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Returning PIAA qualifiers make Franklin Regional team to beat

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Franklin Regional wrestlers Tyler Smith and Michael Kemerer (in yellow) warm up before practice on November 30, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Franklin Regional wrestlers Tyler Smith and Michael Kemerer (in yellow) warm up before practice on November 30, 2012.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Franklin Regional wrestlers Tyler Smith and Michael Kemerer (in yellow) warm up before practice on November 30, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Franklin Regional wrestlers Tyler Smith and Michael Kemerer (in yellow) warm up before practice on November 30, 2012.

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Class AAA

Preseason Top 10

1. Canon-McMillan (26-0)

The defending PIAA and WPIAL champions return state titleist Cody Wiercioch and state runner-up Connor Schram. Once Solomon Chishko returns from an injury sustained in the Super 32, the Big Macs will be hard to beat.

2. Franklin Regional (14-4)

If any WPIAL team can challenge the Big Macs it could be the Panthers, a young team that is loaded with talent led by Michael Kemerer, Tyler Smith, Josh Maruca and Josh Shields.

3. Hampton (22-2)

The Talbots return 10 starters and are well-balanced. They are led by PIAA runner-up Jacob Hart, who recently signed with Edinboro.

4. Kiski Area (20-1)

As usual, Kiski Area will be in the mix for a section and WPIAL title. Penn State recruit Matt McCutcheon, a returning state champion, and PIAA fourth-place finisher Shane Kuhn will lead the Cavaliers.

5. Greensburg Salem (13-6)

The Golden Lions return a solid squad with the likes of Zach Voytek, Tyler Reinhart and Anthony Cable leading the way. The Lions will be without PIAA placewinner Tanner Hahn, who injured his knee during football season.

6. North Allegheny (20-6)

An extended football season will keep the Tigers from reaching their potential early, but they could be a tough team to beat in late January and early February. Look for Dom Forys and Alex DiCiantis to lead the Tigers.

7. Connellsville (16-5)

The traditionally strong Falcons shouldn't be overlooked. They have made the playoffs every year since the program's inception in the late 1970s. Ethan Kenney, a PIAA placewinner, is one of the teams top wrestlers.

8. Central Catholic (8-5)

The Vikings will be led by Vincenzo Joseph, a PIAA placewinner in 2011-12.

9. Butler (19-6)

The Golden Tornado returns 10 starters including PIAA qualifier Blake Caudill. Nine other starters also return.

10. Hempfield (10-6)

The Spartans will be a tough team to match up against. They are led by Sam Krivus, Ricky Cavallo and Dom Nania.

Others to watch: Chartiers Valley (12-8), Peters Township (13-5), Belle Vernon (12-8), Latrobe (9-9), Norwin (9-8).

Class AAA

Section breakdown

Section 1A Franklin Regional and Kiski Area return numerous starters and will battle for first.

Section 1B Greensburg Salem and Hempfield are favorites, but Norwin and Latrobe return PIAA placewinners, as well.

Section 2A Connellsville is led by PIAA placewinner Ethan Kenney and Brandon Umbel.

Section 2B Peters Township, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon will battle for top spot.

Section 3A North Allegheny and Butler return 10 starters.

Section 3B Hampton returns 10 starters, and Central Catholic nine.

Section 4A Canon-McMillan has five PIAA placewinners back.

Section 4B Hopewell has 11 starters back, while Montour, West A. and Ambridge are solid.


Preseason wrestler of the year

Cody Wiercioch

Canon-McMillan, Sr.

Pitt recruit is a two-time PIAA champion with a 123-4 record.

Others to watch

Michael Kemerer, F. Reg., So.

He was 39-1, won WPIAL title and was second in PIAA at 106.

Sam Krivus, Hempfield, So.

He went 45-4, was a WPIAL champ, third in the PIAA at 113.

Connor Schram, C-M, Sr.

Stanford recruit is 114-8, a two-time WPIAL champion and finished second in PIAA at 120.

Josh Maruca, F. Regional, So.

