Area wrestlers have a shot at an unexpected run

There’s usually someone who doesn’t care about what the experts are saying and makes an unexpected run through their weight class at the PIAA Championships.

Two years ago, Tyrone’s Dylan Weston finished fourth at the Southwest Regional, but he advanced to the semifinals at the state tournament, and he was a takedown call away from making the finals in a 3-2 loss to Hughesville’s Kyle Barnes. Weston suffered a couple more close losses and finished sixth.

Last year, Bedford’s Ryan Easter finished second at the regional tournament for the third time, but he made it to the semis, where I picked him to lose, but he pounded South Side Beaver’s Nathan Reckner, 9-2, to make the finals, where he ran into a buzzsaw in Bethlehem Catholic’s Darian Cruz and lost, 16-4.

Can somebody from the area make a run like that this year? Definitely.

Heck, Easter, who hasn’t been at his best in the postseason, could make another run. Easter, who already has three state medals, said after the regional tournament that the pressure was off of him now that he made in to Hershey.

That might translate into him wrestling better and possibly going on a roll, although he could tangle with Hanover’s Ian Brown, the third-placer at the weight last year, in the quarterfinals and Lake Lehman’s Austin Harry, who lost to Brown in the third-place bout, in the semifinals. Wins there would probably set him up for a finals bout against South Fayette’s Mike Carr, who beat Easter in the Thomas Subaru finals.

But, in making my state tournament predictions, I didn’t pick Easter to make the finals. The pick here is Carr over Brown.

Easter isn’t the only one who could make such a run. His teammates Johnathan Gabriel (113) and Garrett Thomas (138) could, although I don’t know how serious Gabriel’s injury was that kept him from wrestling in the third-place bout at regionals.

The area’s three 106-pounders – Central Cambria’s unbeaten Max Murin, Penn Cambria’s Nolan Link and Chestnut Ridge’s Aaron Burkett – are all capable of making deep runs.

The Buttry brothers of Ridge, Conner (182) and Austin (285), Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff (126), Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver (145), Cambria Heights’ Levi Neibauer (160) are all possible semifinalists at their weights.

It looks like Huntingdon’s Collin Glorioso will have to make his run from the consolations in order to get back to the third-place bout. He opens with Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Karam, the returning state runner-up who beat Glorioso, 11-0, in the semifinals last season.

I haven’t picked anybody from the area to make the finals, but anything can happen in Hershey, and often does.

As for the team race, Bethlehem Catholic should win convincingly, but the three-wrestler contingents from Huntingdon, Ridge and Bedford could be in the top 10 by the end of the tournament.

Well, have to get some sleep for those 9 a.m. starts. Here’s the rest of the picks:

106 POUNDS: Finalists: Sammy Hepler, Tri Valley vs. John Pipa, Bishop McDevitt. Champion: Pipa. Comment: Hepler beat Ridge’s Aaron Burkett, 11-0, in the Thomas finals, and then Pipa beat Hepler in the regional finals.

113 POUNDS: Finalists: Luke Karam, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Austin Griffiths, Southmoreland. Champion: Karam. Comment: If he’s healthy, Bedford’s Johnathan Gabriel could meet Griffiths in semifinals.

120 POUNDS: Finalists: George Phillippi, Derry Area vs. Korbin Myers, Boiling Springs. Champion: Phillippi. Comment: Phillippi beat Myers in the tiebreaker in last year’s semifinals.

126 POUNDS: Finalists: Zeke Moisey, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Patrick Dewitt, Valley. Champion: Moisey. Comment: Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff could face Dewitt in an interesting semifinal,

132 POUNDS: Finalists: Ian Brown, Hanover vs. Mike Carr, South Fayette. Champion: Carr. Comment: Carr has been a driving force at 132 all season. Yeah, I couldn’t resist.

138 POUNDS: Finalists: Brock Zacherl, Brookville vs. Kent Lane, Southern Columbia. Champion: Zacherl. Comment: Bedford’s Garrett Thomas could get Zacherl in semifinals.

145 POUNDS: Finalists: Levi Stoyer, Reynolds vs. Jason Nolf, Kittanning. Champion: Stoyer. Comment: Stoyer has to get through a rugged bracket, and it starts with Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver, whose 8-5 loss to the Reynolds wrestler at PIAA Duals was his first loss.

152 POUNDS: Finalists: Steve Edwards, Burrell vs. Andrew Doak, Blairsville. Champion: Edwards. Comment: Doak has a tough bracket, but he can get a rematch with Edwards if he wrestles well.

160 POUNDS: Finalists: Ryan Preisch, Milton vs. Kyle Bova, Coudersport. Champion: Preisch. Comment: Preisch finished third at 152 last year, while Bova took second, but they didn’t wrestle.

170 POUNDS: Finalists: Nick Cortopassi, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Evan Delong, Kane. Champion: Delong. Comment: Delong made a nice run to the finals last year before falling to Forest Hills’ Cody Law, 5-3.

182 POUNDS: Finalists: Stephen Loiseau, Lancaster Catholic vs. Terrell Fields, Valley. Champion: Loiseau. Comment: Loiseau beat Fields, 1-0, in the 182-pound fifth-place bout last year.

195 POUNDS: Finalists: Tristan Sponseller, Bermudian Springs vs. James Bennett, HOPE For Hyndman. Champion: Sponseller. Comment: If Tyrone’s Jared Beckwith can get past Corry’s returning qualifier Morris in the first round, he could get a rematch with Bennett.

220 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Temple, Avella vs. Buzzy Maines, West Branch. Champion: Temple. Comment: Like last week, Maines will have to get through Kittanning sophomore Robb for a rematch with Temple.

285 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Beistel, Southmoreland vs. Sam Breese, Lakeview. Champion: Breese. Comment: Breese and Burrell’s Allan Beattie will probably come down to an overtime tiebreaker in the semis.

OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Jason Nolf, Kittanning.

TEAM CHAMPION: Bethlehem Catholic. Comment: Not quite a rout as Franklin Regional in Class AAA, but pretty comfortable.

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 He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.