Wrestling is one of the most difficult sports to rank the top teams with events being hosted in both dual and individual tournament formats. Tournament results can vary according to the depth of the tournament as a team with a handful of elite wrestlers can excel at tournaments like Ironman and the Beast, while deeper teams might come out on top in a county tournament. Even duals can be deceiving as match ups and the coin toss can decide the result between teams of similar talent. Fortunately, the Keystone State is host to many of the top individual and dual tournaments in the country and PA teams of different affiliations – National Prep, AAA (large school) and AA (small school) compete at multiple events throughout the season. As many as six PA schools may make an appearance in the nation’s top 25 teams and the top four squads have the talent to break into the top ten. Two teams that have appeared in preseason national rankings fail to make this top 10 list, giving credence to the belief that Pennsylvania is the deepest wrestling state in the country.
1. Wyoming Seminary (National Prep)
An early look at the national rankings might portend a dip in performance for the Blue Knights, but they are ready to surprise the pundits. Scott Green has built a powerhouse in northeastern PA and his biggest problem may be squeezing all the talent on the roster into the lineup. Nine new faces could impact the lineup, led by two nationally ranked freshmen in Beau Bartlett and Alfonso Martinez, plus transfers Mosha Schwartz and Mansur Abdul-Malik. Adding that talent to a lineup that returns a World Team member, two Fargo finalists, a National Prep finalist and a former PA state finalist, gives you one of the top teams in the nation. Sem will need some development in the upper weights to approach last season’s finish as the number two team in the nation, but what is scary about this lineup is how young it is.
Key Returnees: Jack Davis (JR, 126, National Prep Champ), Jake Reigel (SR, 132, National Prep Medalist), Carter Tuttle (SO, 138, Fargo Cadet Finalist), Benny Baker (SO, 145, National Prep Finalist), Jake Hendricks (JR, 160, Fargo Cadet Finalist), Justin Hoyle (SO, 113), Will Moss (SR, 138), Michael Doggett (SO, 195), Dillon Ryan (JR, 220)
Key Transfers: Mosha Schwartz (SO, 113, World Team Finalist), Austin Cooley (SO, 182, Fargo Cadet AA), Mansur Abdul-Malik (SR, 285, National Prep 3rd), Darrien Roberts (SO, 170)
Impact Freshmen: Drew Munch (106), Lincoln Heck (106), Beau Bartlett (120), Connor Kievman (126), Alfonso Martinez (138), Kyle Costello (170)
2. Malvern Prep (National Prep)
Malvern has steadily improved under Nate Lautar and finished third at National Preps last year behind Blair Academy (NJ) and Sem. This is the year they announce themselves to the nation and they should finish among the country’s ten best squads. Bolstered by the transfer of three-time Fargo Champ Ryan Karoly, Malvern features a lineup that will excel at top tournaments like Ironman and the Beast. Karoly and National Prep champions Michael Beard and Seth Janney are threats to top the podium in any tournament, and four other Prep medalists return.
Key Returnees: Shane Hanson-Ashworth (SO, 113, National Prep Finalist), Mark Salvatore (JR, 120, National Prep 3rd), PJ Crane (JR, 138, National Prep 3rd), Nick Florschutz (SO, 170, National Prep Medalist), Michael Beard (JR, 182, National Prep Champ), Seth Janney (SR, 285, National Prep Champ), Henry Hague (SO, 126), Chris Hisey (JR, 145), Nick Gueriera (SO, 152), Jeff Klenk (SR, 160), Flynn Leaf (SO, 220)
Key Transfers: Micah Visuwan (JR, 132, PA State Qualifier), Ryan Karoly (JR, 170, Fargo Champ)
Impact Freshmen: Dalton Harkins (106), Connor Quinn (113)
3. Bethlehem Catholic (AAA)
The Golden Hawks have won four PA state titles in the past five years, with the first three at the AA level before moving up to AAA in 2015. Coming into this year they remain the favorite to bring home the AAA state title but will face a challenge from a couple of teams ranked below them. BECA is led by three nationally ranked wrestlers in Mikey Labriola, Niko Camacho and Ryan Anderson, and features a solid lineup which should be formidable in dual settings. Cole Handlovic leads a solid group of incoming freshman that should help a young lineup continue to be among the nation’s best.
