An abundance of criticism arose last year from coaches, wrestlers, media members and fans after the PIAA Championships when the committee decided to hold the finals, third-place, fifth-place and seventh-place matches all at the same time.
It seemed like the only ones who were for the change were the PIAA officials who spearheaded the idea.
But the disapproval by others didn’t prompt a change for this week’s tournament as the schedule is exactly the same as last year with all the medal matches being wrestled at the same time.
“I didn’t like it at all. I like having that center mat just where the finals are going,” said Coughlin senior 285-pounder Brad Emerick, who finished fifth last year and has a strong chance to make this finals this season. He was also in attendance at Giant Center in Hershey when his former teammate Josh Popple reached the gold medal match.
“I feel like there’s more people are watching that final match and that’s it. I just don’t think it’s right. I think it’s taking away from the kids.”
YOGI’S PRESENCE FELT
GAR has only produced one state champion in the program’s long and traditional existence. That gold medalist was Yogi Michael in 1965. Michael passed away late last year, so it seems fitting that the Grenadiers have a state qualifier in 113-pounder A.J. Luton.
Michael always seemed to be talking about his alma mater and was close to the program. He even drove the bus for the team in previous seasons.
“It was nice that once in a while on the drives home he would give us advice or say mostly motivational complimentary things about the team and how we’re doing,” GAR coach Rick Simon said.
Michael was also a staple at the state tournament being a part of more than 40 events as either a wrestler, coach, referee or official.
A RARE FEAT
As Kennard Dale junior Chance Marsteller wrestles in his third Class 3A tournament, he is in rarefied company so far. That’s because he is yet to lose a match in his high school career to go with 121 career wins and two state titles.
This weekend he goes for three golds in a row wrestling in the 160-pound bracket. If he wins gold and he decides to stop wrestling, he would join just one other in state history to win three state titles and finished an undefeated career. That happened by Canonsburg’s George Custer from 1938-40.
Looking ahead, if Marsteller finishes with four state golds and a career unbeaten streak, he would be just the fifth in state history to do that. The last time that occurred was 1992 by Cary Kolat from Jefferson-Morgan.
A total of 13 wrestlers – five in 2A and eight in Class 3A – are trying to claim another gold medal for their hardware collection.
Pen Argyl’s Michael Racciato (Class 2A, 145 pounds), Kennard Dale’s Chance Marsteller (3A, 160), Canon-McMillan’s Cody Wiercioch (3A, 170) and Solanco’s Thomas Haines (3A, 220) are trying to become three-time titlists.
Those looking to become a two-time state champ in 2A are Darin Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic, 120), Ryan Diehl (Trinity, 126), Ryan Solomon (Milton, 195) and Nazar Mironenko (Mifflinburg, 285).
In 3A, Ethan Lizak (Parkland, 113), Connor Schram (Canon-McMillan, 126), Garrett Hammond (Chambersburg, 152), Garrett Peppelman (Central Dauphin, 160) and Matt McCutcheon (Kiski Area, 195) are looking for their second titles.
LOOKING TO STAY UNBEATEN
Including Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry (37-0) and Wyoming Valley West’s Kyle Krasavage (38-0), a total of 21 wrestlers in the state will be trying to finish the season with an unblemished mark. The numbers include 12 in Class 2A and nine in 3A.
The most that could end undefeated is 16 because some brackets consist of multiple unbeatens.