Off the Mat:
Central Cambria freshman Max Murin has beaten everyone in his path this season on his way to a 30-0 record. He’s ranked fifth by Off the Mat, but will have plenty of competition. South Park’s Dallas Bulsak is the WPIAL champion and has a 24-4 record, with one of those losses coming to Murin in the finals of the Sheetz Holiday Classic.
Chestnut Ridge’s Aaron Burkett is the top seed with a 34-3 record. He’ll likely face competition from either Bentworth’s Hunter Neely or Penn Cambria’s Nolan Link to reach the finals.
West Branch’s Joseph Couteret should also be in the mix for a spot in Hershey.
Knopsnyder: 1. Murin 2. Burkett 3. Bulsak 4. Neely 5. Link 6. Couteret
Dugan: 1. Burkett 2. Murin 3. Bulsak 4. Link 5. Neely 6. Couteret
Huntingdon’s Collin Glorioso hit his stride at the regional tournament last year on his way to a third-place finish in Hershey. He doesn’t need much momentum this time around, as he is 34-0 this season.
Still, winning this weight won’t be easy for Glorioso, who is ranked No. 2 by Off the Mat. The top half of the bracket also contains No. 7 Brendan Howard of Jefferson-Morgan and No. 5 Austin Griffiths of Southmoreland.
The bottom half has No. 6 Jon Gabriel of Bedford, No. 4 Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown as well as District 6 runner-up Logan Blackburn of Westmont Hilltop and Central Cambria’s Ian Ostrowski.
Knopsnyder: 1. Glorioso 2. McDermitt 3. Griffiths 4. Howard 5. Gabriel 6. Blackburn
Dugan: 1. McDermitt 2. Griffiths 3. Glorioso 4. Howard 5. Gabriel 6. Ostrowski
Phillippi returns for his sophomore season and will look to add a regional title to the PIAA one he earned last year. He is 34-4 and ranked No. 1 in Class AA. He’s the favorite here, although Berlin Brothersvalley’s Joe Swank is ranked No. 4 and Triston Law of Forest Hills, a sixth-place finisher in Hershey last year, is No. 7.
Freedom freshman Kody Komara should be in the mix for a trip to Hershey as well as Mount Union’s Sage Moist and Penns Valley’s Curtis Decker. South Allegheny’s Justo Hernandez could be a dark horse.
Knopsnyder: 1. Phillippi 2. Swank 3. Law 4. Komara 5. Moist 6. Hernandez
Dugan: 1. Phillippi 2. Swank 3. Law 4. Komara 5. Moist 6. Decker
Jefferson-Morgan’s John Demaske will look to improve upon his second-place finish at the regional tournament last year. He’ll have a difficult path to the championship, but the second-ranked wrestler in the state could certainly do it.
He could face Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff and Cambria Heights’ Joe Davis in the top half of the bracket. The bottom of the bracket contains District 6 champ Adam George of Richland and District 5 winner Jake Warren of Bedford. District 7 has plenty of depth at the weight and runner-up Patrick Dewitt of Valley, third-place finisher Stone Kepple of Derry Area and Matt Vickless of Bentworth could all make some noise.
Knopsnyder: 1. Demaske 2. Dewitt 3. Kepple 4. George 5. Davis. 6. Opdenhoff
Dugan: 1. Demaske 2. George 3. Davis 4. Dewitt 5. Opdenhoff 6. Vickless
South Fayette’s Mike Carr is the favorite here thanks to his 6-2 victory over Bedford’s Ryan Easter at the Thomas Subaru tournament last month. Easter was a state runner-up last year, but Carr holds down the No. 2 ranking now, with Easter third.
After those two, the weight is wide open. Huntingdon’s Devon Green is the District 6 champion while Southmoreland’s Evan Myers was a bit of a surprise as the District 7 runner-up. Meyersdale’s Tanner Hetrick gave Easter a tough time in the District 5 finals last week. Burrell’s John Andrejcik was a state qualifier last year but is 26-14 this season. Moshannon Valley’s Bryce Bloom is a possible dark horse after placing third in District 6.