Key Returnees: Zach Glenn (SO, 113, PA State Medalist), Ryan Anderson (SO, 120/126), Luke Carty (JR, 132, PA State Qualifier), Mikey Labriola (SR, 170, PA State Champ), Niko Camacho (SR, 285, PA State 4th), Jarred Papcsy (JR, 138), Lucas Frinzi (SO, 145), Joe Kurtz (SO, 152), Ryan Zeiner (SR, 182), Luc Mauro (JR, 160), Jody Crouse (SR, 195), Jase Crouse (SO, 220)
Impact Freshmen: Nate Lackman (106), Kenny Herrmann (106/113), Cole Handlovic (120/126), Tavian Banks (160)
4. Nazareth (AAA)
The Blue Eagles have been building for this for the past few years and look to take a run at the state title. Nazareth is led by nationally ranked wrestlers Sammy Sasso, Travis Stefanik and state runner-up Brock Wilson. One of the top junior high wrestlers in the nation, Andrew Cerniglia joins a lineup that could see over half it’s wrestlers come home with state medals in March. Dave Crowell’s squad will need some veteran upper weights to take a big step if they want to challenge BECA for supremacy in both District XI and PA’s AAA division.
Key Returnees: Sean Pierson (SO, 120), Ryan O’Grady (JR, 126, PA State Qualifier), Trevor Tarsi (SR, 132, PA State Qualifier), Sammy Sasso (JR, 138, Fargo Champ), Brock Wilson (SR, 152, PA State Finalist), Travis Stefanik (SR, 160, FLO National Champ), Cade Wilson (JR, 182, PA State Qualifier), Zack Kiefer (JR, 170), AJ Vlasaty (SR, 195), Tucker Klump (SO, 220), Mohamed Tounkara (SR, 285), Ian Pulli (JR, 145)
Impact Freshmen: Andrew Smith (106), Andrew Cerniglia (113), Nathan Stefanik (145)
5. North Allegheny (AAA)
Sanshiro “Sonny” Abe took the reins at this perennial power in 2015 and North Allegheny should make big leaps up the national rankings this year. The Tigers traded one star wrestler for another in the offseason as PA state medalist Francis Duggan transferred out to Cedar Cliff and National Prep champ Eric Hong left Kiski Prep to rejoin his ex-youth coach Abe. North Allegheny is tough up and down the lineup and could challenge some teams ranked above them in a dual format. Hong, PA State Champ Jake Woodley, and state medalist Jake Hinkson lead a team nobody wants to see across the mat from them at the PA state dual tournament in February.
Key Returnees: Jacob Downing (JR, 113, PA State Qualifier), Luke Landefeld (SR, 126/132, PA State Qualifier), Jake Hinkson (SR, 138/145, 2x State Medalist), AJ Boeh (SR, 145/152, PA State Qualifier), Jake Woodley (SR, 195, PA State Champ), Gabe Falo (JR, 120), Will Baierl (SR, 126/132), Zach Stedeford (SR, 132/138), Jon Hoover (SO, 145/152), Sean Hoover (SR, 160/170), Jacob Fritsch (SR, 182), Derek Divine (SR, 220)
Key Transfers: Eric Hong (SR, 160/170, National Prep Champ)
Impact Freshman: Fred Junko (106)
6. Northampton (AAA)
Northampton is the third District XI team to make an appearance in the rankings as they look to return to national prominence. The Konkrete Kids return two nationally ranked wrestlers in Julian Chlebove and Dan Moran. They also added a third this offseason with the transfer of KJ Fenstermacher. Devon Britton and Cade Moisey are also poised to grab state medals this year. Northampton will be very tough down low but has a lot of questions to answer in their upper weights if they want to challenge the teams ranked above them.
Key Returnees: Julian Chlebove (SO, 120/126, PA State Champ), Dan Moran (SR, 126/132, 3x State Medalist), Devon Britton (SO, 138/145, PA State Qualifier), Cade Moisey (SR, 170/182, PA State Qualifier), Logan Ninos (JR, 113/120), Michael Kistler (SO, 138/145), Chance Wandler (JR, 152), Zach Rooks (SR, 160)
Key Transfers: KJ Fenstermacher (SR, 132/138, 2x Medalist)
Impact Freshmen: Joe Tiwold (106), Blake Lambert (195)
7. Kiski Area (AAA)
Kiski may not make any national rankings and are ranked this highly for their dual potential, rather than as a tournament team. Three state medalists – Joey Blumer, Noah Levett & Isaac Reid – lead a lineup that is strong from top to bottom. A solid freshmen class adds depth to a lineup that has wrestlers strong enough to qualify at ten or more weights for the state tournament.
