HERSHEY — Penn State has always been a big draw for wrestlers in the entire state.
The Nittany Lions’ popularity has skyrocketed since Cael Sanderson took over as head coach and led the team to back-to-back national championships.
There’s evidence of the Lions program all around the Giant Center during this weekend’s PIAA Championships.
Just look at Penn State’s recruiting class, starting with Benton’s Zain Retherford, who is considered by many as the top recruit in the country and is shooting for his second state title this weekend in Class 2A at 138.
Three other past champs are also slated to go to State College in the fall. Kiski Area’s Matt McCutceon (195 pounds), who won last season in 3A, along with Chambersburg’s Garrett Hammond (152), who is a two-time finalist and a returning champion.
Junior Thomas Haines from Solanco, who is a two-time champ in Class 3A at 220, gave a verbal commitment to Sanderson’s squad.
“That’s the kind of standard Penn State has set and the way they want to go,” Valley West coach Drew Feldman said. “It’s great to keep everybody in house. Keep everybody in state, not lose them to other states. It’s nice to get all your high school guys on one college team. Penn State, Cael, they’re doing a good job.”
Others who will don a blue-and-white singlet next season and are wrestling in Hershey are Cody Law (160, Class 2A) from Forest Hills and Council Rock South’s P.J. Steinmetz (195, 3A). Steinmetz and McCutcheon could square off in today’s quarterfinals.
Nittany Lion faithful are hoping two-time undefeated state champion Chance Marsteller from Kennard-Dale soon commits to the program. Marsteller, a junior at 160 in Class 3A, has been seen wearing Penn State clothing throughout his career and has even attended several duals at Rec Hall.
Some believe he will skip college for a chance to wrestle in the 2016 Olympics because the sport was currently pulled from the 2020 games. He is set to make an announcement some time later this year.
The first day of action between both tournaments consisted of no upsets when it comes to undefeated wrestlers. All 12 wrestlers who entered the Class 2A Tournament unbeaten ended Thursday’s action the same way. The only one of the dozen who was in any kind of trouble was Jefferson Morgan 170-pounder Dustin Conti, who improved to 38-0 with a 3-1 decision.
The same occurred in 3A with all nine grapplers without a loss getting victories. The closest win came by Tyree Spearman from McDowell at 160 with a 6-3 win.
CHAMPS STILL ALIVE
If a wrestler began the day as a past champion, he ended the day with a chance to win yet another.
Class 2A defending champions, Darian Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic, 120 pounds), Ryan Diehl (Trinity, 126), Zain Retherford (Benton, 138), Michael Racciato (Pen Argyl, 145), Ryan Solomon (Milton, 195) and Nazar Mironenko (Mifflinburg, 285) all were victorious.
In 3A, eight wrestlers have the opportunity to claim another gold and the whole group was victorious on Thursday. They are: Ethan Lizak (Parkland, 113), Connor Schram (Canon-McMillan, 126), Garrett Hammond (Chambersburg, 152), Garrett Peppelman (Central Dauphin, 160), Chance Marsteller (Kennard-Dale, 160), Cody Wiercioch (Canon-McMillan, 170), Matt McCutcheon (Kiski Area, 195) and Thomas Haines (Solanco, 220).