It's the biggest and one of the toughest holiday wrestling tournaments in the country.
The 45th annual Powerade Tournament begins Friday at Canon-McMillan, and it features national power Blair Academy of New Jersey, the returning team champion. The tournament started with only schools from the WPIAL, but it's expanded and now brings in teams from all over the state and teams from California, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Oregon and West Virginia.
Canon-McMillan, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Franklin Regional, Connellsville, Hempfield, Greensburg Salem, Kittanning, Hampton, Central Catholic and Chartiers-Houston are some of the top WPIAL teams entered.
But there is an added attraction: a possible meeting in the 170-pound final between Canon-McMillan senior Cody Wiercioch and Kennard-Dale junior Chance Marsteller, both two-time PIAA champions.
“Cody welcomes the challenge and I imagine Chance does too,” Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary said. “These types of battles are good for the sport.”
Wiercioch and Marsteller are two of 10 returning champions and four runners-up back.
The other returning champs are Central Catholic sophomore Vincenzo Joseph (106 pounds), Franklin Regional sophomore Michael Kemerer (113), Canon-McMillan junior Solomon Chishko (138), Blair seniors Russell Parsons (152) and Brooks Black (285), Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers (182), Hampton senior Jake Hart (195) and Solanco senior Thomas Haines (220). Chishko has an elbow injury and will not compete.
Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram (120), who missed the 2011 tournament because of an injury, was the 2010 winner.
Wiercioch has been tested a few times already this season, winning titles at the Ironman and Reno tournaments. Marsteller may provide his toughest test of the season, and it could be a precursor to the PIAA tournament if both stay at the same weight class.
Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine, a Powerade champion, said he wants his wrestlers to get experience against some of the top wrestlers in the country. Hempfield competed in the Beast of the East tournament over the weekend and sophomore Sam Krivus ended up fourth at 120 pounds.
“We wrestled well as a team,” DeAugustine said. “The competition is great. At the Beast, there were 45 college coaches in attendance. You don't get a scholarship being on a good team.”
Greensburg Salem coach Randy Parsley said he wants to see his good wrestlers take a step up to another level, and the Powerade Tournament is the place to do it.
“The young wrestlers are going to get their eyes opened, and the veterans get a chance to take a step,” Parsley said. “There isn't much difference between our wrestlers and the top wrestlers in the country. Work ethic is the only thing that separates the top wrestlers.”
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