Here’s a look at the 15 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.
Colin Pasone, Meyers (106) – Grade: 10 Record: 20-1 First bout: Boiling Springs sophomore Jalin Hankerson (28-8), who was runner-up in the Southeast Region.
Notes: In his first two years of wrestling, Pasone has a career record of 56-4. He has two District 2 championships to his name and this is his first appearance at states. After winning his district title, he missed the rest of the postseason with an injury.
School Notes: Meyers has crowned a District 2-high 33 state medalists with the last coming in 2012 by Pasone’s brother, Vito, who placed second.
Sizing up the bracket: Sometimes there may be some breaks in the 106-pound weight class, but not this year. Sitting atop the bracket is Jefferson Morgan freshman Gavin Teasdale (42-0), who is ranked second in the nation by InterMat. That’s the same half of the bracket as Pasone, who wouldn’t see Teasdale until the semis. On the other half of the bracket is state sixth-place medalist from last year Aaron Burkett from Chestnut Ridge and Benton’s Alan Diltz, who was a state qualifier last season.
RJ Driscoll, Lake-Lehman (120) – Grade: 10 Record: 23-16; First bout: Driscoll will be the first wrestler from the conference to experience the new pigtail round as he squares off against Bermudian Springs’ Austin Clabaugh (40-7), the No. 5 seed from the Southeast Region.
Notes: A two-time district runner-up, Driscoll enters his first state tournament with 46 career wins. He placed fourth at regionals last weekend a year after dropping his only two bouts at the Northeast Regional.
School Notes: The Black Knights have quite a history with four state champions and 30 state medalists, the second-most in D2 history. The last state titlist from the school was Scott Davis in 2007. The last medalist came last year when Austin Harry took third. The last underclassmen to claim a medal was Harry’s fourth-place in 2013.
Sizing up the bracket: There are plenty of tough weights in each classification, and 120 is one of them consisting of seven wrestlers who were at this stage last year, including five who earned medals. Bishop McDevitt’s John Pipa (23-2) was state runner-up last year, while Brookville’s Taylor Ortiz (37-2) and Athens’ Brian Courtney (32-0) took third last year. Collin Gioriosi (39-2) was third in 2013.
Charlie Johnson, Wyoming Area (126) – Grade: 11 Record: 34-0 First bout: In the first round, he faces the winner of a preliminary round match between Pen Argyl’s Chase Anklam (27-7) and Penn Valley junior Curtis Decker (29-10), who was a state qualifier last season.
Notes: With a career record of 82-10, Johnson claimed his second straight district title and his first regional championship to qualify for states for the second straight season.
School Notes: The Warriors have never crowned a state champion in wrestling and only have five state medalists in school history. This is the fourth straight season the Warriors are represented in states with their last state medalist being in 2013 when Andy Schutz walked away with the seventh-place medal.
Sizing up the bracket: Some experts have tabbed this weight as the toughest of all 28. That’s because 13 of the 20 participants were state qualifiers either last year or the year before. The top half of the bracket is stacked with five state medalists from a year ago. Johnson’s half isn’t much easier as Bedford’s Jonathan Gabriel was state runner-up last season.
Derek Dragon, Lake-Lehman (170) – Grade: 12 Record: 40-5 First bout: Right off the bat, Dragon faces Evan Daub (41-11) from Northern Lebanon. At state duals, Daub defeated Meyers’ TJ Cistrunk, 3-1.
Notes: Dragon is now a three-time D2 champion and qualified for states for the second time in his career first time by placing third at regionals for the second consecutive season.. He enters the tournament with 124 career wins.
School Notes: He is trying to add to the school’s prestigious mark of 30 state medals in school history. Dragon is also looking to join his cousin, Matt Dragon, in becoming a state champion for the school. Matt Dragon did so in 2005.
Sizing up the bracket: The two returning state medalists in the bracket are on the opposite side of where Dragon sits. Bermudian Springs’ Briton Shelton (37-3) was fourth last season, while Levi Niebauer (31-3) from Cambria Heights took seventh. Including Dragon, there are six returning state qualifiers from last year or 2013.
