Westmoreland County wrestlers shine at PIAA tournament
HERSHEY — Latrobe wrestling coach Tad Harbert remembers the days when District 11 dominated the PIAA championships.
Now the strength of the wrestlers in the tournament has switched to the other side of the state.
It was quite a day for wrestlers from the WPIAL, especially those from Westmoreland County, at the PIAA Class AAA championships Friday at the Giant Center.
That's because 12 of the 23 wrestlers in the semifinals from the WPIAL are from the county.
Franklin Regional leads the contingent with four wrestlers competing in the 9 a.m. Saturday semifinals, while Greensburg Salem, Kiski Area and Latrobe have two, and Hempfield and Norwin one each.
“It seemed like when I wrestled in the 1980s that District 11 (Northampton, Easton and Nazareth) is what you wanted to be like,” Harbert said. “Now, we have the best wrestlers in the state and you saw that (Friday).”
The Franklin Regional foursome of Michael Kemerer (126 pounds), Tyler Smith (132), Josh Maruca (138) and Josh Shields (145), all returning PIAA placewinners, breezed to victories.
Kemerer (37-5), who placed second at 106 in 2012, rolled to a 14-2 victory against Owen J. Roberts junior Colby Frank. The sophomore will meet North Hills senior Tyler Walker (37-2) in the semifinals. Kemerer defeated Walker, 5-4, last week.
Smith (43-5) whipped Easton senior Robert Rizzolino, 7-1. He gets Central Bucks East junior Francesco Fabozzi (38-2), who upset McDowell's Nick Gibson.
“We always look forward to this time of the year,” Smith said. “We came up here to do a lot better than we did last year. None of us came here and succeeded.”
Smith placed fifth at 120, Maruca fifth at 126 and Shields sixth at 132, but the foursome wanted gold medals.
“It's nice to get four in the semifinals,” Smith said. “We're trying to make it fun and we're not trying to put pressure on ourselves. A couple of us want another shot at avenging losses in the WPIAL finals. We think we will.”
Smith, a junior, fell to Connellsville senior Ethan Kenney last year, 14-12. Kenney also reached the semifinals with a 6-5 win against Clearfield senior Christian Stone.
Maruca (42-6), a WPIAL champion, controlled his match, defeating Big Spring junior Chad Wickard, 3-1. Maruca, a sophomore, gets a rematch against Father Judge junior Joe Galasso (35-1), who defeated Maruca for third place, 8-3, at the Powerade Tournament.
Shields (42-5) won his match, 4-2, against Manheim Township senior Adam Smith. The sophomore faces Cedar Cliff senior Chris Vassar (41-3).
“This is awesome getting four in the semifinals,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “The guys have wrestled well, and hopefully we'll get four in the finals.”
Hempfield sophomore Sam Krivus outscored two opponents, 23-0, which included his 15-0 technical fall win against Nazareth junior Tyler Tarsi. Krivus (38-3) will face Northampton junior Zach Valley (35-7) in the semifinals.
“Last year I finished third,” Krivus said. “I dropped my first match and wrestled back. I have a different mindset this year.”
Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher (106) and junior Zack Zavatsky (160) picked up impressive wins. Pletcher (39-2) won by technical fall, 20-5, against Avon Grove junior Edgar Garcia, while Zavatsky dominated Easton senior Evan DiSora, 8-1.
Pletcher faces Nazareth junior Tyrone Klump in the semifinals, while Zavatsky gets two-time PIAA champion Chance Marsteller (38-0).
The other county winners included Greensburg Salem seniors Tyler Reinhart (152) and Zach Voytek (160), Norwin senior Heath Coles (152) and Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon (195) and Shane Kuhn (285).
Reinhart needed ultimate rideout to edge Central Dauphin's Austin Rose, 2-1, and Voytek rallied to hand Eric McDowell's Tyree McDowell his first loss of the season, 3-2.
“I've said all along that Tyler is one of the top wrestlers in the state,” Greensburg Salem coach Randy Parsley said. “We just couldn't get him here. Both are doing a great job.”
Both, however, face returning PIAA champions in the semifinals. Reinhart gets Chambersburg's Garett Hammond and Voytek meets Central Dauphin's Garrett Peppelman.
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.