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Latrobe freshman wrestler hoping to make his mark at PIAA tournament

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Franklin Regional, Sophomore

Claim to fame: Maruca (40-6) won the WPIAL/PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional title at 138 pounds Saturday at Norwin High School after defeating North Allegheny's Jesse Rodgers, 4-3, in an overtime tiebreaker. Maruca also won the Section 1-AAA title last month at Gateway after defeating Hempfield's Sean LaVella by an 11-4 decision. Earlier in the season, Maruca finished first at the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association Wrestling Championship. He also took fourth at the Powerade Christmas tournament and seventh at the Ironman tournament.

“He's done a great job this season. He was one of the guys we could bump up to 145 in the different team meets,” coach Eric Mausser said. “He has a lot of fun on the mat, and he brings a spark and goofiness. At the same time, he goes out there and does his job though when it comes to match time.”

How did you think you did during the regional tournament?

I felt good and I wrestled good. I was going in there thinking I was going to win. I had a close match there with Jesse, but I was in good shape and I thought I wrestled well.

What was the pivotal moment in the championship match?

I had a takedown with seven seconds left to take it to overtime. If I didn't get that I wouldn't have been able to get to overtime.

What do you need to do to reach the PIAA podium?

I just checked out my bracket and, well there is a lot of tough kids in my bracket. But if I go into the tournament with a good mindset and wrestle tough, I will do well.

What do you think you need to do to keep improving?

I think I need to train harder. I think I train hard now, but I need to continue my training. I also want to go to tournaments that give me experience, so that when it comes to states and the regular season I will be prepared.

— Andrew John

Local Class AAA PIAA qualifiers

106 pounds

Gage Curry, North Hills (34-3)

Luke Pletcher, Latrobe (37-2)

Brendan Price, Canon-McMillan (38-7)

113 pounds

A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg (39-3)

Dom Forys, North Allegheny (39-3)

A.J. Wilkins, Gateway (16-3)

120 pounds

Vincenzo Joseph, Central Catholic (22-8)

Sam Krivus, Hempfield (36-3)

Dalton Macri, Canon-McMillan (41-6)

126 pounds

Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional (35-5)

Connor Schram, Canon-McMillan (40-3)

Tyler Walker, North Hills (35-2)

132 pounds

Ethan Kenney, Connellsville (30-6)

Tyler Smith, Franklin Regional (41-4)

Drew Walker, North Hills (32-5)

138 pounds

Josh Maruca, Franklin Regional (40-6)

Jesse Rodgers, North Allegheny (36-5)

Jake Shaffer, Latrobe (34-9)

145 pounds

Solomon Chishko, Canon-McMillan (7-0)

Brian Estep, Allderdice (36-3)

Josh Shields, Franklin Regional (40-5)

Kevin Synan, Hampton (37-7)

152 pounds

Brendan Burnham, Pine-Richland (31-4)

Heath Coles, Norwin (33-4)

Tyler Reinhart, Greensburg Salem (37-6)

160 pounds

Ben Schweiger, North Allegheny (25-11)

Zach Voytek, Greensburg Salem (40-3)

Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe (38-1)

170 pounds

Kellan Stout, Mt. Lebanon (35-4)

Cody Wiercioch, Canon-McMillan (40-1)

Noah Wilps, Chartiers Valley (30-8)

182 pounds

Alex DeCiantis, North Allegheny (32-2)

Adam Nickelson, Belle Vernon (37-2)

Drew Phipps, Norwin (36-6)

195 pounds

Jake Hart, Hampton (40-1)

Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area (34-1)

Alen Turcinhodzic, North Hills (32-6)

220 pounds

Alex Campbell, Canon-McMillan (36-7)

Rodjecko Christian, Westinghouse (23-5)

Zach DeLuca, Central Catholic (38-7)

Cole Macek, Montour (32-4)

285 pounds

Angelo Broglia, Canon-McMillan (37-8)

Luke Fleck, Franklin Regional (22-3)

Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area (38-0)

PIAA Class AAA Championship Schedule of Events

Thursday: Preliminary bouts, 4 p.m.; First-round consolations, 7:15 p.m.

Friday: Quarterfinals, 1:30 p.m.; Second-round consolations, 3:15 p.m.

Saturday: Semifinals, 9 a.m.; Third-round consolations, 9 a.m.; Fourth-round consolations, 11:30 a.m.; Parade of champions, 6:45 p.m.; Finals and medal rounds, 7 p.m.

• For opening-round pairings for the PIAA Class AAA tournament, visit

Top high school sports
Monday, March 4, 2013, 11:00 p.m.

Every year it seems a wrestler from the WPIAL flies under the radar most of the season and then puts together a solid weekend and qualifies for the PIAA Class AAA Championship at Hershey.

That guy this season was Latrobe freshman Jake Shaffer, who benefitted when the No. 3 seed at 138 pounds, Hempfield's Sean LaVella, was pulled from the tournament for breaking team rules.

LaVella, a senior, had beaten the freshman three times this season.

The sixth-seeded Shaffer (35-9) seized the opportunity. He defeated Central Catholic senior Justin Alexander, 1-0, in the third-place match. Alexander, who became the third seed, needed overtime to defeat Shaffer, 3-1, in the quarterfinals.

“This is awesome,” Shaffer said after his win. “I'm so happy. I knew I had a chance to win when LaVella was pulled out.”

When Shaffer got a second shot at Alexander, he said he knew he could win.

“I gained a lot of confidence in that first meeting,” Shaffer said. “I knew I could hold him down, and I did.”

Freshman Luke Pletcher (106) and junior Zach Zavatsky (160), who both won WPIAL championships, also will compete at the state tournament for Latrobe.

Being overshadowed by Pletcher, the state's No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class AAA, and Zavatsky didn't bother Shaffer. Watching his teammates work showed him what he had to do.

“Jake was often overlooked,” Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said. “I definitely thought he had a chance. The hug he gave me after he qualified is something I'll remember. It was special. When LaVella was pulled it opened things up a little. I could tell from Jake's attitude Saturday that he was ready. He wrestled with a lot of confidence.”

Shaffer said he was in and out of the rankings all season.

“I slumped a little around the Westmoreland County tournament,” Shaffer said. “Then I went on a winning streak. Luke and Zack have made their mark, now it's time I make mine.”

Shaffer opens his first PIAA tournament against one of the top wrestlers in the state: Central Dauphin senior Tyson Dippery (44-2).

Pletcher (37-2) will face Erie McDowell freshman Charlie Lenox (32-14), while Zavatsky faces Conestoga senior Logan Kerin (22-3).

Also in Class AAA, Canon-McMillan senior Cody Wiercioch (170) is going after his third PIAA title, while Kiski Area senior Matt McCutcheon will try to win his second after losing his first bout of the season last week in the WPIAL finals to Hampton's Jake Hart.

Wiercioch (40-1) will face Big Spring junior Cody Seibert (21-5), while 195-pounder McCutcheon (34-1) goes against Bald Eagle Area senior Aaron Varner (28-4).

Also going after his second PIAA title is Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram (126), who placed second in 2011 and 2012, and won the 103-pound title in 2010.

Franklin Regional sophomore Michael Kemerer (126) and Hart (195) also were PIAA runners-up last year.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at




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