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Brandt has good attitude going into Hershey

March 7, 2012
By Todd Irwin ( , The Altoona Mirror

There's all kinds of approaches wrestlers use to get ready for Hershey, but I like T.J. Brandt's attitude going into the PIAA Class AAA Championships.

When I talked to the Altoona 126-pounder Sunday night, he hadn't looked at the state pairings yet, but when he was asked about a potential quarterfinal bout against Blue Mountain returning state champion Corey Keener, his answer was one I've heard before from him.

"It really doesn't matter who I wrestle," Brandt said. "I have to wrestle my match and attack from all positions. It wouldn't matter if I had to wrestle Cael Sanderson or somebody who hasn't wrestled before. I have to prepare the same way."

Not sure if most would have the same approach if they were to wrestle Penn State's coach, who was an Olympic gold medalist who went undefeated in college, or if the approach would matter, but the positive nature of Brandt's thinking is a good thing going into a rugged tournament like this.

Is it possible for Brandt to beat Keener and go on to win a state title? It's possible. There's always upsets that leave fans, coaches and media shaking their heads.

Brandt, a state Greco-Roman champion, has a good shot at placing, but I don't think he'll win a state title. Keener is my pick over Central Dauphin's Tyson Dippery in my PIAA Class AAA Championships predictions.

What will help Brandt is this is third appearance at the Giant Center, so he shouldn't be in awe of anything. So many wrestlers are in awe, and it affects their wrestling.

The same is true with Philipsburg-Osceola's Logan Walstrom, who is wrestling in Hershey for the second time. He also also has a returning state champion in his 145-pound bracket in Easton's unbeaten Mitchell Minotti, but Walstrom will have to be on his game to get to the semifinals to face a potential bout with Minotti.

Minotti should reach the finals again and beat Chambersburg's Garett Hammond.

Hollidaysburg 106-pounder Damian Huff is making his first trip to Hershey, and while he's earned the trip by battling through a loaded weight class at districts and regionals, it's not very likely he'll make the finals.

But, that's why they actually wrestle. There are favorites at every weight, but they have to perform on the mat to get to the finals.

The one final I'm looking forward to is at 160, where I'm predicting Central Mountain state champion Brian Brill meeting up with Kennard Dale's sophomore phenom and returning champ Chance Marsteller. Marsteller was called the LeBron James of wrestling before he even got to the high school level last season.

The only thing is Marsteller actually won last year.

Anyway, I'm leaning toward Marsteller over Brill, and he should be voted the Outstanding Wrestler.

The team race should come down to state powers Canon-McMillan and Central Dauphin, but I'm giving the edge to C-M.

Here's the rest of my picks, which, as usual, were extremely hard to make:

106 POUNDS: Finalists: Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional vs. Zach Fuentes, Norristown. Champion: Kemerer. Comment: Cathedral Prep's Gromacki could meet returning runner-up Lizak in semifinals.

113 POUNDS: Finalists: Billy Rappo, Council Rock South vs. Sam Krivus, Hempfield Area. Champion: Rappo. Comment: Anybody out of bottom bracket could take on returning champ Rappo.

120 POUNDS: Finalists: Conner Schram, Canon-McMillan vs. Godwin Nyama, Brashear. Champion: Schram. Comment: What a loaded weight class. Bellefonte's Traxler could make it a regional rematch.

126 POUNDS: Finalists: Corey Keener, Blue Mountain vs. Tyson Dippery, Central Dauphin. Champion: Keener. Comment: Canon-McMillan's Shorts can't be counted out in bottom bracket.

132 POUNDS: Finalists: Shyheim Brown, Central Dauphin vs. Mackenzie McGuire, Upper St. Clair. Champion: McGuire. Comment: Interesting prelim bout between Brown and Easton's Rizzolino.

138 POUNDS: Finalists: Steve Spearman, McDowell vs. Jason Stephen, Northampton. Champion: Spearman. Comment: Big semifinal between Spearman and C-M's Chisko will decide champion.

145 POUNDS: Finalists: Garett Hammond, Chambersburg vs. Mitchell Minotti, Easton. Champion: Minotti. Comment: Hammond lost in last year's 135-pound finals to Solanco's Dan Neff.

152 POUNDS: Finalists: Garrett Peppelman, Central Dauphin vs. Cole Sheptock, Northampton. Champion: Peppelman. Comment: No, Central Dauphin hasn't run out of Peppelmans.

160 POUNDS: Finalists:Brian Brill, Central Mountain vs. Chance Marsteller, Kennard Dale. Champion: Marsteller. Comment: Hard to believe either of these guys losing, but somebody has to.

170 POUNDS: Finalists: Cody Wiercioch, Canon-McMillan vs. Marc Wagner, Delaware Valley. Champion: Wiercioch. Comment: BEA's Taylor will meet Wiercioch in quarterfinals.

182 POUNDS: Finalists:Khlique Harris, McDowell vs. Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area. Champion: McCutcheon. Comment: Westmont Hilltop's Burnheimer could make it a regional finals rematch.

195 POUNDS: Finalists: Perry Hills, Central Catholic vs. Francis Stover, Easton. Champion: Hills. Comment: DuBois' Hanna has potential to make it to finals in bottom bracket.

220 POUNDS: Finalists:Tyson Searer, Mifflin County vs. Tom Haines, Solanco. Champion: Haines. Comment: Haines won a state title last year as an impressive freshman.

285 POUNDS: Finalists: Dawson Peck, Chambersburg vs. Averee Robinson, Susquehanna Township. Champion: Robinson. Comment: I know, Peck beat Robinson at regionals, but Robinson beat Peck in 2011 state finals.

OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Chance Martsteller, Kenard Dale.

TEAM CHAMPION: Canon-McMillan. Comment: Will come down to the very end with Central Dauphin.

PREDICTION RECORD: 94 out of 148 situations overall, 19 out of 29 situations in Northwest Regional Class AAA, 17 out of 29 in Southwest Regional Class AA.

Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at tirwin He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.

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