Coming off his first loss of the season last weekend — and third in a row to state qualifier Dylan Otis from Wyalusing — Zac Faust may have lost at the right time.
The GAR junior is using that setback as motivation for this weekend’s Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament, which will be held at Lake-Lehman High School.
“Anytime you’re on the mat with quality wrestlers you always got to take something away from it,” GAR coach Rick Simon said. “So it was great to get quality mat time with a guy like that.
“Zac hates to lose so that’s always a good thing.”
While Faust took moral victories by just losing by one point in the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Tournament final, he has even more inspiration heading into this tourney.
He was the favorite to claim the title at last year’s WVC event, but was upset in the finals by Pittston Area’s Jake Vaxmonsky in one of the most thrilling finals of the 2013 event.
The anticipated final matchup between the two juniors Vaxmonsky and Faust at 220 pounds is one of many intriguing bouts that are expected to take place at Lake-Lehman High School over the next two days.
In addition to Vaxmonsky, six past champions are looking to grab a second gold medal at the event that includes two in the same bracket in his teammate Tyler Lutecki and Coughlin’s Bobby Hawkins at 126.
Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry (138 pounds), Wyoming Valley West’s James Wright (113) and Travis Roper (132), and Dallas’ Connor Martinez (170) are also former champions of the event.
Today, wrestling begins at 11 a.m. and continues until all medal matches are set. The tournament continues tomorrow at 1 p.m. with finals, third-place and fifth-place bout being held simultaneously.
There are many storylines heading into the tournament. Here’s a look at some of the many in each weight class.
Race for the team championship
2013 winner: Pittston Area
Prediction: Wyoming Valley West
Dark Horse: Tunkhannock
The skinny: An unfortunate incident cost the Spartans last year’s championship. Now, they are shooting for their second championship in three seasons and should cruise. The real race will be for second, which will likely be a close one between Hazleton Area and Pittston Area.
2013 winner: James Wright, Wyoming Valley West
Top Seed: Dakota Conner, Berwick
Prediction: Colin Pasone, Meyers, over Conner
Dark Horse: Chris Lasecki, Hazleton Area
The Skinny: Conner was the runner-up a year ago, while Pasone is a freshman. Keep an eye on Valley West’s Wayne Smith, too. The third seed has wrestled tough matches this season and could give Conner trouble if they meet in the semis. The weight class consists of five freshmen.
2013 winner: Dominic DeGraba, Dallas
Top Seed: Zack Meckes, Pittston Area
Prediction: James Wright, Wyoming Valley West, over Meckes
Dark Horse: Michael Dempsey, Meyers
The Skinny: Dempsey has been in tough matches this season, including a win over Tunkhannock’s Tom Bachman, the bracket’s No. 4 seed. Crestwood’s Dylan Miale, the third seed here, could put Wright, a defending champ, on upset alert in the semis.
2013 winner: Tyler Lutecki, Pittston Area
Top Seed: AJ Luton, GAR
Prediction: Jimmy Hoffman, Hazleton Area over Luton
Dark Horse: Alex Tirko, Wyoming Valley West
The Skinny: Perhaps the most stacked bracket in the tournament, there are no slouches here, especially when the dark horse finished third a year ago. Here are a few stats on what each wrestler is up against. Hoffman is one of the highly-touted freshmen in the entire state. Luton is a returning state qualifier. Wyoming Area’s Pat Heck defeated Luton last weekend and is a returning district champ. Tunkhannock’s Bill Manley has just one loss this season, while Hanover Area’s Brad Glazenski, the three seed, took third at districts last season.
2013 winner: Kyle Krasavage, Wyoming Valley West
Top Seed: Tyler Lutecki, Pittston Area
Prediction: Bobby Hawkins, Coughlin, over Lutecki
Dark Horse: Anthony Martoccio, Hazleton Area
The Skinny: This bracket features a pair of past champions in Lutecki (2013) and Hawkins (2012) and District 2 Class 2A third-place finisher in Wyoming Area’s Charlie Johnson. Keep an eye on the freshman Martoccio, who has wrestled tough matches so far this season. Tunkhannock’s Dakota Quick and Hanover Area’s Kyle Holmgren, the fourth and fifth seeds, each have 10 wins, which is more than anyone else at the weight except Hawkins.
2013 winner: Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman
Top Seed: Travis Roper, Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Roper over Mike Brown, Coughlin
Dark Horse: Kendrick Beyer, Wyoming Area
The Skinny: There’s plenty potential for upsets here with the exception of Roper, who won the event in 2012. No one in this weight medaled in the top three at the event last year. Besides Roper, who took third in districts last season, only two district medalists from last season are scheduled to participate in the bracket in Brown (fifth) and GAR’s Devin Reese (sixth).
