Kittanning wrestlers well-represented at WPIALs
The herd of Class AA wrestlers in the WPIAL and District 9 will begin to thin considerably this weekend, as the districts host individual tournaments that will determine champions as well as regional qualifiers.
WPIAL action begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley and continues through Saturday. Seven wrestlers from each weight class in the WPIAL advance to the PIAA Southwest Regional tournament, which begins next week at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
District 9 competition starts at noon Friday at Clarion and proceeds Saturday. Four from each weight class move on to the PIAA Northwest Regional tournament next week in Altoona.
With wrestlers in 11 of 14 weight classes at the WPIAL Class AA individual championships, Kittanning is about as well-represented as any team — only Burrell has more (13).
But the Wildcats sent a large contingent (12) a season ago, only to see more than half fall short of qualifying for the PIAA Southwest Regional tournament. This time around, Kittanning intends to increase that percentage.
Returning regional qualifiers include seniors Christian Emminger (126 pounds), Taylor Jack (152) and Zac Croyle (195), and junior Jason Nolf (132). Nolf won a title at 113 last season, while Jack and Croyle placed fifth at 145 and 170, respectively, and Emminger took sixth at 132.
Croyle and Jack, who won section championships a week ago, received No. 2 seeds in their weight classes. Nolf is No. 1. And freshman Jacob Robb (160) is No. 3 in his class after winning a section title.
Aside from Robb, other Wildcats set to compete in their first WPIAL tournament are freshmen Brendon Malia (106) and Nick Croyle (145) and sophomore Logan Robb (220).
No longer a short-handed team mired in dual meets, West Shamokin will look to boost its reputation with three WPIAL individual tournament qualifiers.
Junior Brian Brown (145) and sophomore Brenden Glover (160) are back after reaching the WPIAL round in 2012. Both finished winless but gained familiarity with tournament's atmosphere.
Freshman Brian Lukehart (113) will join his elder teammates. He opens with a tough matchup, drawing No. 2 seed Seth Carr of South Fayette.
A West Shamokin/Elderton wrestler most recently reached the medal rounds in 2011, when Jared Hollibaugh and Zane King each placed eighth. The most recent Southwest Regional tournament qualifiers were in 2008, when Levi Smeltzer placed sixth in the WPIAL and Zack Reefer won the heavyweight title.
Redbank Valley expects to build off its unprecedented success in the dual meet postseason by flooding the District 9 Class AA individual tournament with place-winners.
Five PIAA Northwest Regional tournament qualifiers return for the Bulldogs: juniors Willie Gruver (113) and Ben Carrillo (285), and seniors Ty Haines (145), Cole Shirey (160) and Aaron Hook (182). Gruver, one of four Redbank Valley wrestlers to earn a No. 1 seed, hopes to defend his title at 113. Haines, who placed second at 138 last season, is a top seed. Hook, another No. 1, aims to improve upon last season's third-place finish at 182. And Shirey and Carrillo, who stayed in the same weight classes where they placed third a season ago, received No. 2 spots.
Senior Brandon Bailey (170), a No. 2 seed, is one of several Bulldogs who finished just short of the third-place match last season. Sophomore Cal Haines (220) is another, and he earned the No. 1 seed in his class.
Redbank Valley entered a wrestler in every weight class, so the Bulldogs stand a strong chance of contending for the team title in the tournament; they won the district's dual meet title earlier this season.