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What to Watch for at First PIAA Wrestling Super Regionals on Saturday

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Traditionally, in a non-COVID-19 year, the best 20 wrestlers at each of the 13 weight class in Class-2A and Class-3A would make it to the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania for the individual state tournament. This year, that is not the case.

In an effort to minimize the spread and risk of contracting coronavirus, the PIAA elected to reduce the participant field and the number of days of the annual championships in Hershey, adding a new step to do so. With that decision, additional qualifiers were added – the East Super Regional and the West Super Regional –  in both the 2A and 3A classifications. In doing this, teams from the Northeast and Southeast regions compete in the East and the Northwest, Southwest, and South Central (3A only) wrestle in the West.

The West Super Region tournaments will be at IUP for Class-2A and Altoona for Class-3A. At each weight, a field of eight will compete for four spots that will advance to Hershey later this month. These Super Regionals aim to narrow the field from 16 remaining per class to eight.

The PIAA championships will also have a field of eight in each classification. Class-2A will be March 12 at the Giant Center and Class-3A will be March 13.

It’s worth mentioning that the PIAA has decided to give all Super Regional qualifiers the designation of “state qualifier,” though it is not considered to be an official statistic tracked by the PIAA. Both PA Power Wrestling and PA-Wrestling.com, two of the foremost authorities with regard to record-keeping within the sate, have also agreed to endorse this policy as well. Both outlets will recognize Super Regional qualifiers as state qualifiers for historical purposes moving forward.

A complete list of all of the 2A and 3A Super Regional qualifiers, plus all of the 2A and 3A brackets for all four tournaments can be found here via Pa-Wrestling.com.

Here are five things to be aware of heading into a busy Saturday of PIAA wrestling action.

1. The West Super Regional is absolutely loaded. It is a flat-out gauntlet. Following the most recent state rankings compiled by PA Power Wrestling, Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com, took a deep dive into the top-10 wrestlers who are competing in the East and West in both Class 2A and 3A. While the breakdown was close to even in 2A – the East had 69 top-10 wrestlers to the West’s 61 – a staggering 70% of the top-10 guys, or 91 to 39, in 3A come from the West. Here’s a look at where those wrestlers are at each weight, courtesy of PA Power Wrestling.

2. The 113-pound class in the West Regional is likely the deepest class. It is just one of many weights were fans will see unfathomable first-round matchups. According to PA Power Wrestling, eight wrestlers from the West are seeded in the top 11.  For instance, there is likely to be a potential state finals match in the 113-pound quarterfinals at the Class-3A tournament in Altoona between returning 106-pound PIAA champion Vinny Kilkeary of Latrobe (21-1) and 113-pound runner-up Aiden Lewis of Cedar Cliff (16-1) The duo has a combined record of 37-2, with each just having a single loss on the year. You just don’t see such high-caliber matches like these so early. The 152-pound class is another incredibly talented one as well. The weight features the top four ranked wrestlers in the state: No. 1 Alejandro Herrera-Rondon of Seneca Valley and No. 2 Rocco Welsh of Waynesburg. These familiar foes will be joined by Erie Prep senior Paniro Johnson, who is No. 3 and Connellsville junior Jared Keslar at No. 4. The 152 pound class has the potential to see some familiar matchups that fans have seen before as well as some new ones. Will Welsh get his revenge on Herrera-Rondon?

3. In addition to the Kilkeary’s tough road to a title, here are a few more guys who will face an uphill battle Saturday in the larger 3A division: At 138, Franklin Regional’s Finn Solomon, ranked No. 2, facing Matt Sarbo of Altoona (No. 6), and Dylan Evans of Chartiers Valley (No. 5) facing Josh Miller of Central Dauphin (No. 3); at 152, Jared Keslar of Connellsville (No. 4) facing Paniro Johnson of Cathedral Prep (No. 3); and at 172, Thomas Dressler of Spring Grove (No. 4) facing Luca Augustine of Waynesburg (No. 2).

4. The WPIAL talent is out in full force in the West. There are 16 WPIAL wrestlers (nine in Class AA, seven in Class AAA) earned No. 1 seeds. The top-seeds in 3A include: Kilkeary at 113, Carter Dibert of Franklin Regional at 120, Dylan Chappell of Seneca Valley at 132, Cole Homet of Waynesburg at 138, Wyatt Henson of Waynesburg at 145, Alejandro Herrera-Rondon of Seneca Valley at 152, and Cole Spencer of Pine-Richland at 160. There was also an additional six 3A grapplers to earn the No. 2 seed at their respective weight. In Class-2A the No. 1 seeds are as follows: Cooper Hornack of Burrell at 106, Chris Vargo of Bentworth at 113, Joey Fischer of South Park at 126, Kenny Duschek of Blackhawk at 145, Grant MacKay of Laurel at 152, AJ Corrado of Burrell at 160, Rune Lawrence of Frazier at 172, Trent Schultheis of Freedom at 189, and Dayton Pitzer of Mt. Pleasant at 215. All No. 1 seeds are definitely people to keep any eye on this weekend, not only are they some of the best preps in the state, but they will be tested like never before. 

5. It’s has been the case all season, there is frustration with how the structure and ultimately the seeding of the PIAA post season has unfolded. Here is a statistical representation of the immensely tall tasks that await those in the West Region, courtesy of Chartiers Valley wrestling coach Williams Evans, has kept a running tally over the past 10 years on how lopsided the comparison is between the WPIAL (District 7) and every other Districts state. Quite frankly, the WPIALs superiority is staggering. Sadly, 2021 is just unfair in many cases. There will be a lot of elite Pennsylvania preps, particularly in the West Regional, whose seasons end a couple weeks earlier then they would have ever imagined. But at least there is wrestling. 

Buckle up wrestling fans because this is sure to be the wildest weekend yet. There will be no shortage of marquee matchups as early as the opening round. You don’t want to miss it.

Watching or Attending the Super Regionals

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently announced a relaxation of the state’s gathering restrictions as part of its overall COVID-19 pandemic mitigation strategy, a change that will have a significant impact on sporting venues in the commonwealth, thus limited fans can take in the action in person.

However, if you cannot attend the events in person, there will still be streaming options for all four tournaments on FloWrestling.

FloWrestling also provided some additional analysis and insight into a handful of additional noteworthy matches that are expected to take place. You can read about those here.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
 
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