TJ Cistrunk, Meyers (182) – Grade: 12 Record: 31-4 First bout: State qualifier from last year Garrette Reinwald (35-8) from Fort LeBeouf.
Notes: A first time state qualifier, Cistrunk enters the tournament with a 93 career wins. He picked up his second district championship last month and advanced to the state tournament by placing third at regionals. He’s been on quite a run since his last loss on Feb. 6 winning nine of 10 matches with eight coming by pin or tech fall, and just three of them not ending in the first period.
School Notes: No team in District 2 has more state champions than the Mohawks, who have 13. The last state champ by Meyers was Joe Rovelli in 2004.
Sizing up the bracket:A total of four medalists at this stage last season are in the bracket with Cistrunk. Should Cistrunk get past Reinwald, he could then see Corey Hazel (35-1) from Penns Valley. Hazel is currently ranked No. 1 in the state by PA Power Wrestling and was fifth in the state last season. Franklin’s Dakota Geer (33-1) was third-place medalist last season.
Zac Faust, GAR (195) – Grade: 12 Record: 35-3 First bout: Faust faces the winner of the pigtail match between Luke Fornier (33-3), a senior from Elizabeth Forward and Brandywine’s Cole Swackhamer (31-13), also a senior.
Notes: The school’s all-time wins leader currently with 129 is making his first appearance at the state tournament. He did so by winning the Northeast Regional title. A three-time District 2 champ and four-time district finalist, Faust enters having won 25 of his last 26 matches.
School Notes: For the third straight year now the Grenadiers have had a state qualifier, but it’s the first in that time that they are sending two to the tournament. The school’s lone state champion was Francis “Yogi” Michael in 1965.
Sizing up the bracket: It appears to be a decent draw for Faust as four of the five returning state qualifiers sit in the top of the bracket, while Faust is at the bottom half. Sitting in the bottom half of the bracket with Faust is unbeaten Scott Thompson (37-0) from Blairsville, who is a three-time state qualifier with his lone medal coming in 2012 as sixth. Faust and Thompson could square off in the semis. The other side of the bracket is highlighted by Saegertown senior Dylan Reynolds, who is 46-0, ranked No. 12 in the country and has a third and fourth-place state medal.
Saul Wilkins, GAR (285) – Grade: 12 Record: 36-4 First bout: He gets a bye to the first round where he will face the winner of the preliminary round match between Anthony Collins (28-12) of Berlin-Brothers Valley, and Brandywine’s Collin Conrad (31-9).
Notes: Now just a second-year wrestler, Wilkins has piled up a 66-12 career record in those two seasons, and plenty of other hardware as well, including a pair of district and regional titles, and second-place showing at the Beast of the East.
School Notes: Wilkins and his teammate, Faust will try to be the first medalists from the school since 2003 when Ted Yelland placed eighth.
Sizing up the bracket: Wilkins, ranked third in the state by PA Power Wrestling, is one of just five returning state qualifiers in the bracket; three of them are in the opposite half of Wilkins’ bracket. But, the perhaps the best of them all sits in Wilkins’ half in Burrell’s Al Beattie (44-1), who was third last season and is currently ranked No. 16 in the country. The only other state medalist from last season at the weight is Jacob Beistel (35-4), Southmoreland’s fifth-place medalist.
Chris Lasecki, Hazleton Area (113) – Grade: 10 Record: 31-10 First bout: Jersey Shore’s Hunter Zondory, a junior with a mark of 33-3.
Notes: Having picked up 55 wins in his first two seasons so far, Lasecki improved on last season’s fourth-place district showing by winning his first district title. He followed that up by finishing fourth at the regional tournament, winning two matches by two points or less in the consolation rounds to reach states for the first time.
School Notes: Lasecki, along with teammates Jimmy Hoffman and Derek Spachman, are the first from the Wyoming Valley Conference to reach states as teammates since the 2008 Cougars team did so.