Key Returnees: Noah Levett (SO, 126, PA State Medalist), Joey Blumer (SR, 138, PA State Medalist), Isaac Reid (JR, 285, PA State Medalist), Darren Miller (SO, 106), Matt Siszka (SR, 120), Cam Conner (SO, 132), Collin Murray (SO, 145), Logan Pollick (JR, 152), Brad Nagy (SR, 160), Danny Starr (JR, 170), Vinny Romano (SR, 182), Tom Starr (SR, 195)
Impact Freshmen: Jared Curcio (113), Jack Blumer (132/138), Nick Delp (145)
8. Canon-McMillan (AAA)
The Big Macs have one of the strongest programs in PA having won three consecutive state titles from 2011 to 2013. This year’s lineup does not feature any state medalists but is led by nationally ranked wrestlers Logan Macri and Brendan Furman. One of PA’s top freshman Gerrit Nijenhuis will make an immediate impact for Canon-Mac as they will battle for a district title. Matt O’Block, Tim Hritsko, and Blaze Kansco have yet to qualify for the state championships, but that is a result of competing in PA’s tough District VII.
Key Returnees: Logan Macri (JR, 120, PA State Qualifier), Matt O’Block (SR, 132/138), Tim Hritsko (JR, 138/145), Blaze Kansco (SR, 160/170, Fargo Cadet All American), Brendan Furman (SR, 285, FLO National All American), Michael Binni (JR, 113), Anthony Mastrangelo (SR, 126/132), Stefen Richer (JR, 160/170), Alec Handel (SO, 195)
Impact Freshmen: Jacob Gardner (106), Tanner Rohaley (126/132), Gerrit Nijenhuis (152)
9. Reynolds (AA)
The only small school squad to make the top ten, Reynolds is a perennial power in PA’s AA division. The Raiders return a quartet of state medalists led by former State champ Cole Matthews and four other qualifiers for the state championships. Four solid freshmen and transfer Gavin Wilkerson bolster a lineup that is the favorite to capture the AA state title.
Key Returnees: Beau Bayless (SO, 113, PA State 4th), Gage Bayless (SR, 126, PA State Qualifier), Chaise Hauk (SR, 132/138, PA State Medalist), Hunter Michaels (JR, 132/138, PA State Qualifier), Cole Matthews (JR, 138//145, PA State Champ), Joel Liese (JR, 170/182, PA State Qualifier), Cole Rickert (SR, 220/285, 2x State Medalist), Andrew Ischo (SO, 120), Ben Wilcox (SR, 152/160), Hunter Thompson (SO, 152/160), Derrick Skeehan (SO, 195)
Impact Freshmen: Cole Bayless (106), Adam Wilcox (106), Bryce McCloskey (152), Evan Miller (220/285)
10. Council Rock South (AAA)
Council Rock South is one of the strongest programs in District 1 and appeared in the national rankings in 2015-16. Brad Silimperi’s squad is led by a trio of nationally ranked wrestlers in Zack Trampe, Riley Palmer, and Joe Doyle. The Golden Hawks have some question marks in their lineup which their young depth needs to answer in a dual format. With their top three wrestlers and another pair of returning state qualifiers, Council Rock South will be an excellent tournament team capable of competing with some of the top teams in PA and the country.
Key Returnees: Ben Radner (JR, 126, PA State Qualifier), Zack Trampe (SR, 132/138, PA State Finalist), Riley Palmer (SR, 145/152, PA State Medalist), Joe Doyle (SR, 195/220, PA State 4th), Cary Palmer (SR, 145/152, PA State Qualifier), Max Mendez (SO, 106), Collin Waterman (JR, 113), Eric Woloshyn (SO, 132), Rob Cooper (SR, 160/170), Tyler Gettman (SR, 182)
Teams to watch: Cumberland Valley (AAA), Erie Cathedral Prep (AAA), Boyertown (AAA), Belle Vernon (AAA), Central Dauphin (AAA), Brookville (AA), Southern Columbia (AA)