You never know what's going to happen for sure in the PIAA Championships because there are so many factors that go into how a young wrestler will compete in the toughest high school state tournament in the nation. There are questions like:
How will they handle their nerves in the arena?
Will they make mistake that will cost them a win?
Will their injuries hold them back?
Can they rebound from early losses?
Altoona's Cole Manley (106) and D.J. Hollingshead (152), Philipsburg-Osceola's Chris Thompson (113) and Bub Lumadue (182) and Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff (113) will all have to deal with some of those questions.
Even the best wrestlers will have to deal with questions as they work their way through deep brackets. For instance, Kennard-Dale three-time state champion Chance Marsteller should be a lock to win his fourth title, but will a bad back cost him that amazing feat?
Probably not. In fact, I've picked him to win the Outstanding Wrestler award in making my PIAA Class AAA predictions.
But, anything can happen in this tournament. Wrestlers who have won state titles the previous year or have won multiple titles have gotten caught and pinned.
This would seem to finally be Cumberland Valley two-time state runner-up T.C. Warner's year to win a title at 152. The Old Dominion recruit is a pinning machine and very determined to claim gold. Does that mean he can't be beat?
No, he's been beaten twice, once by Central Dauphin's 2012 state champ and 2013 runner-up Garrett Peppelman, 4-3, and another time by Blair Academy's Dylan Milonas, 5-3, in the Beast of the East finals.
And he has to deal with nerves like everyone else.
"Sometimes he thinks too much," CV coach Dave Heckard said about Warner for a Pennsylvania Wrestling Newsmagazine story. "Every time he wrestles, and I don't know if it's a nerves thing or not, but he asks me if he can beat the guy he's wrestling. It's almost comical. I tell him I'll put you on the mat against anybody."
Hollingshead has the ability to make it to the semifinals to face Warner. He'll have to win his preliminary bout against Cedar Cliff's Jake Colello and his quarterfinal, probably against Latrobe's Jake Shaffer, whom the Mountain Lion beat this year, 3-1, to reach the semis.
I'm not picking Hollingshead to pull off the upset, but I'm sure he'll give it his best shot. Next year might be Hollingshead's year to make the finals.
This year, he's certainly capable of placing in the top eight, and if he makes the semis, he'll place at least sixth. All the area Class AAA wrestlers are capable of placing, but they have to be at their best, handle their nerves and go for it.
Should be interesting as always to see how it plays out. These picks are the hardest to make, and my record at the end of the tournament usually reflects that.
Here's the rest of the picks:
106 POUNDS: Finalists: Connor Sheehan, Solanco vs. Devin Brown, Franklin Regional. Champion: Brown. Comment: Winner of first-round matchup between returning runner-up Sheehan and North Hills' returning fourth-placer Gage Curry makes finals.
113 POUNDS: Finalists: Spencer Lee, Franklin Regional vs. Derek Gulotta, Owen J. Roberts. Champion: Lee. Comment: Should be illegal to have Brown and Lee as your first two wrestlers in the lineup.
120 POUNDS: Finalists: Luke Pletcher, Latrobe vs. Ethan Lizak, Parkland. Champion: Pletcher. Comment: Two state champions meeting in the finals should make for some great drama.
126 POUNDS: Finalists: Sam Krivus, Hempfield Area vs. Dalton Macri, Canon-McMillan. Champion: Macri. Comment: Since Macri beat returning state champ Krivus the last time, the edge goes to him.
132 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyler Smith, Franklin Regional vs. Cameron Coy, Penn Trafford. Champion: Smith. Comment: I know, I know, Coy beat returning state champ Smith at regionals, but I have a feeling Smith wins this time.
138 POUNDS: Finalists: Patrick Duggan, Cumberland Valley vs. Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional. Champion: Duggan. Comment: Dugan and Central Catholic's Joseph should be a good one in the semis.
145 POUNDS: Finalists: Joe Galasso, Father Judge vs. Solomon Chishko, Canon-McMillan. Champion: Galasso. Comment: Two state champions meeting again. I'm giving the edge to the unbeaten Galasso.
152 POUNDS: Finalists: T.C. Warner, Cumberland Valley vs. Josh Shields, Franklin Regional. Champion: Warner. Comment: Warner finally wins it, but he'll have to go through Altoona's D.J. Hollingshead to do it.
160 POUNDS: Finalists: Bobby Fehr, Northampton vs. Garett Peppelman, Central Dauphin. Champion: Peppelman. Comment: Peppelman had the good sense to drop to 160 and stay away from Chance Martsteller.
170 POUNDS: Finalists: Kyle Coniker, Pittsburgh Central Catholic vs. Chance Marsteller, Kennard-Dale. Champion: Marsteller. Comment: Suggestion to wrestling fans: Don't boo a four-time state champion.
182 POUNDS: Finalists: Kyle Koser, Northern York vs. Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe. Champion: Zavatsky. Comment: Koser will get big test from Mt. Lebanon's Stout in semifinals.
195 POUNDS: Finalists: Tom Sleigh, DuBois vs. Cole Macek, Montour. Champion: Sleigh. Comment: Hey, a Northwest Regional champ has to win at some point.
220 POUNDS: Finalists: Michael Boykin, Coatesville vs. Jordan Wood, Boyertown. Champion: Boykin. Comment: Boykin beat the returning runner-up Wood at regionals, so going with Boykin.
285 POUNDS: Finalists: Thomas Haines, Solanco vs. Ryan Monk, Dallas. Champion: Haines. Comment: Haines is in a pretty tough bracket, so he will certainly earn his fourth state title.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Chance Marsteller, Kennard-Dale.
TEAM CHAMPION: Franklin Regional. Comment: Just give Regional the team trophy right now.
LAST WEEK'S NORTHWEST REGIONAL RECORD: 15 out of 29 correct situations. LAST WEEK'S SOUTHWEST REGIONAL RECORD: 18 out of 29 correct situations. OVERALL RECORD: 94 out of 148 correct situations.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at email@example.com. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.