High school wrestling notebook: WPIAL well represented at PIAA championships
Hampton senior Jake Hart did a backflip, Canon-McMillan senior Cody Wiercioch held up three fingers and Franklin Regional junior Tyler Smith pumped his fists.
Those were just some of the reactions after 10 WPIAL wrestlers celebrated state titles at the PIAA championships Saturday at Giant Center in Hershey.
Seven Class AAA wrestlers and three in Class AA stood atop the podium. Six others placed second, and five lost to WPIAL winners.
The WPIAL had 42 wrestlers entered in the tournament and 31 returned with medals. Of the 34 Class AA qualifiers, 20 placed.
The Southcentral Region was next with 29 medalists, but it had 56 qualifiers.
“When I wrestled (1980s), District 11 dominated,” Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said. “That has shifted to the WPIAL, and that was proven this weekend. That trend should continue.”
Also, at 120 and 126 pounds, the WPIAL finished 1-2-3, which is rare.
Hempfield sophomore Sam Krivus defeated Canon-McMillan junior Dalton Macri in the 120-pound final, and Central Catholic sophomore Vincenzo Joseph ended up third. Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram won the 126-pound title by defeating Franklin Regional sophomore Michael Kemerer, and North Hills senior Tyler Walker placed third.
The other state champions in Class AAA were Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher (106) and Canon-McMillan junior Solomon Chishko (145). The Class AA champions were Derry freshman George Phillippi (113), Kittanning junior Jason Nolf and Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers (182).
Keystone Oaks senior 132-pounder Nick Zanetta wanted first place when he wrestled Kittanning junior Jason Nolf for a fourth time in as many weeks during the PIAA Class AA finals. He lost, 4-2, but he still found a sign of progress.
“That was my first takedown in four matches against him,” said Zanetta, who led, 2-0, early in the first period. “I knew once I took him down, I had to work even harder to keep him there. Like I said, it's the state finals, so a takedown isn't going to be handed to you.”
Zanetta allowed an escape soon afterward and fell behind, 3-2, when Nolf scored a takedown just before the first period ended. Down by two after two periods, Zanetta chose the bottom position rather than neutral, a decision he made after consulting with his coach (and brother), J.J. Zanetta. He hoped to earn an escape early and then score a takedown late rather than start on his feet, get two points, and then ride to get a lead or at least force overtime, he explained.
Nolf rode the entire two minutes.
“You have a game plan, and you've just got to stick to it,” Zanetta said. “I definitely need to work harder during the offseason on underneath.”
The WPIAL provided three of the PIAA's 10 undefeated champions. Kittanning's Nolf (45-0) and Burrell's DesLauriers (36-0) were among the seven from Class AA. And Chishko (11-0), who missed almost the entire season with an elbow injury, was one of three in Class AAA.
Nolf's win total ranked second highest among the 10. Only Benton senior 138-pounder Zain Retherford (47-0) accumulated more.