Franklin Regional rides wave to Powerade title
The Franklin Regional wrestling team went into the Powerade Tournament last weekend as one of the top contenders to win the team championship, and the Panthers more than lived up to the hype.
Franklin Regional captured its first Powerade championship, finishing with 236.5 team points — nearly 30 points ahead of second-place Latrobe. Five Franklin Regional wrestlers won individual titles in their weight class at the tournament.
“(All the wrestlers) were interested in the team score,” Mausser said. “It wasn't just about themselves and getting the individual place. They wanted to know what the team score was, where they were standing, how close Latrobe was and everything else. They were competitive that way, and they set themselves up to try to score those extra bonus points in some matches, getting that major decision or working for the fall instead of just a technical fall and so forth.”
The Panthers finished fourth at the Powerade last season but entered last weekend's 46-team tournament as one of the favorites thanks to a group of wrestlers that included strong returners such as Mike Kemerer, Josh Maruca, Josh Shields and Tyler Smith, as well as highly regarded newcomers Devin Brown and Spencer Lee.
Those wrestlers all had a strong performance at Powerade, as Brown, Kemerer, Lee, Shields and Smith all won championships in their individual weight classes, while Maruca finished second.
“I thought they wrestled a great tournament,” Mausser said. “They did what they needed to do to win. And this is the start of it. The first two tournaments the first two weeks of the season get us ready for this, and this gets us ready for the end of the year. This is just the halfway point for us right now.”
In his first tournament for Franklin Regional, Brown won three matches by fall, one by major decision and one by decision. He defeated Connor Shehan of Solanco, 12-3, in the final at 106 pounds.
Lee, competing at 113 pounds, won his first four matches by fall before defeating Latrobe's Ethan McCoy, 14-4, in the final.
At 132 pounds, Smith — a defending PIAA champion — won one match by fall, two by technical fall and two by decision. He beat another defending state champion, Hempfield's Sam Krivus, by a 7-0 decision in the final.
Kemerer, competing at 138 pounds, won once by fall, once by technical fall and three times by decision. He defeated Vincenzo Joseph of Central Catholic, 3-2, in the final.
Shields captured the 152-pound title in overtime, beating Cole Walter of Mifflinburg, 3-1. He also won once by decision, twice by major decision and once by technical fall.
Only Maruca fell in the final, losing, 13-7, to star Kittanning wrestler Jason Nolf. In his other four matches, Maruca won once by technical fall, once by major decision and twice by decision.
“It was Nolf's closest match of the year,” Mausser said. “I'm sure Josh would have wanted to win that one, but still I thought he wrestled pretty well. He didn't quit the entire match, when it seems a lot of guys are quitting on (Nolf) when they're wrestling him. He just kept battling with him. It was nice to see that.”
Mausser said Brandon Yant, who took fifth place at 160 pounds, also wrestled a strong tournament. He defeated No. 1 seed Jake Henson in the championship bracket quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Logan Shurina in the fifth-place match. He also beat No. 8 seed Garrett Zuver of Saegertown during the tournament.
“He was an unseeded wrestler and beat three of the top seeds,” Mausser said. “ ... He had a great tournament.”
Franklin Regional will resume section competition with a home match against Kiski Area at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a WPIAL title and to win a state title as a team, and that's what we're just building on, just getting guys matches,” Mausser said. “We get a lot of our extra guys matches in some of the opther dual meets early in the year, and then in tournaments get our guys prepared. Everybody's had some sort of match experience coming into our section play here at the end of the year.”