Knopsnyder: 1. Carr 2. Easter 3. Myers 4. Hetrick 5. Andrejcik 6. Green
Dugan: 1. Carr 2. Easter 3. Andrejcik 4. Green 5. Bloom 6. Hetrick
This weight had a late shakeup, as District 6 champion Jason Schopp of Tyrone had to withdraw from the tournament due to illness. That gave the top spot in the district to Marion Center’s Brandon Heberling and allowed Ligonier Valley’s Daniel Croyle to get into the bracket.
South Park’s Jake Wentzel, an eighth-place finisher in Hershey last season, is the top seed and ranked No. 3 in the state. Jefferson-Morgan’s Jason Miller is No. 5, according to Off the Mat. Chestnut Ridge’s Derrick Claar is No. 13 and has split with Bedford’s Garrett Thomas this season, with Claar winning the District title and Thomas winning the Bedford tournament.
Central’s Nick Hoenstine and Chartiers-Houston’s Richie McGinnis could also be in the mix.
Knopsnyder: 1. Wentzel 2. Miller 3. Claar 4. Thomas 5. McGinnis 6. Russell
Dugan: 1. Wentzel 2. Claar 3. Miller 4. Thomas 5. Schopp 6. Hoenstine
This is, in all reality, probably a race for second. Nolf has been on a different level this season, with only six of his 39 matches going the distance and only two of them coming by decision. His closest match was a 13-7 victory over Franklin Regional’s Josh Maruca.
Richland’s Nick Naglic and Berlin Brothersvalley’s Braden Fochtman, both of whom were state qualifiers last season, could get the chance to knock him off in the top half of the bracket, although Fochtman would first need to beat Austin Mears of Mount Pleasant, who is responsible for two of his five losses.
Chestnut Ridge’s Trent Crouse is responsible for the other three, but will also face a tough path in the bottom of the bracket. Burell’s Corey Falleroni, Beth-Center’s Tony Welsh and Huntingdon freshman Jacob Oliver are all top-notch opponents.
Some very good wrestlers will not make it out of this weight class.
Knopsnyder: 1. Nolf 2. Oliver 3. Welsh 4. Naglic 5. Fochtman 6. Falleroni
Dugan: 1. Nolf 2. Oliver 3. Crouse 4. Fochtman 5. Welsh 6. Mears
Burell’s Edwards is ranked No. 1 and is the favorite here, but he certainly could be tested with Blairsville’s Drew Doak in the bottom half of the bracket.
The weight is deep and, because of the way it is set up, a returning regional champion – Greg Bulsak of South Park – could meet a returning runner-up – Doak – in the quarterfinals.
There’s plenty of other talent here as well, with District 5 champion Taylor Cahill of Berlin Brothersvalley and South Fayette’s Grant Fetchet having placed here last season. Beth-Center’s Jason Stay and Penns Valley’s Seth Decker also should challenge for a spot on the podium.
Knopsnyder: 1. Edwards 2. Doak 3. Cahill 4. Fetchet 5. Decker 6. Stay
Dugan: 1. Edwards 2. Cahill 3. Fetchet 4. Doak 5. Decker 6. Stay
South Fayette’s Jared Walker and Berlin Brothersvalley’s Bryce Fochtman split a pair of matches last season and Walker beat Fochtman in the Bedford tournament. They could very well square off again this weekend, quite possibly in the finals. Walker is ranked fourth while Fochtman is eighth.
Jefferson-Morgan’s Ryan Zalar (no. 11) and Cambria Heights’ Levi Niebauer (No. 12 could meet in the quarterfinals, with the winner possibly taking on Fochtman. Mount Union’s Dylan Smith and Juniata’s Derek Beitz represent District 6 while Nico Brown, a fourth-place finisher in District 7 could challenge for a spot in Hershey.
