Franklin Regional wrestling has PIAA hopes
Franklin Regional's wrestling team is headed into unchartered territory following two dominant wins Wednesday at home in the WPIAL Class AAA Team Tournament.
For the second time in school history, the Panthers (18-2) have advanced to the semifinal round, and they need one victory to qualify for their first trip to the PIAA tournament.
The Panthers will face North Allegheny at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley.
Franklin Regional opened the night with a 48-24 victory against North Hills and followed with a 60-16 win in the quarterfinals against Belle Vernon.
“We're starting to hit our stride,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “We've had a few firsts this year: our first county and section titles. But we're not done. We'd like to win a WPIAL title and do well at states.”
Franklin Regional controlled both matches. Against North Hills, Mike Kemerer (126 pounds) and Tyler Smith (132) easily handled the Walker brothers. Kemerer won, 10-5, over Tyler Walker, and Smith won by a technical fall over Drew Walker, 17-2. North Hills lost a team point after Drew Walker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the bout.
“We kept our cool in those matches,” Mausser said. “We knew what to expect, and we were able to stay focused.”
Josh Maruca (138), Josh Shields (152), Brandon Yant (170) and Brett Zanotto (220) collected pins against North Hills.
Against Franklin Regional, the Panthers won 11 of the 14 bouts. Heavyweight Luke Fleck got things going when penalty points disqualified Austin Sluk. Andrew Marshall (106) was awarded a forfeit and Kyle Berk (113) easily handled one of Belle Vernon's better wrestlers, Mitch Hartman, 11-3.
“They have a great squad,” Belle Vernon coach Jack Jolley said. “I think you'll see this team wrestling in Hershey. They have numbers, and that helps. I knew we'd have a tough go.”
After Brandon Hasson (126) of Belle Vernon stopped the Panthers with a pin, Franklin Regional won the next five bouts, including pins by Dom Giannangeli (132), Tyler Smith (138) and Josh Maruca (145).
Adam Nickelson (182) and Mitch Kobaly (170) had technical fall wins for Belle Vernon.
“We're excited to be headed back to the semifinals,” Tyler Smith said. “We got beat up the first time, but we're a much better team this time around. We want to make it to states.”
Franklin Regional and North Allegheny met earlier this season and the Panthers won, 45-30, but both teams had starters missing from their lineups. Four of the five North Allegheny wins were forfeits.
“It should be a great match,” Smith said. “I'm looking forward to another battle.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com