T-D HS Wrestling

Forest Hills 160-pounder Cody Law will be looking to win his second Southwest Regional Class AA tournament title this weekend.
Eric Knopsnyder

ERIC KNOPSNYDER | Region's best wrestlers in town

By: Eric Knopsnyder

JOHNSTOWN — There won’t be any returning state champions at Cambria County War Memorial Arena this year, but there certainly could be some future ones.
Unlike last year, when Derry Area’s Jimmy Gulibon, Richland’s John Rizzo and North Star’s Nick Roberts dazzled local fans with gold medals and Division I credentials, this season’s Southwest Regional Class AA Wrestling Tournament is mostly about potential.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some proven wrestlers here. Kittanning 132-pounder Jason Nolf has a career record of 125-1 and a 2011 state title to his name. He could have another high-profile matchup with Keystone Oaks’ Nick Zanetta, who would have won PIAA gold last year if not for Gulibon.
Forest Hills 160-pounder Cody Law and Burrell 182-pounder Dakota DesLauriers each return after placing second in the state a year ago.
Nolf, Law and DesLauriers top their respective weights in the latest edition of Off the Mat rankings. Burgettstown’s Austin McDermitt (106 pounds), Claysburg-Kimmel’s Josh Brown (113) and Jefferson-Morgan’s Dustin Conti (170) are each ranked second by Off the Mat.
Last year, five wrestlers came through this tournament on their way to PIAA gold, and two of them didn’t even win the regional tournament. That shows the quality and depth that has become a staple of this annual meeting of the best of districts 5, 6 and 7.
It should be another impressive field for the event, which begins at 1 this afternoon.
Here is a breakdown of each weight class along with my
predictions for the five wrestlers that will advance to the state tournament in Hershey as well as predictions by Off the Mat’s Mark Dugan.

This weight is arguably the best in the tournament, with five of the state’s seven best 106-pounders, according to Off the Mat rankings.
Burgettstown’s Austin McDermitt (No. 2, 33-4) is the top seed after a 9-1 thrashing of Southmoreland’s Austin Griffiths (No. 3, 28-3) in the District 7 finals last week. That was a major reversal from a December match, when Griffiths – who finished third in the state last year – beat McDermitt 11-2.
Griffiths also owns a 12-0 victory over second-seeded Triston Law (No. 6, 27-3) of Forest Hills. Law missed the dual meet with Bedford, so he hasn’t wrestled District 5 champ Jon Gabriel (No. 5, 30-2). Gabriel has victories over Jefferson-Morgan’s Brendan Howard (No. 7, 36-5) and Collin Glorioso (31-4) of Huntingdon and two others.
There are at least six guys here who deserve to be in Hershey, but only five can advance.

Knopsnyder: 1. McDermitt 2. Griffiths 3. Gabriel 4. Law 5. Glorioso.
Dugan: 1. Griffiths 2. McDermitt 3. Gabriel 4. Law 5. Glorioso

Josh Brown (No. 2, 25-5) wasn’t the top seed in District 6, but the Claysburg-Kimmel senior is No. 1 here after his 6-5 victory of Ligonier Valley’s Justin Patrick (No. 3, 30-3), who was the regional champ and state fourth-place finisher at 106 last year. District 7 champ George Phillippi (No. 5, 35-3) has had quite a freshman season, but one of his losses is to Patrick. South Fayette’s Seth Carr (No. 6, 32-4) has beaten Brown this season, as has Patrick.
The top four could go in just about any order, and Beth-Center’s Zach Swarrow (No. 11, 20-6) and Central’s Kale Burket (26-4) probably aren’t too far behind.