Knopsnyder: 1. Walker 2. Fochtman 3. Niebauer 4. Zalar 5. Beitz 6. Brown
Dugan: 1. Fochtman 2. Walker 3. Niebauer 4. Zalar 5. Smith 6. Brown
This could be a wide-open weight, with Off the Mat having the No. 5 (Jefferson-Morgan’s Bill Bowlen), No. 6 (Penns Valley’s Corey Hazel), No. 8 (Richland’s Nico Pecora) and No. 10 (Somerset’s Landon Lohr) wrestlers in the mix. Throw in the fact that five of the 14 wrestlers have double-digit loss totals and it could get interesting.
Burrell’s Nick Pattock, Laurel’s Dalton Rosta, Avella’s Shawn Carl and Northern Bedford’s Lucas Kolinchak could all contend for a medal.
Knopsnyder: 1. Bowlen 2. Hazel 3. Pecora 4. Lohr 5. Kolinchak 6. Carl
Dugan: 1. Bowlen 2. Hazel 3. Pecora 4. Lohr 5. Pattock 6. Rosta
This should be another very competitive weight, with No. 3 Scott Thompson of Blairsville, No. 4 Terrell Fields of Valley and No. 5 Gavin Berkley in it. Thompson has the top seed while the Fields and Berkley could meet in the semifinals.
Chestnut Ridge’s Conner Buttry and West Green’s Dalton Wildman share the top half of the bracket with Thompson, as does dark horse Chance Williams of Bedford.
Moshannon Valley’s Kent Stewart could also work his way into a shot at Hershey.
Knopsnyder: 1. Fields 2. Thompson 3. Berkley 4. Buttry 5. Wildman 6. Williams
Dugan: 1. Thompson 2. Fields 3. Berkley 4. Wildman 5. Stewart 6. Buttry
Ellwood City’s Brad Grinnen had the highest ranking here at No. 4, but he lost to Valley’s Marcus Davenport (No. 13) in the District 7 finals. United’s Tyler Oliver is No. 6 while Tyrone’s Jared Beckwith is No. 7. HOPE for Hyndman’s James Bennett, who often flies under the radar because his school often wrestles out-of-state competition, is No. 12. Berlin Brothersvalley freshman Toby Cahill and Somerset’s Logan Eller also should push for a podium finish.
Knopsnyder: 1. Oliver 2. Beckwith 3. Grinnen 4. Bennett 5. Davenport 6. Eller
Dugan: 1. Oliver 2. Beckwith 3. Davenport 4. Bennett 5. Grinnen 6. Cahill
This could be the highlight weight of the tournament. Avella’s Temple is ranked No. 1 and has a 36-0 record, while West Branch’s Buzzy Maines is 33-0 and ranked No. 2. But Maines isn’t a lock to get to the finals, not with Kittanning’s Jacob Robb, who was ranked No. 3 at 195, in the same bracket.
Throw in No. 7 Seth Hitchens of South Allegheny, No. 10 Seth McLendon of United as well as District 7’s Josh Lind of Mount Pleasant and Tom Sever of Yough and it should be a very competitive weight.
Knopsnyder: 1. Temple 2. Robb 3. Maines 4. Lind 5. Sever 6. Hitchens
Dugan: 1. Maines 2. Temple 3. Robb 4. Lind 5. Hitchens 6. McLendon
This is another impressive weight, as four of last year’s top five return. Allan Beattie of Burrell won the region last year, but Chestnut Ridge’s Austin Buttry and West Branch’s Morgan Selepack brought home bragging rights – and medals – from Hershey.
Beattie is ranked No. 2 this season while Buttry is No. 3. Southmoreland’s Jake Beistel (No. 7), Cambria Heights’ Aaron Gill (No. 8), Mount Union’s Nik Smith (No. 9), Selepack (No. 11) and Everett’s Devin Reed (No. 12) also make the rankings. Moshannon Valley’s Jack Bunnell also is in the mix.
With that kind of parity and the fact that heavyweight matches often coming down to a single point, anything could happen.
Knopsnyder: 1. Beattie 2. Beistel 3. Buttry. 4. Gill 5. Selepack 6. Reed
Dugan: 1. Beattie 2. Buttry 3. Smith 4. Selepack 5. Beistel 6. Bunnell