Returning PIAA qualifiers make Franklin Regional team to beat
TribLIVE Sports Videos
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.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- A field day on social media as Pirates’ Rodriguez attacks Gatorade cooler
- Steelers quarterback Vick getting more acquainted with offense
- Penguins see Stars, blanked by Dallas in opening game
- Steelers hoping to establish run early against San Diego
- Starkey: Pirates gaining bad big-game rep
- Pittsburgh zoo receives $9M gift — largest ever — from Mellon Foundation
- Clerical error blamed as Armstrong inmate is released
- Pirates notebook: Fastball command issues hurt Cole against Cubs
- What’s old is new at Toll Gate Revival in Lawrenceville
- Upper St. Clair lifeguard ordered to stand trial for rape of female lifeguard
- West Mifflin Area to celebrate newest graduate’s life, legacy