Sizing up the bracket: No matter where you look in this bracket there’s someone with state experience as 10 wrestlers were either past qualifiers or medalists. Right off the bat, if Lasecki gets past Zondory, he would see Upper Perkiomen senior Dustin Steffenino (35-1), an eighth-place medalist from a year ago. At the top of the bracket is two-time defending state champion Devin Brown from Franklin Regional with a mark of 40-2 and is ranked sixth in the country.
Jimmy Wright, Wyoming Valley West (120) – Grade: 12 Record: 31-12 First bout: In a pigtail match, he sees sophomore Wyatt Long (39-9) from Cumberland Valley, the fourth-place medalist from the South Central Regional.
Notes: With 103 career wins, Wright had a magical district championship win when he claimed win No. 100 in the bout. He then picked up three wins at regionals in the consolation bracket by two points or less to reach the PIAA Championships for the first time.
School Notes: It’s three years in a row now that the Spartans have qualified two wrestlers for the state tournament. Last season, Nate Cheek finished eighth. Valley West coach Drew Feldman has dressed a medalist all three years.
Sizing up the bracket: There are seven returning state medalists, and one other grappler who was a qualifier here last season. If Wright can defeat Long, he will see three-time state medalist from Owen J. Roberts Derek Gulotta. In the other half of the bracket is Franklin Regional’s unbeaten Spencer Lee (44-0), who is ranked No. 1 in the country by InterMat and won state gold last year. Bethlehem Catholic’s Jake Reigel (36-5) was state champ in Class 2A last season and could see Lee in the first round.
Jimmy Hoffman, Hazleton Area (126) – Grade: 10 Record: 35-6 First bout: Boyertown junior Lucas Miller (39-10), the third-place finisher from the Southeast Regional.
Notes: Hoffman, a two-time district champ and now two-time state qualifier has a phenomenal record of 75-12 as a sophomore. Last year, he finished one win shy of earning a state medal. He’s coming off his second district title and a second-place finish at regionals.
School Notes: Coincidentally, the last state medalist for the Cougars was Hoffman’s cousin, Chad in 2012.
Sizing up the bracket: Unlike last season when Hoffman faced a returning state champ who went on to repeat, the Cougar has a decent draw this season. In fact, there’s only two other returning state qualifiers in his half of the bracket with one being Parkland’s Jacob Lizak (31-11) who Hoffman beat in last week’s regional semifinal. There are five wrestlers with state experience in the other half of the bracket with the most notable being Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Karam (34-2), a two-time state finalist and currently ranked No. 10 in the country.
Dan Ritz, Crestwood (138) – Grade: 12 Record: 36-2 First bout: General McLane’s two-time state qualifier Giovanni Ciotti (34-5), who was second in the Northwest Region.
Notes: He finally got over many obstacles this season winning the Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament title, a District 2 title, and reaching the state tournament for the first time. With 113 career wins, he advanced by finishing second at regionals. His only two losses this season are to fellow state qualifiers.
School Notes: A gold medal would be the fourth all-time for Crestwood and the team’s first since Joe Kemmerer in 2004. Ritz’ current coach Gary Siegel was the first state champ for the Comets winning gold in 1978. A state medal would be the first for the Comets since Matt Hammerstone placed eighth in 2013.
Sizing up the bracket: A pair of state champs are in this weight. Hempfield’s Sam Krivus sits atop the bracket with a mark of 39-0 and is ranked No. 1 in the country, while Cameron Coy (31-5) from Penn Trafford also claimed gold last season. Eight of the 10 wrestlers in this weight with state experience have grabbed medals with Ciotti being one who does not have a medal to his name.
Cody Cordes, Wyoming Valley West (160) – Grade: 12 Record: 34-3 First bout: He takes on the winner of a preliminary round match between a pair of seniors in Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s Tony Palumbo (24-6) and Wissahickon’s Josh Trunk (17-6).
