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Tasser, Garcia set for showdown?

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

CANONSBURG -- The WPIAL Class AAA championships begin today at 6 p.m. at Canon McMillan. If the ranked wrestlers hold chalk, the road to the 171-pound championship will go through the Mid-Mon Valley.

Belle Vernon Area's P.J. Tasser and Ringgold's Fred Garcia are ranked one-two in the class.

Tasser will open against the winner of the pigtail match between Fox Chapel's Stefano Geary and Franklin Regional's Cory Shields with Garcia getting the winner between North Allegheny's Seb Fischer and Latrobe's Jim Ritenour.

If Tasser and Garcia both win three matches in the winner's bracket, they will square off for the title.

BVA coach Mel Gray and Ringgold mat mentor Luke Smith said their guys are not looking past their respective opening matches.

"P.J. is not looking past anyone," Gray said. "You have to win the first one to advance. He has been having great practices and is ready to go."

"I told Freddie to deal with it one match at a time," Smith said. "I told him he has to win three matches to qualify."

The pair have only wrestled once with Tasser defeating Garcia last year, 3-1, to advance to the round of third and fourth place consolations at last year's WPIAL championships.

Gray and Smith both say 171 is loaded.

"There will be no pushovers," Gray said. "This bracket is stacked with really good wrestlers."

"The bracket is a meat grinder," Smith said. "There are at least six guys in the weight class who can realistically win it."

The only other area wrestler ranked number one is Ringgold's 189-pounder Todd Miller. He will face the winner of the pigtail match between Mt. Lebanon's J.T. Buda and Kiski's Jared Atchison

"I expected Todd to be ranked number one," Smith said. "I felt he had a good shot but he still has to wrestle."

Elizabeth Forward and Ringgold top the area contingent with eight and seven wrestlers, respectively.

Heavyweight Ben Hoover is the Warriors' best hope with a third ranking. Hoover will open against Mt. Lebanon's Steve Riggs or Indiana's Jordan Kucinski.

Other Warriors who will take part include Jake Diana (119), Josh Etzel (135), Cameron Fine (145), Darin Lyles (152), Steve Thorton (171) Damon Thaxton (189) and Roscoe Bright (215).

Joining Garcia and Miller from Ringgold are Jeremy Menzer (135), Brant Duda (140), Dave Vibostak (145), Neal Rands (215) and Chris Clark (285).

"I want the guys to go in and wrestle like they know how," Smith said. "I told them to not get caught up in the hype of championship week and the guys seem poised and ready to go."

Rounding out the BVA trio are advanced are Fa Ya Pham (103) and Dante Altemara (112).

"All three of our guys have been working hard," Gray said. "Fa is an amazing story because he qualified and this is his first year.

"Dante has worked hard and made improvements and strides and P.J. has really worked hard to make his way."

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