2013 winner: Nick Heck, Wyoming Area
Top Seed: Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman
Prediction: Harry over Bill Poray, Coughlin
Dark Horse: Mike Manley, Tunkhannock
The Skinny: Harry and Poray are the top two seeds with Crestwood’s Dan Ritz a close third. Harry is a defending champ, while Ritz claimed a third-place medal. Then there’s Valley West’s Jon Lagoski, who was runner-up last season in the tournament. This season, Harry has victories over Poray and Ritz.
2013 winner: Kevin Laubach, Berwick
Top Seed: Ben Siegel, Tunkhannock
Prediction: Siegel over Nathan Cheek, Wyoming Valley West
Dark Horse: Gino Setta, Meyers
The Skinny: Siegel and Cheek were both second-place finishers in the tourney last season and third-place medalists at districts. Both seniors and the bracket’s top two seeds, Siegel is unbeaten at 13-0 while Cheek is 12-2. Berwick’s Peter Talanca, who was sixth at districts last season, might cause some havoc. The same goes for Setta, who was fifth at districts a year ago.
2013 winner: Derrick Simms, Wyoming Valley West
Top Seed: Zach Kyttle, Berwick
Prediction: Kyttle over James Donovan, Wyoming Valley West
Dark Horse: Mike Legg, Crestwood
The Skinny: No participants currently at the weight finished in the top three at this event last season, which should make this a very interesting bracket to watch. Making things more exciting is that six of the eight seeds have a record over .500.
2013 winner: Angelo Lussi, Pittston Area
Top Seed: Cody Cordes, Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Cordes over Anthony Eck, Hanover Area
Dark Horse: Logan Brace, Dallas
The Skinny: Cordes, who was third last season shouldn’t have much trouble. Eck could win a close one over Lehman’s Bobby Wright in the semis; Wright, the No. 2 seed, was second at districts last season. Brace took second at this tourney in 2013, while Hazleton Area’s Derek Spachman, the No. 4 seed, could give Cordes problems in the semis.
2013 winner: Kris Roccograndi, Dallas
Top Seed: Derek Dragon, Lake-Lehman
Prediction: Connor Martinez, Dallas, over Dragon
Dark Horse: Carson Kinney, Hazleton Area
The Skinny: When the No. 3 seed is unbeaten like Pittston Area’s Kevin Wesolowski is at this weight, you know it’s a tough bracket. The Patriot senior could run into 2013 champion Martinez in the semis in what could be a classic showdown. The top six seeds all have winning records and all could finish anywhere in the top six with Kinney, Nanticoke’s Derek Fisher and GAR’s Rashaun Mathis strong contenders.
2013 winner: Connor Martinez, Dallas
Top Seed: Brady Butler, Lake-Lehman
Prediction: Steve Longazel, Hazleton Area, over Adam Giovanelli, Coughlin
Dark Horse: Cole Dixon, Dallas
The Skinny: Butler placed second here last season, while Longazel and Valley West’s Jamaar Taylor were each third-place medalists. Butler has been streaking to begin the season and if he sees Longazel in the semifinals, it could be fun to watch.
2013 winner: Andrew Muckin, Tunkhannock
Top Seed: Ty Robinson, Crestwood
Prediction: Robinson over Kaine Rimmer, Hanover Area
Dark Horse: Domenic Oliveri, Dallas
The Skinny: The only wrestler returning with a finish in the top three here is Robinson, who was third. It would not be a surprise to see Oliveri, the fourth seed, or Pittston Area’s Jon Armitage (No. 3) pull off upsets and reach the finals.
2013 winner: Jake Vaxmonsky, Pittston Area
Top Seed: Zac Faust, GAR
Prediction: Faust over Vaxmonsky
Dark Horse: Khalil Lewis, Hanover Area
The Skinny: It seems like Vaxmonsky and Faust are on a collision course to square off once again. But Valley West’s Ian Moran, the No. 2 seed, will probably have a say in things. Moran topped Vaxmonsky earlier this season in a dual.
2013 winner: Brad Emerick, Coughlin
Top Seed: Ryan Monk, Dallas
Prediction: Monk over Kyle Krepich, Meyers
Dark Horse: Pat Pilch, Coughlin
The Skinny: Monk was runner-up last season in this tournament and in districts. Krepich is seeded No. 2 and could see Valley West’s Matt Dubaskas in the semis. Pilch, the third seed, has been streaking lately and could give Monk a run in the semis if they meet up. Krepich, Dubaskas and Pilch are the only seniors in the bracket, which consists of 12 participants.