Here’s a look at the eight Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers competing in the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey today through Saturday with their profile of accomplishments and a size-up of their respective brackets:
A.J. Luton, GAR (113) – Grade: 11 Record: 29-6; First bout:Derry Area freshman George Phillippi, who enters with a 38-4 record and is the No. 3 seed from the Northwest Region.
Accomplishments: Luton won his first district title last month after twice finishing third. He followed that taking second at the Northeast Regional Tournament after a fourth-place showing in 2012. He enters states with a career record of 81-19.
School Notes: Luton is the first state qualifier from GAR since Ted Yelland in 2004. He can be the first state medalist from the school since Yelland took eighth in 2003. The Grenadiers program has produced just five state medalists in the long history of the program and just one state champion. The lone state champion for GAR came back in 1965 by the late Francis “Yogi” Michael.
Sizing up the bracket: Last year in this bracket, Ryan Diehl defeated Meyers’ Vito Pasone for the gold medal. Diehl is now at 126. There are seven returning state qualifiers in the bracket, including Boiling Springs’ Korbin Myers, who grabbed a silver last year and Ligonier Valley’s Justin Patrick, who took fourth. Luton wouldn’t see either of those two until possibly the semifinals. He could face Tri Valley’s Caleb Bordner in the quarters. Bordner took eighth last season.
Andy Schutz, Wyoming Area (126) – Grade: 12 Record: 25-3; First bout: Zeke Moisey, a junior from Bethlehem Catholic who has a mark his season of 23-2 and is the No. 3 seed from the Southeast Region after finishing as state runner-up last season.
Accomplishments: Schutz is making his second state appearance after claiming the silver medal at regionals last week. He’s just the 25th wrestler in District 2 history to win four district golds. He also has a regional third-place medal and a fourth-place. He starts the event as the school’s all-time wins leader with 122. Last year at states, he finished the event 1-2. This is the second straight season he begins the state tournament with just three losses.
School Notes: Wyoming Area has never crowned a state champion in wrestling. The Warriors only have four state medalists in school history. Schutz and his teammate, Heck could be the first state medalist since Don Morgan claimed third in 1996.
Sizing up the bracket: Last year’s champ in the bracket was Jimmy Gulibon, who is now graduated. There is still plenty of talent returning with seven state qualifiers from a year ago, including Schutz. Ryan Diehl, who won the 113-pound gold last season, is at the top of the bracket. The bottom half, which is where Schutz is located, includes Logan Everett, a fifth-place medalist from Williamson, and Meyersdale’s Collin Day and Sharon’s Jarray Norris, who were both state qualifiers.
Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman (132) – Grade: 11 Record: 37-0; First bout: Tri Valley’s Chase Schaeffer (33-10), who took fifth at the Southeast Regional Tournament.
Accomplishments: Harry is now a three-time state qualifier, coming off his second straight Northeast Regional championship and his third straight district title. He claimed an eighth-place medal at at the PIAA Championships last season, picking up two wins. He enters this weekend with a 112-12 career record. This is the second straight season Harry has 37 wins at this time of the season. Last year he started states with a 37-1 record. He became the first repeat regional champ from Lehman since Matt Dragon won three in a row 2003-05.
School Notes: Harry is attempting to be the first from Lake-Lehman to claim state medals in consecutive years since Matt Dragon in 2004 and 2005. He could be the first state champion from Lehman since Scott Davis in 2007. A state championship would be the fifth all-time for Lehman.
Sizing up the bracket: Bethlehem Catholic’s Randy Cruz won the title last season and has graduated. There are eight returning state qualifiers at this weight, with just two of them not grabbing a medal last year. Harry could see Keystone Oaks’ Nick Zannetta in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. Last year, Zannetta defeated Harry 6-4 and ended up in the championship bout. The bottom half of the bracket consists of a pair of third-place medalists from 2012 in Kittaning’s Jason Nolf and Mifflinburg’s Cole Walter. Nolf won a gold medal in 2011.
Nick Heck, Wyoming Area (138) – Grade: 12 Record: 32-2; First bout: Michael Bonner, a senior from Sharon who is the runner-up from the Northwest Region with a mark of 33-3.
Accomplishments: Heck is the reigning District 2 champion after winning the Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament in January. He is nearing the 100-win milestone for his career and is coming off a third-place finish at regionals.
School Notes: Like his teammate, Schutz, he’s trying to become the first state champion in Wyoming Area history. The Warriors only have four state medalists in school history and Heck or Schutz could be the first medalist since Don Morgan claimed third in 1996.
Sizing up the bracket: Michael Racciatto from Pen Argyl claimed the tournament’s title last season, but he is now wrestling at 145 as a two-time winner. Heck gets a bit of a break with seven returning state qualifiers in his bracket but he wouldn’t see a returning medalist until the semis. Benton’s Zain Retherford, a former state champ and state runner-up, is at the bottom of the bracket. The returning medalists at the top of the bracket are Line Mountain’s Seth Lansberry (seventh) and Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Todora (fifth).