Notes: It’s the second straight season that Cordes enters the event with just three losses. This postseason has already been memorable claiming his first regional gold and second trip to states. He’s the school’s all-time wins leader with 142. After starting the season with three losses in his first 13 matches, including two out of his first three, Cordes hasn’t lost. He’s riding a 24-match win streak.
School Notes: Wyoming Valley West has crowned three state champions in school history – Trevin Cowman (2006), Eric DeRemer (1983) and John Brennan (1977). Cordes is trying to help the squad add to its state medalist count of 17.
Sizing up the bracket: There is no better spot in this bracket to be seeded than where Cordes is sitting as his toughest opponent based on past state experience is Bethel Park’s Paul Dunn, who was third last year. Cordes could see him in the semis if they both reach that stage. Sitting in the other half of the weight is Franklin Regional stud Josh Shields, ranked No. 2 in the country with a 37-0 record and three state medals including second last year and third in 2013.
Derek Spachman, Hazleton Area (182) – Grade: 12 Record: 32-8 First bout: Kyle Sult (29-9), a junior from General McLane and the second-place finisher from the Northwest region.
Notes: Participating in just his second postseason, Spachman reached regionals for the first time last weekend and overcame that obstacle by taking third at the event to qualify for states. District 2 runner-up, he’s picked up 57 wins over the last two seasons.
School Notes: There has been only one state champion in school history that being Nate Eachus in 2007.
Sizing up the bracket: Seven grapplers with past state experience are in this weight, and Spachman could see the most prolific with a win in his first match. That could possibly set up a showdown with Mount Lebanon’s Kellan Stout (34-0), a silver medalist at states last season and is tabbed No. 13 in the country. Wallenpaupack’s Jared Wehrmann, a state qualifier from last season is also in Spachman’s half of the bracket, as is Cedar Cliff’s Josh Colello (41-4), a two-time state qualifier.
Jake Vaxmonsky, Pittston Area (220) – Grade: 12 Record: 34-5 First bout: Returning state qualifier Ian Mallory (23-16) from General McLane in a preliminary round bout.
Notes: Putting his name on the map as a sophomore when he upset GAR’s Zac Faust in the Wyoming Valley Conference finals, Vaxmonsky has been trying ever so hard to get to this point in his career. He claimed the WVC title again this season, followed with his first D2 title and qualified for states by finishing fourth at regionals.
School Notes: Vaxmonsky is trying to become just the second state champion for the Patriots and could join his coach James Woodall in that category; Woodall’s title came in 1999. The last medalist for Pittston Area was Robbie Robinson, who placed second in 2008.
Sizing up the bracket: No matter where you look, there’s a tough matchup for Vaxmonsky. If he can get past Mallory, two-time state runner-up Jordan Wood (16-0) from Boyertown awaits. Wood is ranked No. 1 in the country and is a Lehigh recruit. Also in that half of the bracket is Hempfield Area’s Fred Mantsch (26-3), who took eighth in the state last season, and Parkland’s Omar Haddad (38-8), who was seventh last year.
Ryan Monk, Dallas (285) – Grade: 12 Record: 35-4 First bout: Junior from Neshaminy Bruce Graeber (36-2), the silver medalist at the Southeast Regional.
Notes: Already a decorated career and entering with 136 career wins, Monk is Dallas’ all-time wins leader. He’s coming off a second-place finish at regionals after claiming a regional title last year. Monk is a two-time D2 champion, a state semifinalist last season, and finished sixth in the state in 2014.
School Notes: Dallas has never had a state champion before and its highest state medalist ever won was a third. In fact, the team has produced just five state medalists, including Monk’s sixth and Connor Martinez’ eighth last season.
Sizing up the bracket: Monk could see state qualifier from last year, Bald Eagle Area’s Josh Fye (30-1) in the quarterfinals. Coming after that could be a rematch against Solanco’s Bo Spiller (37-0), who finished fourth last season, is currently ranked No. 18 in the country and defeated Monk back in December by one point in the tiebreaker overtime. Monk avenged one of his other losses this season at last week’s regional event when he defeated Ahmad Curtis from Pleasant Valley.