The second week of December marked the beginning of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) wrestling season and most of the high schools in PA were competing on opening weekend. All of the top ten teams were in action except sixth-ranked Northampton.
Third-ranked Bethlehem Catholic staked their claim as the top team in PA by finishing fifth at the Ironman as the top four teams in the Keystone State headed to Ohio on opening weekend. The Golden Hawks were led by three finalists and two champs, Mikey Labriola (170) and Niko Camacho (285). Number two Malvern Prep was right on their heels finishing sixth behind Michael Beard (182, Champ), Ryan Karoly (170, 2nd) and Seth Janney (285, 4th). Fourth-ranked Nazareth put two in the finals to narrowly edge number one Wyoming Seminary for ninth. Top-ranked Sem rounded out the top ten at Ironman, as the Blue Knights face a battle for the top spot in PA, now that heavyweight Mansur Abdul-Malik is only eligible for post-grad competition. Ninth-ranked Reynolds finished 16th at the Ironman with a finalist (Cole Matthews, 138) and two medalists, Gavin Wilkerson (170, 8th) and Joel Liese (182, 7th).
Pennsylvania natives claimed six Ironman titles and 10 wrestlers reached the championship finals. At 120, number one ranked PA freshman Beau Bartlett (Wyoming Seminary) topped Ryan Anderson, 6-4. BECA’s Anderson used a stalling point and a late escape to force overtime, but Bartlett claimed the win with his second takedown of the match in sudden victory. Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee (126) claimed his third Ironman title with a 7-3 victory over a game Joey Silva (Lake Highland Prep, FL) to continue his undefeated career. At 138, Matthews fell in a wild scramble-fest to Moses Guillen (Perry, OH), 7-5 in sudden victory. Sammy Sasso (Nazareth) was dominant in his march to the 145lb title, recording bonus in all five of his victories, including a fall in the finals over Josiah Rider (Grand Junction, CO). 170lbs featured the second all-PA match-up as Labriola bested Karoly 6-3, followed by another all-PA contest at 182 with Beard giving a dominant performance in a 17-9 major decision of Travis Stefanik (Nazareth). Camacho claimed his title with a 3-2 decision over Trenton Lieurance (Broken Arrow, OK) after defeating Janney 5-3 in the semifinals.
Cumberland Valley Kick-Off Classic
Host Cumberland Valley held off Easton, 180-178, to win the Kick-Off Classic despite crowning only one champion, Quentin Milliken at 170. Austin Desanto (Exeter) blitzed a loaded field at 132 and bested three-time state medalist Chandler Olson in the final, 6-3. Olson used a late takedown to secure a semifinal victory over Wyatt Long (Beast 3rd, Escape the Rock 2nd) to reach the finals. Easton placed ten wrestlers including impressive freshman champ Jon Miers (126). PA top five freshman Gerrit Nijenhuis opened up his high school career with a title by defeating nationally ranked Riley Palmer (Council Rock South), 8-3, in the semis and Will Kaldes (Cumberland Valley), by fall, in the finals.
At 120, former Fargo finalist Matty Parker (Pennridge) and Canon-Mac’s Logan Macri faced off in the finals for the second year in a row, with Parker repeating his victory from last season, 5-1. Nationally ranked wrestlers Zack Trampe (Council Rock South, 138), John Pipa (Bishop McDevitt, 145), Josh Stillings (Pennridge, 160), Cole Nye (Bishop McDevitt, 195), Joe Doyle (Council Rock South, 195) and Brendan Furman (Canon-McMillan, 285) all dominated their way to championships. Bishop McDevitt, eighth-ranked Canon-McMillan and #10 Council Rock South rounded out the top five in a loaded field.
Number seven Kiski Area dominated the field outscoring fifth-ranked North Allegheny 298 to 216.5 with four individual champions and eight finalists. Cam Connor (138), Joey Blumer (145), Tom Starr (220) and Isaac Reid (285) all won titles as the Cavalier’s made a statement about District VII supremacy to North Allegheny, whose lineup remains unsettled in the early going as they await a PIAA ruling on Eric Hong’s eligibility and they sort through some injuries.
Two highly regarded freshmen won titles as Kurtis Phipps (Norwin, 106) secured a 4-2 victory over Jordan Watters (West Allegheny), and Dubois’ Ed Scott won a title at 120 with a major decision. At 113, North Allegheny’s Jacob Downing won a title in convincing fashion with a fall over tough Kiski sophomore Darren Miller. 126 and 132 were both strong weight classes and Gavin Teasdale (Jefferson-Morgan, 126) outscored PA state medalist Noah Levett (Kiski), 22-10, while Kolby Ho of Dubois downed Luke Landefeld (North Allegheny), 11-5. Nationally ranked wrestlers Cam Coy (Penn-Trafford, 152), Nino Bonnacorsi (Bethel Park, 182) and Jake Woodley (North Allegheny, 195) all won titles in impressive fashion.
Central Dauphin made a strong push for rankings consideration, winning the Bullet Invitational going away while crowning seven champions.
Despite only crowning one champion (Geo Barzona, 120) Central Mountain won the Top Hat over Line Mountain.
North Hills won Chartiers-Houston and crowned three champs. The Indian’s top freshman, Sammy Hillegas, grabbed a title with four first period pins.
Boyertown went 5-0 to win the Bear Duals with a 44-23 victory over Owen J. Roberts in the championship match. Luke Werner (Liberty, 120) was named outstanding wrestler with five falls.
Defending AA state champion Brookville swept all five matches to take the Sheetz-Greenville Classic. State medalists Gavin Park (126) and Caleb Hetrick (160), as well as state qualifiers Noah Cieleski (195) and Tyler Cook (220) all went undefeated for the Blue Raiders.
Pope John Paul nationally ranked wrestler, Ryan Vulakh, will have an eligibility hearing on December 14th on his transfer from North Penn.
PA top freshman Gaige Garcia suffered a severe lower leg injury during the Southern Columbia football team’s PIAA state playoff semifinal victory over Ligonier Valley and will miss a significant portion of the wrestling season.
Exeter’s Austin Desanto, who looked strong at 132 at the Kick-Off Classic, stated he will drop to 126 for the postseason, a weight class that may include three-time PA State Champ Spencer Lee.
Upcoming Schedule for Ranked Teams
Beast of the East, 12/17-12/18 (Newark, DE)
#2 Malvern Prep, #3 Bethlehem Catholic, #4 Nazareth, #5 North Allegheny, #6 Northampton, #8 Canon-McMillan, HM-Cumberland Valley, HM-Central Dauphin
King of the Mountain, 12/16-12/17 (Central Mountain, PA)
#10 Council Rock South, HM-Boyertown, HM-Bishop McDevitt
Flo-Excaliber, 12/16-12/17 (Wyoming Seminary, PA)
#1 Wyoming Seminary
North Hills Duals, 12/17 (North Hills, PA)
Canfield Duals, 12/17 (Canfield, OH)
Franklin Regional Duals, 12/17 (Franklin Regional, PA)