One day after learning they would participate in the PIAA Wrestling Championships, nine Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers got a glimpse of their brackets on Sunday when the random drawing for each weight was held.
Two WVC Class 3A wrestlers were hit with incredibly tough draws as Hazleton Area’s Jimmy Hoffman and Dallas’ Connor Martinez will see the top-ranked wrestlers in the country in their first round matches.
Hoffman, a freshman 120-pounder, will get Greater Latrobe’s Luke Pletcher in the first match. Pletcher, a sophomore, is 39-0 this season and a returning state champion. He won last season at 106 pounds and has just two losses in his career.
If it’s possible, Martinez has an even tougher draw as he will see three-time undefeated PIAA champion Chance Marsteller from Kennard-Dale. The senior is trying to become just the fifth in history to claim four state titles without a loss. A former Penn State recruit who will now attend Oklahoma State in the fall, Marsteller has a record this season of 37-0.
Wyoming Valley West’s Nathan Cheek (145 pounds) will see a somewhat familiar opponent when he gets Central Bucks East’s Francesco Fabozzi, who faced Cheek’s teammate Travis Roper in last year’s first round and defeated Roper via fall en route to a fifth-place finish.
Cheek’s teammate Cody Cordes (160) drew Chad Reese (35-7), a senior from Central Mountain who was a state qualifier last season but lost his only two matches.
At 285 in Class 3A, Martinez’s teammate Ryan Monk will take on Andrew Brown from Harrisburg. Brown (34-5), a senior did not qualify for states last season.
In Class 2A, there are four WVC wrestlers going for gold. Wyoming Area’s Charlie Johnson will be the first to step on the mat Thursday morning when he faces Reynolds junior Michael Bartolo at 126 pounds. Bartolo was a state qualifier last season, but lost his only two bouts.
After Johnson comes Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry at 132 and he faces Scott Cooper from Biglerville in the opening round. Cooper is a sophomore with a record of 37-9 who is at Hershey for the first time.
Harry’s teammate Derek Dragon at 170 will face Fairfield senior Nick Mort in the preliminary round. Mort qualified for states last season but finished 0-2.
The final WVC wrestler to wrestle in Class 2A on Thursday morning is the surprising Saul Wilkins from GAR. The first-year wrestler who won a district and regional title, faces the No. 5 seed from the Southeast Region in ELCO’s Wes Bankus, who did not qualify for states a year ago.
The state tournament begins Thursday morning at Giant Center in Hershey with the Class 2A preliminaries at 9. The 3A event starts at 4 p.m. Thursday.