Three area top seeds begin quest
By Todd Irwin
For the Mirror
Central Cambria’s Max Murin (138), Chestnut Ridge’s Justin McCoy (145) and Huntingdon returning state champion Jacob Oliver (170) are all ranked No. 1 at their weights going into the PIAAA Class 2A Championships.
Moshannon Valley’s second-ranked Larry Brown, Ridge’s third-ranked Morgan Deremer and Huntingdon’s fourth-ranked Seth Baney are vying for gold in a wide-open 160. Throw Ridge’s third-ranked Jared McGill (170) and Central’s fifth-ranked Brock Biddle (152) into the mix, and it could be a very productive state tournament for area wrestlers.
The tournament begins at 9 this morning the Giant Center in Hershey with a short preliminary round, followed by a first round. A win in the first round means wrestlers are done until Friday. A loss means they will have to wrestle in the consolations at 1:15.
Twenty-one area wrestlers will be looking to place in the top eight, if not win a gold medal. Everett has four of them in Garret Cornell (113), Liam Flaherty (132), Gavin Wills (170) and Kyle Peterson (285).
Mo Valley’s Alex Richner (126) and Jon Dale (152), Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown (160) and Jarred Stoy (170), Ridge’s Southwest Regional champ Dylan Williams (113), Huntingdon’s Landon Fisher (220), Cambria Heights’ Allen Simmons (third, 106), Central’s Jared Smith (195) and Central Cambria’s Nate Martin (285) will also wrestle in Hershey.
Oliver is looking for his second straight title and his fourth state medal.
“Jake is going to take one match at a time,” Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut said. “Pennsylvania is a tough wrestling state, obviously, and there are a lot of quality kids at his weight. He’s not going to look any further than the guy he has next. He’s looking forward to getting down there and wrestling.”
Murin, a returning runner-up is confidently aiming for his second gold, his third trip to the finals and his fourth state medal. Reynolds’ 2015 state champ Cole Matthews is in the other bracket.
“Matthews and (Tri-Valley’s Sammy) Hepler on the other side are both pretty tough,” Murin said. “Hopefully I get the winner of those two, and I’d like to try to score a lot of points on them in the finals. “
“He’s going in Max,” Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen said. “He doesn’t care where he stands. He doesn’t care who he goes against. He’s just on a total mission. He’s made it very personal. He wants it.”
McCoy, a junior, has already placed twice at states. He is ranked ahead of Bishop McDevitt’s returning runner-up John Pipa, whom McCoy has beaten this year, 8-7, but Pipa is seeded No. 1 at the weight.
“I just hope he goes out and does what he’s been doing all year,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “He’s beaten a lot of these guys in close matches, so every match is going to be a challenge. He’s put himself in the position if he goes out, wrestles like he has been, he should have a good shot at it. I hope he’s on his A game. He’s a boy who deserves it, for sure, and I’d love to see him achieve his goal.”
Deremer, a returning placer, had to injury default to Brown in the Southwest Regional finals after his knee hit the concrete in overtime. Lazor said the week off was beneficial for Deremer.
“He’s doing well,” Lazor said. “We gave him last week off, and then we banged him out the last two days to test how he’s doing. He’s moving well, and I’m feeling good about him.”
Brown is ranked second behind Northern Lehigh’s Ryan Farber, whom the Black Knight lost to in last year’s tournament while suffering a broken foot. Wyalusing’s Creighton Edsell is the top seed, but his one loss came to returning medalist Baney, who pinned him.
“There are a lot of quality kids at 160 pounds, and Seth has wrestled several of them,” Mykut said. “He’s lost some close matches to Deremer and Brown, but he’s also beaten some guys in that bracket. The Edsell kid is seeded No. 1, and his only loss is to Seth. It’s one of the weight classes this is wide open, and the guy that wins is the guy that has the hottest hand. We’re hoping that’s us.”
McGill, a returning medalist, gave Oliver one of his toughest battles of the season in a 5-3 Oliver win in the regional finals.
“McGill is a fighter, a scrapper,” Lazor said. “I expect him to always be solid. There’s a kid who I never worry about freezing in any sense of the word. He has a tough road to go. He has to beat two No. 1s just to get to the finals to get another crack at Oliver, but he loves to battle.”
Lazor says his wrestlers are looking forward to the tournament, and big tournament experience should help them.
“It’s the most exciting time of the year from the individual aspect,” he said. “You’ve got the kids that have been doing the extra things, busting their tail and wanting to make a name for themselves. They’re giving themselves that opportunity this week.
“I think a lot of the guys we have going down, the experience of big tournaments is a plus to them. Besides the state duals, they have competed in national tournaments as youths, so they’re used to the big stage. If you do get to the final, it’s the ‘this is something I’ve talked about since I was a little kid’ thing, so you’ve got to fight that pressure a little bit.”
“I tell you what, this is what it’s all about,” Mykut said. “Our kids are really excited. We’ve had two weeks off, basically, so they’re kind of chomping at the bit to get things going.”
For injured and tired wrestlers, the extra time off between regionals and states has been an added bonus.
“Usually I would not be in favor of this week off,” Lazor said, “but we’ve wrestled every weekend since January 15. So, we were on quite a grind. I’m happy about having a week off this year. I thought it suited us well.”
“It was beneficial for me,” Murin said. “I was a little banged up, but I’m feeling good right now, and it definitely helped me out. I feel like I haven’t wrestled in forever.”