Knopsnyder: 1. Philippi 2. Brown 3. Patrick 4. Carr 5. Swarrow
Dugan: 1. Carr 2. Phillippi 3. Brown 4. Patrick 4. Swarrow

Top-seeded Ryan Easter (No. 4, 31-1) of Bedford was a regional runner-up last year and is a two-time state placewinner. District 6 champ Josh Patrick (No. 3, 24-0) gets the second seed despite an unbeaten record. Another two-time state medalist, Patrick missed more than a month of the season with an injury.
District 7 winner Nathan Reckner (No. 8, 29-2) beat Ligonier Valley’s Justin Patrick earlier this year, but he could end up meeting the older Patrick brother in the semifinals here. Berlin Brothersvalley’s Joe Swank (No. 13, 31-6) and South Fayette’s Mike Carr (25-9) are standout freshmen who could make some noise. Cambria Heights’ Joe Davis (No. 12, 27-6), Valley’s Josiah Hughes (29-9) and Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff also should be in the mix.

Knopsnyder: 1. Easter 2. Patrick 3. Reckner 4. Swank 5. Opdenhoff
Dugan: 1. Patrick 2. Easter 3. Reckner 4. Davis 5. Swank

This weight doesn’t have the pedigree that some of the others do, with no returning state placewinners. In fact, Meyersdale’s Collin Day (35-8) is the only state qualifier from a year ago.
Bedford’s Garrett Thomas (No. 6, 30-2) is the top seed while South Park's Greg Bulsak (31-7) is No. 2 but unranked. Southern Huntingdon’s Dison Myers (No. 7, 27-4), Chestnut Ridge’s Trent Crouse (No. 9, 34-6), Central’s Jordan Quarello (No. 14, 24-5) and Valley’s Patrick Dewitt (29-7) – who was the top seed in the WPIAL – are each in the bottom half of the bracket with Bulsak.
Mount Union’s Jake Boozel (No. 13, 26-8), Jefferson-Morgan’s John Demaske (23-3) and Bentworth’s Vince Vahaly, the District 7 runner-up, are in the top half.

Knopsnyder: 1. Thomas 2. Bulsak 3. Crouse 4. Vahaly 5. Demaske
Dugan: 1. Myers 2. Thomas 3. Crouse 4. Boozel 5. Quarello

Kittanning’s Jason Nolf (No. 1, 38-0) is looking for his third regional championship and second state title. His biggest competition likely will come from Keystone Oaks’ Nick Zanetta (No. 3, 29-3), a regional and state runner-up a year ago whom Nolf beat 3-0 in last week’s District 7 finals.
The WPIAL was so strong at this weight that South Side Beaver’s Shane Gentry (No. 5, 35-3) finished fourth after placing eighth in the state a year ago. Burrell’s J.R. Andrejcik (28-7) beat him in last week’s consolation final.
West Branch’s J.P. Hayles (No. 6, 32-5), Southern Huntingdon’s Brennon Shields (No. 7,  25-1) – a runner-up here a year ago – and Berlin Brothersvalley’s Chris Miller (34-3) are the wrestlers from districts 5 and 6 that likely have the best chance of breaking the WPIAL stranglehold.

Knopsnyder: 1. Nolf 2. Zanetta 3. Gentry 4. Andrejcik 5. Shields
Dugan: 1. Nolf 2. Zanetta 3. Shields 4. Hayles 5. Gentry

Top-seeded Sean Heggs (No. 7, 34-4) was a fourth-place finisher in the state last year, when he wrestled for East Juniata. Charleroi’s Nick Gavazzi (No. 4, 32-0) has eight victories over wrestlers in this bracket, with the closest of those a 7-0 decision over Jefferson-Morgan’s Jason Miller (36-9), although Gavazzi pinned him in their second meeting.
Richland’s Nick Naglic (No. 8, 27-6) faces Miller, whom he pinned at the Bedford tournament, in the first round. Burrell’s Steve Edwards (No. 6, 35-6) and West Branch’s Parker Bumbarger (No. 14, 34-6) are each ranked despite finishing third in their respective districts. Beth-Center’s Tony Welsh (35-11) made a surprising run to the WPIAL finals and is 5-1 since finishing seventh at the Thomas tournament in Bedford.

