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High school wrestling preview: Franklin Regional begins quest for 1st WPIAL team title

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Class AAA

Preseason Top 10

1. Franklin Regional (23-4)

The WPIAL runner-up and PIAA third-place finisher in 2013 is loaded with talent, returning four PIAA qualifiers, including state champion Tyler Smith (132 pounds).

2. Latrobe (11-6)

The Wildcats will get a boost with the return of Ethan McCoy (106) and Dom Scalise (160) from the Kiski School. State champion Luke Pletcher (106) and third-place finisher Zack Zavatsky (160) also return.

3. North Allegheny (18-5)

The Tigers return 10 starters, including PIAA placewinners Dom Forys (113, fifth) and Jesse Rodgers (138, fourth).

4. Canon-McMillan (19-0)

The cupboard isn't bare for new coach Jason Cardillo. The four time WPIAL champions and two-time state champs return eight starters, including state champ Solomon Chishko (145) and runner-up Dalton Macri (120).

5. Kiski Area (16-3)

Tradition never graduates, and the Cavaliers will be solid again. PIAA third-place finisher Shane Kuhn (285) leads 10 returning starters. Watch out for sophomore Tyler Worthing (170).

6. Connellsville (19-3)

The Falcons again will field a solid lineup. They return 14 lettermen but will rely on some underclassmen to step up and fill spots to challenge for a title.

7. Belle Vernon (16-4)

Is this the year the Leopards finally overtake Connellsville? They return 10 lettermen, including sophomore Derek Verkleeren (145).

8. Peters Township (15-3)

The Indians have a solid squad led by Phil Mary (113), Tyler Buckiso (126) and Italo Merante (132).

9. Hempfield (13-4)

The Spartans return PIAA champion Sam Krivus (120), as well as Ricky Cavallo (113), Joey Alessandro (132) and Greensburg Salem transfer Daniel Walters (170).

10. Greensburg Salem (16-4)

The Golden Lions return 12 lettermen, including sophomore Chris Eddins (106), junior Austin Shaw (126) and seniors Raistlen Willett (182) and Anthony Cable (195).

Others to watch: Butler (19-4), Central Catholic (6-6), Hampton (20-4), Hopewell (14-6), McGuffey (14-7), Mt. Lebanon (11-11), Norwin (10-7), Seneca Valley (12-6).

— Rankings and breakdowns compiled by staff writer Paul Schofield

Class AAA

Section breakdown

Section 1A Franklin Regional might have too much talent for Kiski Area to challenge for a title.

Section 1B Latrobe is a clear favorite, but Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Norwin will battle.

Section 2A Connellsville and Belle Vernon face off for first.

Section 2B Peters Township is a loaded favorite on paper.

Section 3A North Allegheny is strong again. Butler and Seneca Valley will battle for second.

Section 3B Central Catholic will be tough if it can fill all classes.

Section 4A Canon-McMillan still is the class of the section.

Section 4B Hopewell, West Allegheny, Montour will battle.


Preseason wrestler of the year


Canon-McMillan, Sr.

The returning PIAA champion and Virginia Tech recruit (101-7) is chasing a fourth WPIAL title.

Others to watch

Luke Pletcher, Latrobe, So.

He was a WPIAL and PIAA champ, posting a 41-2 record.

Sam Krivus, Hempfield, Jr.

A two-time WPIAL champion, he won his first PIAA title at 120, finishing 40-3 (85-7 career).

Tyler Smith, Franklin Reg., Sr.

A WPIAL runner-up and PIAA champion at 132, he posted a 45-4 record (120-19 career).

Dalton Macri, Canon-Mac, Sr.

He was a PIAA runner-up with a 45-7 record (93-13 career).

Michael Kemerer, F. Reg. Jr.

The two-time PIAA runner-up was the WPIAL 106 champion.

Vincenzo Joseph, C. Cath., Jr.

He placed second in the WPIAL and third in the PIAA at 120.

Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe, Sr.

The Virginia Tech recruit is a two-time WPIAL champ. He was 42-2 at 160 (124-18 career).

Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area, Sr.

The WPIAL champ at 285, he went 42-1 (96-18 career).

Gage Curry, North Hills, So.

The returning WPIAL runner-up placed fourth in the PIAA at 106.

Jesse Rodgers, N. Alleg., Sr.

The WPIAL runner-up was 40-7 at 138 (102-25 career).

