By Scott Shindledecker
HERSHEY, Pa. — Gold is the goal for the area wrestlers at this week’s PIAA Championships that begin Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey.
More than two dozen high school athletes will vie for state honors, including 23 in Class AA and four in AAA.
The Brookville Raiders are sending seven wrestlers to the Championships while seven individuals attempt to repeat state medal-winning performances from 2015.
The Top 8 finishers in each of the 14 weight classes medal. The 20-man brackets include four preliminary round matches. Thursday’s wrestling begins at 9 a.m. in Class AA with preliminary and first-round matches on six mats. The first-round consolations begin at 1:15 p.m. In Class AAA, the prelims and first round begin at 4 p.m., also on four mats. The first-round consolations begin at 8:15 p.m.
Friday, the Class AA semifinals begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the Class AAA semifinals are at 9 a.m.
Saturday’s Class AA finals and place matches begin at 2 p.m. The AAA finals and place matches begin at 7 p.m.
A number of returning medalists highlight the field among area wrestlers in Class AA.
Franklin senior Dakota Geer tops that list as the defending state champ at 182 pounds. Geer was third as a sophomore.
Brookville 132-pound senior Tate Ortz was third a year ago at 120, Brockway 126-pound senior Mason Lindenmuth was seventh at 132 in 2015, Curwensville 152-pound senior Shae Bloom was fiftth at 138 a year ago and Brockway 120-pound senior Ryan Carlson was sixth at 113 in 2015.
For Geer, there are two other returning medalists in his weight class, but he wouldn’t see either until the semifinals or finals.
Geer is at the very top of the bracket and will take on the winner of the preliminary match between Troy junior Zack Zimmerman (32-4) and Chartiers Houston senior Dominic Provenzano (27-11).
A possible matchup in the semifinals could be against Montoursville senior Garrett Hoffman (46-2). Hoffman was eighth at 182 last year. A possible finals matchup, one that would be highly anticipated, could be with South Park senior Greg Bulsak (40-1). Bulsak won states at 170 in 2015.
For Ortz, the unbeaten senior has his sights set on the top of the podium at 132. He was third at 120 pounds a year ago. Ortz hasn’t lost this year and is 40-0. He sits at the bottom of the top bracket and his first-round match will be against the winner of the preliminary between Northern Lebanon junior Trevor Leonard (43-9) and Mount Pleasant senior Mike Novak (30-14).
Another unbeaten wrestler, Palisades senior Jacob Wasser (39-0), sits at the top of the bracket, and could be a potential semifinal matchup.
One other returning medalist, Bishop McDevitt junior John Pipa (35-7), is in the bottom bracket. He was also at 120 in 2015 where Ortz beat him for third.
For Curwensville’s Bloom, fifth at 138 a year ago, he is in a pretty loaded bracket that includes six other returning medalists. Bloom is 32-1 and awaits the winner of the prelim match between Saucon Valley senior Nathan Harka (34-9) and South Fayette senior Ben Previte (44-13).
If Blooms wins, he could meet Burrell senior Damon Greenwald (39-8) in the quarters. Greenwald was seventh at 152 in 2015. Biglerville senior Nate Newberry (36-2) sits at the top of the bracket. He was seventh at 145 a year ago.
The four other returning medalists are in the bottom half of the bracket. To be sure, the wrestle backs will be a challenge for whoever falls there.
Brockway’s Carlson had an early scare after losing a narrow, 4-3 decision to Jamestown’s Farris Messai in the quarterfinals of last week’s regional. But he wrestled back strong with four straight wins to place third. Carlson was sixth at 113 in 2015.
Carlson (33-2) opens with Northern Bedford Zach Clark (27-5) in the first round. A Carlson win likely pits him against Saucon Valley senior Jack Hill (31-1) in the quarters. Hill beat Carlson at 113 last year to place fifth.
At 126 pounds, Brockway’s Lindenmuth is back seeking another medal in a field that includes four other returning medalists. He placed seventh at 132 in 2015. His first-round opponent is Line Mountain junior Brian Earlston (33-9). A Lindenmuth win would likely pit him against the Southeast champion, Saucon Valley senior Jonah Lynch (38-8). In the lower half of the bracket is Central Cambria junior Max Murin (37-1), a returning state champ in the 113-pound class in 2015. Lindenmuth wouldn’t meet him until the semifinals.
The top half of the bracket includes a pair of defending state champs. Reynolds sophomore Cole Matthews won it all at 120 in ’15 while Bedford senior Johnathan Gabriel won at 126 in 2015.
Here is a look at the other area wrestlers hoping to achieve a medal finish.
At 106 pounds, Curwensville freshman Blake Passarelli (28-8) has a first-round match with Benton sophomore Joe Klock (27-7). A win there could result in a matchup with Jim Thorpe senior Kevan Gentile (36-1), who placed fourth at 106 a year ago.
At 113, Brookville junior Gavin Park (20-2) will take on the winner of the prelim match between Warrior Run junior Trey Hess and Notre Dame Green Pond freshman Ritchie Markulics.
There are two returning state medalists at the bottom of Park’s bracket, Williams Valley senior William Girard (seventh at 113 in 2015) and Benton senior Alan Diltz (third at 106 in 2015).
