Hillegas, Chlebove should have been a finals match
The most anticipated bout of the state tournament was the Class 3A 132-pound semifinal bout between North Hills two-time state champion Sam Hillegas and Northampton two-time state champion Julian Chlebove.
Why were two-time state champions meeting in the semifinals when they could have wrestled in the finals?
The PIAA uses a seeding system that uses the prestige points of a wrestler from state and regional tournaments from the previous year.
Because Chlebove missed all of last season for an undisclosed reason, he didn’t have any prestige points, so he was placed in the same bracket as Hillegas.
Surely the PIAA could have made an exception in this one instance, taken into account the bout would be better off wrestled in the finals and placed Hillegas and Chlebove in opposite brackets.
Instead, they wrestled in the semifinals. There wasn’t a whole lot of action in the bout, which Chlebove won, 2-1.
The championship finals bout was anticlimactic. Chlebove defeated Bethlehem Catholic’s Kenny Herrmann, 6-2, in a rematch of the Northeast Regional finals to win his third title.
Cassar’s win is huge
Penn State captured four individual titles and won the team title at the Big Ten Championships for the first time since 2016 on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Jason Nolf (157), Mark Hall (174), Bo Nickal (197) and Anthony Cassar (285) captured titles for the Nittany Lions.
The biggest of those titles, of course, was Cassar’s stunning 4-3 win over Minnesota’s undefeated freshman phenom Gable Stevenson.
Nobody expected Cassar to beat Stevenson, but the fifth-year senior has been proving people wrong the whole season.
I didn’t expect Cassar, who was a 197-pounder last season, to beat out Nick Nevills for the starting spot at 285 at the beginning of the season, and he did. We didn’t expect him to keep winning and winning and winning.
He has a 25-1 record going into the NCAA Championships, which are set for March 21-23 in Pittsburgh.
Losing by a point, 3-2, in the third period against Stevenson, it appeared Cassar was headed toward a valiant one-point loss. But he took a shot, scored a takedown and shocked everybody watching.
Cassar, who is trying to get a sixth-year of eligibility, has to be considered now among the favorites at the NCAAs.
The Big Ten Network got a treat after Hall won earlier. Hall played Hot Cross Buns on his recorder during his post-bout interview with Shane Sparks.
The performance was part of an agreement with Flo Wrestling that if he won, Flo would donate $400 to Penn State’s THON charity and Hall would donate $100.
It was one of the most unique interviews ever.
Starocci ready for PSU
Cathedral Prep’s Carter Starocci won his second Class 3A title with a 7-1 victory over Mount Lebanon’s Luke Stout in the 182-pound finals bout.
Starocci, who pinned Hollidaysburg’s Mason McCready to win his Northwest Regional title, had two pins and a 16-3 major decision in his three other tournament bouts.
Starocci is a Penn State recruit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked the Lions’ lineup as a freshman next season at 184 or 197 after Shakur Rasheed and Nickal are done. He has the power and skills to win right away.
Rasheed is seeking a sixth year of eligibility, but you never know what is going to happen with those appeals.
Todd Irwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1.