He went 36-7, placed fifth in the PIAA, third in the WPIAL at 126.

Ethan Kenney, Connellsville, Sr.

Three-time PIAA qualifier was seventh at 132 with 121-26 record.

Solomon Chishko, C-M, Jr.

WPIAL champ with 90-7 record was third in the state at 138.

Heath Coles, Norwin, Sr.

He was the WPIAL champion at 145 and owns 90-24 record.

Zach Voytek, Gbg. Salem, Sr.

Has 120-22 career record, was WPIAL runner-up at 152.

Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe, Jr.

WPIAL champ at 160 finished eighth in PIAA and is 82-16.

Alex DiCiantis, N. Allegheny, Sr.

He placed third in WPIAL and owns an 80-32 career record.

Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area, Sr.

Was school's first state champ at 182, has 121-12 career record.

Jake Hart, Hampton, Sr.

Second in the PIAA and WPIAL at 195 and has 99-20 record.

Alex Campbell, C-M, Sr.

At 103-36, placed second in WPIAL and fifth in state at 220.

Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area, Jr.

He placed second in the WPIAL and fourth in the state ay 285.

Class AA

Preseason Top 10

1. Chartiers-Houston (16-6)

With three PIAA qualifiers back — Rich McGinnis, Tanner Sutton and Garrett Vulcano — the Bucs are poised to capture the WPIAL Class AA championship.

2. Burrell (16-10)

A new coach (Bud Sines) and an inexperienced team didn't stop Burrell from winning another Class AA title last season. With 10 starters back, a return trip to the finals is very possible.

3. Kittanning (12-7)

The Wildcats return 11 starters, including 2010-11 PIAA champion and last year's state third-place finisher Jason Nolf, who has a 87-1 career record after winning his first 85 bouts.

4. Jefferson-Morgan (15-4)

Eight starters along with PIAA qualifiers Jason Miller and Dustin Conti will help fuel the Rockets' attack in 2012-13.

5. South Fayette (13-8)

PIAA qualifiers Seth Carr, Jared Walker and Michael Fetchet should help the Lions push Chartiers-Houston in Section 1 and the WPIAL.

Others to watch: Bentworth (17-9), Yough (15-7), Derry Area (11-7), Keystone Oaks (6-15), Valley (13-11).

District 8city league

1. Allderdice (10-5)

The Dragons return four league champions, including PIAA qualifier Ean DiSilvio (132 pounds).

2. Carrick (6-4)

The Raiders return three PIAA Northwest Regional qualifiers, which includes seven returning starters.

3. Obama Academy (4-4)

The Eagles return three Northwest Regional qualifiers.

district 6heritage conference

1. Blairsville (16-4)

The Bobcats return 11 starters, including PIAA placewinners Scott Thompson (182, sixth) and Andrew Doak (152, seventh). Noah Tarr (138) also was a PIAA qualifier.

2. Ligonier Valley (6-8)

The Rams return seven starters, including the Patrick brothers, who were PIAA placewinners. Justin (38-3) placed fourth at 106, while Josh (22-4) placed fifth at 113.

— Rankings and breakdowns compiled by staff writer Paul Schofield

Class AA

Section breakdown

Section 1A Chartiers-Houston is the favorite, but South Fayette returns three PIAA qualifiers.

Section 1B Burgettstown returns 10 starters, including PIAA placewinner Austin McDermitt (106). South Side Beaver returns 10 starters.

Section 2A Jefferson-Morgan returns eight starters, including PIAA qualifiers Jason Miller (120) and WPIAL champion Dustin Conti (170).

Section 2B Yough returns eight starters with double-digit wins. Derry graduated four-time champion Jimmy Gulibon.

Section 3A Keystone Oaks returns 11 starters, including PIAA runner-up Nick Zanetta (126).

Section 3B Burrell returns 10 starters, and Kittanning 11.


Preseason wrestler of the year

jason nolf

Kittanning, Jr.