Also at 113 is Brockway senior Mitchell Overbeck (28-7). He opens with Bentworth sophomore Manny Dovshek (27-12) in the prelim. A win there for Overbeck would match him up with Diltz.
At 138 pounds, in the top half of the bracket, Brockway senior Dustin Jamison (32-12) faces Bishop McDevitt junior Jayden Johnson (18-15) in a prelim. The winner will face returning state champ at 132, Derry senior George Phillippi (39-2).
In the bottom half of the bracket, Brockville senior Cole Aaron (34-5) opens with Westmont Hilltop sophomore Carnell Andrews (33-5). The winner could face Warrior Run senior Zackery LeBarron (38-0).
In the 145-pound class, Smethport senior James Duffy (33-0) placed third at 145 a year ago. He will take on the winner of a prelim match between Bermudian Springs junior Ashton West (35-12) and Somerset junior Austin Hemminger (29-9).
A potential quarterfinal matchup with Freedom junior Kody Komara (36-5) looms for Duffy. Komara was fifth at 132 in 2015.
At 160, two area wrestlers will begin their quest for a medal in the lower half of the bracket.
Cranberry senior Paul Zacherl (36-1) begins with Saucon Valley senior Dylan Yonney (39-10). A Zachary win likely puts him up against Southern Columbia senior Blake Marks (39-1) in the quarterfinals. Marks was a state runner-up in 2014 before injuries derailed his junior year.
Port Allegany senior Mac Tanner (31-3) opens with Northern Lehigh junior Ryan Farber (31-2) in the first round. A win probably means Tanner will face South Park senior Jake Wentzel (38-0) in the quarterfinals. Wentzel won a state title at 152 last year.
In the 195-pound class, Clarion senior Zach Sintobin (30-3) opens with Danville senior Sam Crone in the first round. A potential quarterfinal matchup looms with Jefferson Morgan senior Bill Bowlen (35-3). Bowlen was sixth at 182 a year ago.
There are three other returning medalists, including Lehighton senior Connor Frey at the top of the lower half. Frey was seventh at 182 a year ago.
At 220, Brookville sophomore Tyler Cook (29-11) has a preliminary match against Notre Dame Green Pond senior Julian Wismer (29-11). The winner gets Westmont Hilltop sophomore Josiah Jones (31-5), the Southwest champ.
In the lower half of the bracket, Port Allegany senior Ethan Budd (29-3) opens with West Branch senior Vincent McDowell (33-4).
Two D-9 wrestlers are at 285, including Redbank Valley senior BryLee Shumaker (35-2) and Ridgway junior Colton McClain (30-8).
For Shumaker, his first-round match is against the winner of the prelim between Keystone Oaks senior Joe Kazalas (29-6) and Northern Lebanon George Thompson (29-12).
McClain has a prelim with Williams Valley junior Ian Minnich (32-7). The winner gets Southmoreland senior Jacob Beistel (32-0). Beistel was second at 285 a year ago.
In Class AAA, Punxsutawney Chucks senior Kaleb Young leads the quartet.
Young, a senior, is unbeaten with a 33-0 mark in the 160-pound weight class. Young is one of two place winners in the bracket from 2016. Young placed fourth at 152 a year ago while Lower Dauphin senior Bailey Shutt (30-6) was sixth at 160 in 2015.
In the top half of the bracket, Young’s first-round opponent is Bangor junior Jesse Rocco (32-9). Rocco was second in the Northeast Region. A win for the Chuck could set up a quarterfinal match against Southeast champ Josh Stillings, a sophomore from Pennridge who has a 40-7 mark. Stillings will wrestle the winner of the preliminary round match between Penn Manor junior Jonah Barley (35-1) and Ambridge senior Kevin Hoffman.
At 113 pounds, DuBois Beavers freshman Dalton Woodrow (34-5) won the Northwest Regional and will open the first round with a match between the winner of the prelim, Penn Trafford freshman Nick Coy and Downingtown East senior James Strommer. Woodrow is in the top half of the bracket where three wrestlers that medaled in 2015 are. The bracket features six medalists from a year ago.
If Woodrow wins his opener, he has a likely quarterfinal match with Central Dauphin sophomore Chris Wright (40-7). Wright, the Southcentral Region runner-up, placed seventh at 106 pounds in 2015.
Also in the top of the bracket are Pennridge junior Matt Parker (42-3) and North Hills senior Gage Curry (39-0). Those two would meet in the quarterfinals if they win their first-round matches. Curry was second at 113 a year ago while Parker was fifth at 106 in 2015.
The Clearfield Bison are sending two to states, 170-pound sophomore Luke McGonigal (37-3) and 195-pound senior Travis Ogden (37-2).
McGonigal’s weight class includes five returning medal winners from 2015. He has a prelim with Penn Trafford junior Matt McGillick (29-11). A win there would pit him against unbeaten Manheim Central senior Jared Siegrist (32-0). Siegrist was sixth at 170 in 2015.
For Ogden, he will face Upper St. Clair junior Eli Grape (33-2) in the first round. Grape, the Southwest Regional champion, was eighth at 195 a year ago.