District Duals Recap
District dual championships wrapped up this past weekend to set the state dual championship brackets in both AAA and AA action. Upsets ruled the day across Pennsylvania with Nazareth making the most noise by knocking off defending PIAA AAA team champs Bethlehem Catholic, 33-24, in the District XI finals and avenging a 40-20 BECA victory in the East Penn Conference finals two weeks prior. Nazareth was aided in victory by the return from injury of stellar freshman Andrew Cerniglia at 106, Sean Pierson turning the tables with a victory over Kenny Herrmann at 113, and key victories by Zach Keifer (182) and Tucker Klump (220). Bethlehem Catholic kept their hopes for a sixth PIAA title in seven years alive by defeating Northampton, 46-14, in the true second match.
In District 1, Council Rock South defeated three-time defending district champion Boyertown, 38-24, to capture their first district title since 2011. Zack Trampe got momentum on the Golden Hawk’s side with a 15-7 major decision over Boyertown’s Jake Campbell in a match-up of two of PA’s top 132lb wrestlers and South did a nice job of limiting bonus points through the meat of the Boyertown lineup. Boyertown rallied from an early 17-3 deficit to take a 20-17 lead before a critical decision by Tyler Gettman (220) and pins by Joe Doyle and Max Mendez sealed the victory.
Cedar Cliff made a surprising run to the District 3 finals knocking off perennial state powers Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin, before falling to second seed Exeter, 32-27, in the championship match. Following a Cedar Cliff pin to open the match at 126, Exeter went on a 32-0 run that included taking three critical swing-matches with decisions by Justin Landis (138), Tyler Harkness (160) and Nolan Buck (195). Central Dauphin topped Cumberland Valley, 32-31, in a thrilling third place match to secure a place in the state dual bracket.
In WPIAL action, three of the top teams in the state held serve as Kiski Area, Canon-McMillan and North Allegheny all advanced to the state tournament. Kiski continued their impressive season by defeating Canon-Mac, 41-21, in the finals to capture their first District 7 title in 14 years. The Starr brothers, Danny (195) and Tom (220), each recorded pins to break open a tie match and Kiski closed the deal with four straight victories including Noah Levett’s 3-1 decision over Matt O’Block at 132 and Cam Connor topping Tim Hritsko in overtime at 138. North Allegheny defeated Franklin Regional in the consolation finals to grab the last spot to advance.
Other AAA title winners were Hazelton (District 2), Central Mountain (District 6), Carrick (District 8), Dubois (District 9), Erie Cathedral Prep (District 10) and Father Judge (District 12)
Across the state AA action went “all chalk” as the top four small-school teams in the state – Reynolds (District 10), Brookville (District 9), Saucon Valley (District XI) and Southern Columbia (District 4) – won district titles. Only Southern Columbia was challenged along the way with the Tigers holding off rival Wyalusing, 35-30, in a tight district semifinal match-up. In District 7, Burrell won its 11th consecutive WPIAL team title with a 44-27 victory over Freedom. Other AA champs were Honesdale (District 2), Bishop McDevitt-Harrisburg (District 3), Chestnut Ridge (District 5), Huntingdon (District 6) and Bishop McDevitt-Wyncote (District 12)
AAA State Duals Preview
Nazareth, Bethlehem Catholic, and Kiski are the top three teams heading into state action with Nazareth having the clearest path to the finals by virtue of their placement in the top half of the bracket. BECA and Kiski are poised for a quarterfinal match-up that should determine who meets the Blue Eagles for the crown.
The top quarter of the state bracket contains three of the top 10 PIAA teams as Council Rock South and Canon-McMillan face off in the opening round with the victor likely to see Erie Cathedral Prep in the quarterfinals. South and Canon-Mac is the top match-up of the first round and the disc flip may decide who advances. Another toss-up is likely in the next round as Cathedral Prep is a very solid dual squad. Any of the three teams could advance to the semifinals, although a loss there may bring the Kiski/BECA loser in the consolations.
Nazareth is a heavy favorite to advance out of the second quarter to the semifinals over Owen J. Roberts and likely quarterfinal opponent Cedar Cliff. Nazareth has a formidable dual lineup led by Sammy Sasso and Travis Stefanik. They also feature eight wrestlers that are likely to qualify for the individual state tournament.
The top quarter of the bottom half contains Bethlehem Catholic and Kiski, although Kiski could be tested by a battle-hardened Central Dauphin squad in the opening round. Despite their loss to Nazareth, many see BECA as the favorite to capture the state title, but Kiski presents a potential problem with their strength in the upper weights. They could see their way to a close victory if they get the right match-ups. Kiski’s Isaac Reid and Niko Camacho of BECA should meet in a battle of two of the nation’s top 285s.
The bottom quarter is the weakest of the bracket with North Allegheny a slight favorite to advance to the semifinals over the winner of an interesting Exeter/Boyertown match-up in the opening round.
2. Bethlehem Catholic
3. Kiski Area
4. North Allegheny
AA State Duals Preview
Reynolds is the favorite to take the crown in AA, with defending champions Brookville and Southern Columbia ready to step up as the top contenders should the Raiders falter.
Saucon Valley has a strong dual squad that should emerge from a quarter that includes Line Mountain and Burrell to meet Reynolds in the semifinals, but the Panthers don’t have the firepower up and down the lineup that the nationally ranked Raider squad has. The loser of this semifinal faces a test in the consolations with either Brookville or Southern Columbia looming.
The bottom of the bracket should prove to be the more exciting of the two halves with a potential Brookville/Southern Columbia quarterfinal. The recent addition of fab freshman Gage Garcia to the youthful Southern Columbia lineup could tip the scales in the Tigers favor, and advance them to the semifinals to likely face the Chestnut Ridge/Bishop McDevitt (District 3) winner.
2. Southern Columbia
3. Saucon Valley