Kyle Krasavage, Wyoming Valley West (126) – Grade: 12 Record: 38-0; First bout: Dylan Graham (32-5), a senior from Clearfield who took third at the Northwest Regional.
Accomplishments: He claimed his first Northeast Regional title after also winning his first District 2 title. He was previously D2 runner-up three straight years and has a third-place regional medal. He’s in the state tournament for the second time, but first since as a freshman. Attending Division I Hofstra next fall, he’s the school’s all-time wins leader with 131.
School Notes: The Spartans have crowned three state champions in school history, the last being Trevin Cowman in 2006. Cowman was also the school’s wins leader before Krasavage. The last Spartan to medal at states was Cowman’s brother, Tyler, when he took fourth in 2010.
Sizing up the bracket: Gone are some of the studs who were in this bracket last year, like champion Cory Keener from Blue Mountain. In the weight though – and in the same half of the bracket as Krasavage – is Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram, who finished second last year after winning gold in 2011. There’s a total of nine past state qualifiers in the bracket also including Nazareth’s Chase Zemanek, who was fourth last year, but was beaten by Krasavage in the NE Regional semis. On the bracket’s other side is Franklin Regional sophomore Michael Kemerer, who took a silver medal last season.
Travis Roper, Wyoming Valley West (132) – Grade: 11 Record: 31-8; First bout: Central Bucks East junior Francesco Fabozzi, who’s posted a record of 36-2 this season and is the champion from the Southeast Region.
Accomplishments: Roper advanced to the state tournament by winning four consolation matches in one day to claim the third-place medal at the Northeast Regional Tournament. He also took third at the District 2 event to qualify for his second regional tournament in three years. He’s piled up more than 20 wins in all three of his varsity seasons, and has 79 career wins.
School Notes: The Spartans have crowned three state champions in school history with the last being Trevin Cowman in 2006. Roper and Krasavage are the first teammates from Wyoming Valley West to qualify for the tournament together since Tyler Cowman and Dave Ryncavage in 2010.
Sizing up the bracket: There are nine returning state qualifiers at this weight and just three former medalists. The highest returning placewinner is Cumberland Valley’s Patrick Duggan, who was fourth last year. Franklin Regional’s Tyler Smith, who was fifth last year, is the only medalist on Roper’s side of the bracket. Mackenzie McGuire, from Upper Saint Clair, won the gold of this weight last season, but he’s since graduated.
Matt Hammerstone, Crestwood (145) – Grade: 12 Record: 32-6; First bout: Mikey Springer, from Norristown. The junior enters with a record of 35-3, won the Southeast Regional event and placed eighth last year.
Accomplishments: Making his first state appearance, Hammerstone is a two-time district champion and followed that with a third-place showing at regionals. He will be wrestling for Division I Bloomsburg next season and will be looking to build on his 106 career wins this weekend.
School Notes: A gold medal would be the fourth all-time for Crestwood and the team’s first since Joe Kemmerer in 2004. A state medal would be the first for the Comets since Jake O’Hara placed third in 2009.
Sizing up the bracket: The 145-pound Class 3A bracket is perhaps the most favorable for a WVC wrestler with just four returning state qualifiers back from 2012. But all four took home hardware. At the top of the bracket sits Cedar Cliff’s Chris Vassar, a runner-up from a year ago. Josh Shields, a sophomore from Franklin Regional, took sixth last season. Canon McMillan’s Solomon Chishko, a junior, placed third a year ago. The defending champion at the weight is Chambersburg’s Garett Hammond; he’s now at 152.
Brad Emerick, Coughlin (285) – Grade: 12 Record: 36-1; First bout: Cary Hess, a senior from Shippensburg, who holds a record of 30-4 and finished fourth in the South-Central region.
Accomplishments: Attending Division I Lock Haven next season, he is a two-time District 2 Class 3A champion, three-time regional qualifier and two-time state qualifier. Entering the event with 105 career wins, he was a fifth-place medalist last year. He’s coming off a second-place finish at regionals after winning the regional title last year.
School Notes: A state title for Emerick would be the first in school history for the Crusaders. He is trying to be the first two-time state medalist since Josh Popple finished fourth and second, respectively in 2010 and 2011.
Sizing up the bracket: Just one state qualifier from a year ago is in Emerick’s half of the bracket and that’s Central Tech senior Andrew Welton with a record of 31-1 and the most career wins of anyone at the weight with 116. Emerick could see him in the semifinals. Aaron Bradley, who defeated Emerick in the regional final by one point and was state runner-up at 220 last season, is in the bottom half of the bracket. So is Kiski Area junior Shane Kuhn, who is the only unbeaten at the weight and placed fifth last season. Kuhn and Emerick met last year in the consolation fourth round with Kuhn winning 5-3.