Franklin Regional has five section champs, Norwin has one in Section 1-AAA wrestling
Franklin Regional got its expected haul of section titles, Norwin had a section champ (but not the one some people expected), and Penn-Trafford has a handful of spots booked for WPIALs.
In short, all three local schools left with something to show on Saturday when the individual wrestling season got under way with the Section 1-AAA tournament at Gateway.
Franklin Regional led all schools with five section champs, as Michael Kemerer (126), Tyler Smith (132), Josh Maruca (138) and Josh Shields (145) all repeated as champs. Kyle Berk was the Panthers' new section champ with a win at 113 pounds, while Norwin's Drew Phipps also became a first-time champ in his first section tournament at 182 pounds.
All totaled, the Panthers will send 10 wrestlers to the WPIAL Class AAA tournament this week at Norwin, while the home team will have seven entrants, and Penn-Trafford will have five.
“Ten guys is the most we've taken to WPIALs since I've been here,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “Especially coming out of our section, which is the toughest in the WPIAL, it's pretty neat to take 10 guys and get six in the (section) finals.”
Berk's final was the first of three to be settled by a single point, as he scored a takedown late in the third period to knock off a former section champ, Gateway's A.J. Wilkins, 7-6.
The finals for Kemerer and Smith lacked any of the drama of Berk's. Both won by technical fall — Kemerer over Latrobe's Ethan Stas, 21-6, and Smith over Norwin's Joel Pezze, 23-8.
“Kyle and Mikey both had good tournaments, and Tyler Smith is wrestling great right now,” Mausser said. “(Smith) had three good matches and got the tech fall against Pezze, who's a really tough kid.”
Marcua won his title, 11-4, over Hempfield's Sean LaVella, and Shields made it five in the first seven weight classes for FR with a 9-3 win over Kiski Area's Cole Landowski.
Phipps needed just two wins to claim his weight class after earning the top seed as a freshman in a seven-wrestler bracket, and he picked up a pin and a 6-3 win in the final over Greensburg Salem's Raistlen Willett.
Two Norwin wrestlers also lost in finals. Sophomore Kevin Miller was pinned in the 106-pound final by nationally-ranked Luke Pletcher of Latrobe, and in a minor upset, reigning WPIAL champ Heath Coles lost in overtime, 2-1, to Greensburg Salem's Tyler Reinhart.
Coles has a chance to win back-to-back WPIAL titles without winning a section title after he placed third at 145 pounds in 2012. He and Reinhart are ranked 1-2 in the WPIAL at 152 pounds, and the pair is likely to meet again in this week's WPIAL final.
FR senior Luke Fleck's return from a knee injury also yielded a runner-up finish, as he fell in the heavyweight final to Kiski Area's Shane Kuhn, 3-2.
Penn-Trafford's top finishers were a pair of third-place match winners. Senior Casey McGowan's lone loss at 126 came to Kemerer, but he bounced back with two more wins, the last over Zac Argyle of McKeesport, 5-2.
In a loaded 152-pound bracket, sophomore Devin Austin lost in the semifinals to Reinhart, but he came back with a 2-1 win in overtime to top Kiski Area's Kyle Skelly for third place.
“Devin finished third, and the top four guys in the WPIAL (at 152) are in our section,” Penn-Trafford coach Rich Ginther said. “Casey McGowan and Mike Risnear are both guys that made it to the final day of WPIALs last year, so we expected them to make it back, and they both wrestled well last weekend.”
Risnear advanced to WPIALs after a 5-0 loss at 132 to Hempfield's Joey Alessandro in the third-place match, while Will Palarino injury defaulted his 170-pound third-place match but still will advance to this weekend.
P-T senior Craig Slepsky needed to win his final match to advance at 160 pounds, but he also got the job done with a 6-3 win over Kiski Area's Shane McGowan for fifth place.
“Palarino, as a senior, his work ethic has been phenomenal,” Ginther said. “He got hurt before sectionals, and that set him back, but he fought through to get to WPIALs.
“Slepsky probably should have finished higher, but he made it through. This is just a stepping stone to get to that next level, and this week is is the next step to that ultimate level, states.”
Norwin's Colin Dalrymple (220) was a third-place winner by pinning Kiski Area's Jake McClarnon, while Rusty Casteel (285) and Zach Gutshall (195) both placed fourth.
Franklin Regional had no third-place finishers, but Andrew Marshall (106), Nate Painter (160) and Jake Pickup (182) all lost in consolation finals to advance.
Norwin's remaining qualifier was Jake Friedhof (120), a 5-3 winner over Gateway's Thaer Shouman in his fifth-place match, while FR's Brandon Yant also survived the difficult 152-pound class with an 11-3 win over Alec Hoopes of Latrobe for fifth place.
The brackets for the WPIAL tournament, which begins on Thursday, were scheduled to be released after the deadline for this week's edition. They can be located at www.wpial.org.
“This is the fun part of the year,” Mausser said. “These guys get to wrestle for themselves and not have to worry about bumping up or down in weight.”
“We had guys peaking at the right time last year,” Ginther said. “It would be nice to see a repeat performance and get our guys to the final day at WPIALs.”
Norwin coach Todd Schuchert was unable to be reached for comment after the section tournament.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.