PIAA champ at 103 in 2010-11 is two- time WPIAL and regional champ with 87-1 career record.

Others to watch

Austin Griffiths, Southmore., So.

WPIAL runner-up was third in the state at 106 and went 38-5.

Zach Swarrow, Beth-Center, Sr.

Has 99-34 record. Was eighth in state, third in WPIAL at 113.

Nathan Reckner, S.S. Beaver, Sr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 120 owns a 111-21 career record.

Nick Zanetta, Keystone Oaks, Sr.

He was PIAA runner up at 126 and has 97-22 career record.

Shane Gentry, S.S. Beaver, Jr.

Placed eighth in the state in at 132 and has 81-22 career mark.

Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi, Jr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 138 has a 64-14 career record.

Tanner Sutton, C-H, Sr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 145 has a 99-23 career record.

Jared Walker, S. Fayette, So.

Returning WPIAL champion at 152 went 36-15 last year.

Michael Fetchet, S. Fayette, Sr.

WPIAL runner-up at 160 ended fifth in the state and is 85-38.

Dustin Conti, Jeff-Morgan, Sr.

Won 170-pound WPIAL title, was fifth in PIAA and is 100-32.

Garrett Vulcano, C-H, Sr.

WPIAL runner-up at 170 placed third at regional and is 109-35.

Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell, Sr.

Returning PIAA runner-up and WPIAL champ at 182 is 116-14.

Jake Temple, Avella, Jr.

At 62-16, he placed third in WPIAL and second in region.

Jonah Long, Mt. Pleasant, So.

WPIAL runner-up at 220 was 32-9 in 2011-12 despite injury.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

Franklin Regional made a first-round exit from last year's WPIAL Class AAA wrestling tournament, but it's what the Panthers accomplished afterward that makes this year so promising.

The Panthers return four wrestlers that reached last year's individual state tournament, including a stellar trio of sophomores, and with so much top-class talent returning, Franklin Regional is poised to be one of the strongest teams in Class AAA this year.

Sophomores Michael Kemerer, Josh Maruca and Josh Shields and junior Tyler Smith all went to Hershey as individuals last season, and together they form the core of a Franklin Regional team that hopes this year to progress further as a unit.

“Our goals are really high, and you always want to shoot for the top,” Shields said. “It's great having partners in the (practice) room like these guys because it makes you so much better.”

Kemerer was a WPIAL champ and came one win short of an undefeated freshman season when he fell in the 106-pound state final, while Maruca, Shields and Smith all finished in the top six of their weight classes at states. Add in senior heavyweight Luke Fleck, who reached states as a sophomore and was the WPIAL's fourth-place finisher last year, and the Panthers return five wrestlers that already are among the district's best.

“Having kids around your weight that are at your level helps,” Maruca said. “You're not the only one on the team trying to get to states; there are other kids around who can push you.”

Last season, Franklin Regional was hindered by having too many wrestlers in the lighter weight classes and was unable to fill every class in team matches. Now, as many of its wrestlers are older and growing, the Panthers should find it much easier to field a full squad.

“We're finally filling out the weight classes,” Shields said. “We've had some kids really hit the weight room and get bigger. We should be able to put together a really solid team.”

“There's still some guys who are the same weight, but overall we've spread out real well,” Smith said. “I think we could really take it far in the WPIAL tournament, if not win it this year.”

Among the other wrestlers the Panthers will rely on are sophomore Kyle Berk, a 20-match winner as a freshman; sophomore Dom Giannangeli, who last year saw limited time wrestling behind Berk and Kemerer; senior Connor Medlang, who was 14-1 last year in limited action; and junior Brandon Yant, who last year wrestled as high as 152 for FR, despite being certified for 132, which was Shields' class.

By plugging in capable wrestlers around its established stars, Franklin Regional should be able to fashion a lineup this season that will make it a contender in Section 1-AAA and beyond.

“We're all helping each other out, and our coaches are really working us, too,” Smith said. “Everybody's been getting into it, and we're ready to get started finally after a long offseason.”

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