Dom Forys, N. Allegheny, Sr.

The WPIAL 113 runner-up is 121-17 after a 43-5 mark in 2013.

A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg, Jr.

The returning WPIAL 113 champ placed sixth in the PIAA.

Josh Maruca, F. Regional, Jr.

The returning WPIAL champ, placed fifth in PIAA at 138.

Zach Deluca, C. Catholic, Sr.

The returning WPIAL champion (220) placed sixth in the PIAA.

Class AA

Preseason Top 5

1. South Fayette (10-3)

Once football season ends, the Lions are expected to roar behind PIAA qualifiers Mike Carr (120), Grant Fetchet (152) and Jared Walker (195).

2. Burrell (16-7)

The Bucs return nine starters, including PIAA qualifiers John Andrejcik (132), Steven Edwards (138) and Alan Beattie (285).

3. Jefferson-Morgan (11-6)

With PIAA qualifiers Brendan Howard (106) and John Demaske (126) returning, the Rockets should contend.

4. Kittanning (13-5)

The Wildcats are led by two-time PIAA champion Jason Nolf (132).

5. Bentworth (13-7)

The Bearcats will need to fill holes to be a contender. PIAA placewinner Jake Rothka (113) returns.

Others to watch: Burgettstown (11-5), Chartiers-Houston (11-8), Mt. Pleasant (11-4), South Allegheny (12-8), Southmoreland (3-6), Valley (10-13), Yough (17-4).

District 8city league

1. Allderdice (14-6)

The Dragons return City champions Dorian Devaugh-Long (113), Josh Zinkovsky (126) and Cameron Jacobson (152).

2. Carrick (2-10)

The Raiders return 10 lettermen, including seven City runner-ups.


D. Devaugh-Long, ‘Dice, Sr.

The City League champion was 20-2 in 2013 at 113.

Cameron Jacobson, ‘Dice, Jr.

He posted a 24-14 record and won a City League title at 152.

district 6heritage

1. Blairsville (15-3)

The D6 quarterfinalists return PIAA qualifiers Andrew Doak (152) and Scott Thompson (182).

2. Ligonier Valley (4-3)

The Croyle twins (Dereck and Dan) and Max Caldwell return. PIAA placewinner Justin Patrick transferred to Kiski School.


Dereck Croyle, Lig. Valley, Sr.

He finished 25-12 and was sixth in District 6 at 132 pounds.

Andrew Doak, Blairsville, Jr.

He placed seventh in the PIAA at 152. He was 39-4.

Scott Thompson, Blairs., Jr.

A PIAA qualifier, he ended up 19-4 at 182 pounds.

Class AA

Section breakdown

Section 1A South Fayette should dominate this section.

Section 1B Burgettstown returns 12 lettermen.

Section 2A Jefferson-Morgan and Bentworth will contend.

Section 2B Yough, Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland will battle for the section title.

Section 3A Avonworth and South Allegheny are the teams to beat.

Section 3B Burrell should outdistance Kittanning and Valley.


Preseason wrestler of the year


Kittanning, Sr.

The two-time PIAA champion and three-time WPIAL champ is 132-1 in his career.

Others to watch

George Phillippi, Derry. So.

The returning WPIAL and PIAA 113 champion went 42-4.

Austin Griffiths, Southmoreland, Jr.

The two-time PIAA placewinner was a WPIAL runner-up.

Jake Rothka, Bentworth, Sr.

The PIAA eighth-place finisher at 113 is 102-41 in his career.

John Demaske, J.-Morgan, Sr.

The PIAA fourth-place finisher at 126 was 29-6 in 2013.

Jake Wentzel, South Park, So.

The sophomore finished eighth in the PIAA after going 34-12.

Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi, Sr.

The two-time WPIAL champion placed fifth in the PIAA at 138.

Steven Edwards, Burrell, Sr.

The PIAA sixth-place finisher at 138 was 43-10 (86-33 career).

Jared Walker, S. Fayette, Jr.

The returning WPIAL champion at 160 placed seventh in the PIAA. He was 34-9 in 2013.

Terrell Fields, Valley, Sr.

The WPIAL runner-up at 182 placed sixth in the PIAA after posting a 40-9 record.

Jake Temple, Avella, Sr.

The returning WPIAL 220-pound winner placed fourth in the PIAA. He is 102-19 overall.

Austin McDermitt, Burgettstown, Jr.

