Kiski Area's Levett looks to foil PIAA opponents' perfect seasons
HERSHEY — Kiski Area's Noah Levett went to the 2016 PIAA Class AAA individual championships unsure of whether he possessed the talent to place in the state's top eight.
A year later, Levett wonders if he has the gifts to spoil one of the greatest stories in the state's high school wrestling history.
With a 4-3 win in the quarterfinals on Friday at the Giant Center, Kiski Area's junior 126-pounder secured a spot in Saturday's semifinals, which will begin at 9 a.m. That's when Levett (40-7) will meet Exeter Township senior Austin DeSanto (51-0), a 2016 PIAA finalist who also placed fifth as a sophomore. And with a win, Levett likely will find a fourth match of the season against Franklin Regional senior Spencer Lee, who hopes to finish his high school career with four PIAA titles and a 145-0 record.
Class AAA finals and medal matches start at 7 p.m. Saturday. Levett and junior heavyweight Isaac Reid (42-5), a second-time PIAA semifinalist, remain in contention for titles, while sophomore 106-pounder Darren Miller (44-4), certain to place in the state's top eight, will see how high he can climb up the medal stand. Kiski Area senior 145-pounder Joey Blumer and sophomore 138-pounder Cam Connor each came up one win short of placing.
"When the brackets were released, I was pretty happy and satisfied with my spot," said Levett, who placed sixth in the state in 2016 and guaranteed himself a second state medal when he edged East Stroudsburg South sophomore Patrick Gould, 4-3, in the quarterfinals. "I got a pretty solid road to the semis. I knew it was possible.
"Last year, I didn't really honestly come in thinking I could place. I kind of just wrestled really good and placed. This year, I kind of had the expectations to come here and at least take top four. Making it to the semis just betters my chances and kind of takes pressure off of you."
Leave it to Levett to shrug about the pressure involved with matches against world-class wrestlers. It's easy to see grasp how the junior became so cool about such circumstances, though: In addition to a history with Lee that dates back to last season, Levett also wrestled Jefferson-Morgan junior Gavin Teasdale, another grappler with a perfect high school record, in the Eastern Area Invitational in early December.
Lee and Teasdale are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the country at 126 pounds by Intermat. DeSanto is ranked fourth.
"He has moves, but he kind of just sticks to one in particular, and he doesn't really wrestle top or bottom," Levett said of DeSanto. "If I can ride him out and get my point on bottom, then I feel like my neutral game is easily as good as his. … I feel like I can give him a pretty solid match and maybe pull the win out. He's a good wrestler though."
Levett handed the same "good wrestler" respect to Lee.
"If I get to wrestle him again, that means I made the finals, which means top two," Levett said. "So if I get to wrestle him, I'll be happy, but I won't be satisfied. I'll still go out there and try to do what I can, maybe pull a win out."
Reid's return to the PIAA semifinals entailed a 3-1 tiebreaker win over Erie Cathedral Prep senior Kawaun DeBoe in the quarterfinals. Their meeting served as a rematch — they clashed in the PIAA team tournament's third-place match, and Reid won, 1-0.
"I've been training so hard that it doesn't even matter anymore," Reid said of his grinding wins over DeBoe. "My lungs feel great. … I'd like to have opened up more, but I know he's big, and he has good hips. I'll be working on it this offseason. But right now, I'm here, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to just win."
Nothing but familiar opponents remain in Reid's way of a state title.
The junior gets Montour senior Roman Macek (37-2) in the semifinals. When they met in the WPIAL semifinals, Reid prevailed, 6-5.
All five of Reid's losses this season came against the heavyweights left on the other side of the state bracket. Canon-McMillan senior Brendan Furman has won seven of his last eight against Reid. And Bethlehem Catholic senior Niko Camacho beat Reid, 3-2, in the PIAA team tournament.
Just minutes after Reid wrapped up his quarterfinal-round win, Miller ensured his spot on the medal stand with a first-period pin in a third-round consolation bout. He'll start Saturday with a match against WPIAL champion and Norwin freshman Kurtis Phipps.
"It gave me relief that I'm going to place this year," said Miller, who lost in the PIAA first round Thursday and also dropped a quarterfinal-round bout in the WPIAL tournament before recovering to take third.
"I just had to take the hard route, I guess."
Blumer's exit proved particularly brutal, as he followed up a 4-2 overtime loss to unbeaten Bellefonte senior Brock Port in the quarterfinals with a last-second 6-4 loss in the consolation bracket to Big Spring senior Tucker Brough.
Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.