Knopsnyder: 1. Gavazzi 2. Heggs 3. Naglic 4. Welsh 5. Edwards
Dugan: 1. Gavazzi 2. Edwards 3. Heggs 4. Bumbarger 5. Naglic

Noah Tarr (No. 8, 33-2), who was the runner-up at 138 last season, is the top seed while District 7 champ Phil Marra (No. 3, 26-6) is second. Chartiers-Houston’s Tanner Sutton (No. 4, 38-6), West Green’s Matt Johnston (37-4) and Northern Bedford’s Drew Gartland (No. 10, 28-1) join Tarr in what should be a very interesting top half of the bracket.
Marra and Conemaugh Township’s Tanner Cahill (No. 9, 32-2) could very well meet in the other semifinal. Cahill is coming off a dramatic victory over Gartland that earned him the outstanding wrestler award in District 5.

Knopsnyder: 1. Sutton 2. Marra 3. Tarr 4. Cahill 5. Gartland
Dugan: 1. Marra 2. Sutton 3. Tarr 4. Gartland 5. Cahill

Blairsville’s Drew Doak (No. 4, 33-1) hasn’t been as dominant as some expect a state placewinner as a freshman to be, but he’s managed to beat nearly everyone he’s faced this season. The sophomore will be seeking his first regional title after losing in the finals last year. His path there won’t be easy, as he could face South Fayette’s Grant Fetchet (No. 15, 33-8) in the quarterfinals, Kittanning’s Taylor Jack (No. 14, 32-9) in the semifinals and Freedom’s Boe Bonzo (No. 10, 23-3) in the finals.
Bedford’s Tanner Williams (No. 13, 30-4) and Cambria Heights’ Levi Niebauer (24-8) are on the bottom half of the bracket.

Knopsnyder: 1. Doak 2. Bonzo 3. Fetchet 4. Jack 5. Williams
Dugan: 1. Doak 2. Bonzo 3. Williams 4. Jack 5. Fetchet

Forest Hills’ Cody Law (No.1, 27-0) is the tournament’s second top-ranked wrestler. A returning regional champ and state runner-up, Law is the clear-cut favorite here. He already has a 13-6 victory over second-seeded Bryce Fochtman (No. 12, 33-2), a 22-12 major decision over Penns Valley’s Corey Hazel (No. 13, 31-2) and a fall over Somerset’s Landon Lohr (25-4). Law owns a pair of technical falls over Beth-Center’s Nico Brown (21-9), meaning that the Penn State recruit could conceivably win the title with four victories over wrestlers he’s already beaten this year.
South Side Beaver’s Connor Payne (No. 7, 32-7) and South Fayette’s Jared Walker (No. 15, split a pair of matches last month, with Walker winning in the District 7 finals.

Knopsnyder: 1. Law 2. Fochtman 3. Walker 4. Lohr 5. Payne
Dugan: 1. Law 2. Fochtman 3. Hazel 4. Payne 5. Walker

Three of the top-ranked 170-pounders in the state will be here. Jefferson-Morgan’s Dustin Conti (No. 2, 34-0) leads the way. Not only is he a returning regional champ and state fifth-place finisher, he also owns victories over Chestnut Ridge’s Tyler Dibert (No. 4, 35-4) and Michael Fetchet (No. 5, 36-2), who placed fifth in the state at 160 last season.
Dibert also owns a win over Fetchet, and the two could meet in the semifinals. Fetchet would first have to beat Meyersdale’s Billy Dunbar (No. 13, 27-8) and possibly Mount Union’s Cory Kylor (No. 12, 32-3). Richland’s Nico Pecora (27-8) made a strong run at the District 6 tournament and could be a factor here.

Knopsnyder: 1. Conti 2. Dibert 3. Fetchet 4. Kylor 5. Pecora
Dugan: 1. Conti 2. Fetchet 3. Dibert 4. Kylor 5. Dunbar

Burrell’s Dakota DesLauriers (No. 1, 29-0) won the regional title last season and finished second in the state. He’s the heavy favorite, although Blairsville’s Scott Thompson (No. 6, 12-0) gives the weight another PIAA medalist, as the sophomore placed sixth last year.
Valley’s Terrell Fields (No. 7, 33-5) was the regional runner-up here last season.
Penns Valley’s Mike Rogers (No. 6, 32-2) and Bedford’s Michael Brett (22-9) are in the top half of the bracket while Meyersdale’s Gavin Berkley (No. 14, 39-2) is in the bottom half of the bracket along with Mount Pleasant’s Justin Overly, who gave him one of his two losses.