The returning WPIAL 103-pound champion was PIAA qualifier after going 37-8.

Grant Fetchet, S. Fayette, Sr.

The WPIAL runner-up at 152 needs three wins to reach 100.

Jake Beistel, S'moreland, So.

The WPIAL runner-up was 34-7 during the 2013 season.

Alan Beattie, Burrell, Jr.

The WPIAL and PIAA Southwest Regional 285-pound champion went 0-2 in the PIAA tournament.

Top high school sports
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 10:03 p.m.

Franklin Regional wrestling coach Eric Mausser had his team practice at 8 a.m. Monday, the first day of deer hunting season across the state.

He said there aren't many deer hunters on the wrestling team.

But that doesn't mean the wrestlers aren't hunters; they are hunting for a different prize this season, one that features gold trophies.

The return of 12 lettermen and four PIAA placewinners from the 2012-13 season, including Class AAA 132-pound champion Tyler Smith, is a major reason Franklin Regional is favored to win its first WPIAL and PIAA team titles.

The Panthers also added freshman Spencer Lee, the top-ranked eighth grader in the country, to the roster after he transferred from Saegertown.

And junior Devin Brown, the PIAA Class AA 106-pound champion from 2013, also transferred from Saegertown and could play a major role for the Panthers. The WPIAL ruled him ineligible in November, deciding his transfer was motivated by athletics. His appeal before the PIAA will be heard Dec. 17.

Franklin Regional finished second to Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL team tournament and was third in the state last season.

Now the team wants more.

“We're a long way from winning anything,” Mausser said. “Our section (1-AAA) is one of the strongest in the WPIAL and, possibly, the state.

“Kiski Area beat us last year, and Latrobe is very good. We have to worry about them before we can worry about winning WPIAL and PIAA titles.”

But the Panthers are deep with talent.

Junior Michael Kemerer, a two-time PIAA runner-up is back, along with junior placewinners Josh Shields and Josh Maruca. Smith, who went 45-4 last season and has a 120-19 career record, has signed a letter of intent to attend Bucknell.

Kemerer (38-6, 77-7) finished second to Canon-McMillan's Connor Schram at 126. Shields (44-6, 81-13) was third at 145, and Maruca (43-8, 79-15) was fifth at 138.

Also back are Kyle Berk (113), Dom Giannangeli (126), Max Kubas (138), Brandon Yant (152), Nate Painter (160), Jake Pickup (182) and Brett Zanotto (220).

Freshman Gus Solomon (113) and sophomore Charlie Mazon (285) also are expected to contribute.

“We have more flexibility,” Mausser said. “We have a nice solid group. The goals are even higher this year.

“We got a taste last year. Now we want to win the Powerade, the counties, the section, the WPIAL and the PIAA titles. We also want to do well in the Ironman.”

Lee won the Super 32 last month, and he and Brown competed in the Cadet World Championships in Serbia in August. Lee fell to Latrobe's Luke Pletcher, 3-1, in the 2013 FloNationals at Indiana University in March. Pletcher was the Class AAA 106-pound PIAA champion.

“Spencer is a special kid. He's done a lot of neat things,” Mausser said. “He's very coachable and a very hard-working individual.

“Devin is a phenomenal kid — not just as a wrestler but a kid himself.”

Franklin Regional has loaded up its schedule to prepare for the postseason. The Panthers will compete in the Wyoming Seminary tournament Saturday, go to the Ironman tournament in Akron, Ohio, on Dec. 14, the Powerade Tournament at Canon-McMillan on Dec. 28 and the Westmoreland County tournament Jan. 11.

“We're going to get tested early,” Mausser said. “We had our eyes opened up at Ironman last year, and we built off that.”

Latrobe will be one of the biggest obstacles in Franklin Regional's way. The Wildcats return Pletcher, PIAA third-place finisher Zack Zavatsky (160) and state qualifier Jake Shaffer (138). Ethan McCoy (106) and Dom Scalise (160) also transferred back from Kiski School.

McCoy was a Prep School state champion and national runner-up, and Scalise placed third in the state and nation.

In Class AA, South Fayette and Burrell should battle for a WPIAL championship.

Both teams return numerous PIAA qualifiers.

Back for South Fayette are Mike Carr (120), Grant Fetchet (152) and Jared Walker (160), while Burrell returns John Andrejcik (132), Steven Edwards (138) and Alan Beattie (285).

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.




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