Knopsnyder: 1. DesLauriers 2. Thompson 3. Berkley 4. Fields 5. Rogers
Dugan: 1. DesLauriers 2. Thompson 3. Rogers 4. Fields 5. Berkley

An upset in the District 5 tournament shook up this bracket a bit. Somerset’s Jacob Nickelson (No. 4, 26-2) could end up facing James Stodart (No. 6, 28-2) in the quarterfinals. Nickelson was pinned by Tussey Mountain’s Shad Brumbaugh (15-5) in the semifinals last week, which puts the Titan in the top half of the bracket with No. 1 seed Garrett Vulcano (No. 3, 39-2). Nickelson gets Kittanning’s Zac Croyle (25-10) – who has beaten him each of the past two seasons – in the first round.
Meanwhile, District 5 champion Dan Albright (No. 7, 33-4) of Chestnut Ridge also is in the bottom half of the bracket along with District 7 runner-up Zach Walker (31-5) of South Fayette. That’s good news for Walker, since he’s been pinned three times this season by Vulcano. The bracket sets up well for United’s Tyler Oliver (No. 14, 26-3).

Knopsnyder: 1. Vulcano 2. Stodart 3. Croyle 4. Walker 5. Nickelson
Dugan: 1. Vulcano 2. Nickelson 3. Stodart 4. Walker 5. Oliver

Avella’s Jake Temple (No. 5, 34-1) is the top seed here. His lone loss came to Vulcano, the favorite a 195, in overtime. Unlike many of the other light heavyweights here, he can put up points in bunches. He was a regional runner-up last season.
HOPE for Hyndman’s James Bennett (35-1) doesn’t appear in the rankings – likely due to the fact that nearly half of his wins have come against out-of-state wrestlers – but he is the second seed. He could face a difficult quarterfinal match against either Buzzy Maines (No. 13, 33-4) of West Branch or Tom Sever (30-9) of Yough.
Moshannon Valley’s Jacob Ludwig (No. 9, 27-3) could face a tough test from West Greene’s Cody Jacobs (No. 10, 31-5) in the quarterfinals. Westmont Hilltop’s Don Shovestull (26-6) and Penn Cambria’s Seth McLendon (16-5) aren’t in the rankings but certainly could make some noise here.

Knopsnyder: 1. Temple 2. Ludwig 3. Shovestull 4. Maines 5. Jacobs
Dugan: 1. Temple 2. Ludwig 3. Jacobs 4. Maines 5. McLendon

Burrell’s Allan Beattie (No. 11, 33-8) is the top seed here but the lowest ranked of the five wrestlers that Off the Mat projects as state qualifiers. In addition, he’s already lost to Chestnut Ridge’s Austin Buttry (No. 8, 34-4), who has been beaten twice by Tussey Mountain’s Mitchell Hall (No. 7, 27-2). Both of Hall’s losses have come by fall to West Branch’s Morgan Selepack (No. 10, 33-5), who is 2-1 against Hall this season, but 1-2 against Cambria Heights’ Aaron Gill.
Got all of that?
To summarize, many of the matches here could go either way and, as often is the case at heavyweight, could come down to overtime or even rideout.
One name to keep in mind is Jacob Beistel. The Southmoreland freshman is 30-3 and was the top seed in the WPIAL before getting knocked off by Beattie last week.

Knopsnyder: 1. Buttry 2. Beistel 3. Beattie 4. Selepack 5. Hall
Dugan: 1. Hall 2. Buttry 3. Selepack 4. Beattie 5. Gill

Eric Knopsnyder is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat.