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The 2021 PIAA State Wrestling Championships: What to Watch for

The 2021 PIAA State Wrestling Championships: What to Watch for

`At the beginning of every high school wrestling season, many Pennsylvania preps set a goal for themselves: Make it to the Giant Center in Hershey and become a PIAA state medalist.  Well, Friday, March 12th and Saturday, March 13th, a combined total of 208 wrestlers across both Class-2A and and Class-3A schools will meet on the mats to determine a combined 26 state champions – 13 from 2A and another 13 from 3A.

With just eight competitors per bracket, every athlete in the Giant Center has already earned the title of state medalist, all that remains is seeing how high each grappler can climb up the podium.

You can find the official time schedule and complete 2A and 3A bracket on the PIAA website or by clinking the link here.

There will be a total of 43 WPIAL wrestler in Hershey. This means roughly 20% of the combined 208-person field will hail from District 7. There are 29 WPIAL wrestlers in 3A compared (nearly 28% of the field) to 14 WPIAL wrestlers in 2A (almost 14% of the field).

A complete list of every WPIAL wrestler in action this weekend can be found here, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. FloWrestling also put together a participant heat map and a detailed breakdown of PA participant field. You can find Flo’s analysis here.

Here is what to watch for this weekend during a one-of-a-kind, incredibly challenging, 2021 PIAA state wrestling tournament:

Class-3A

  1. In class 3A, the WPIAL reigns supreme and there is zero doubt about it. After the two Super Region tournaments were held March 6, the WPIAL will send a state-best 29 wrestlers to Saturday’s PIAA tournament in Hershey. Conversely, District 1 (Philadelphia suburbs), the largest district in the state, followed with 23, and District 11 (Allentown area) was next with 20. District 3 (Harrisburg) was fourth with 11, according to the Tribune-Review’s Paul Schofield.
  2. Seven wrestlers enter Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A tournament as a returning champion. Five are from the WPIAL, including two who are competing in the same weight class (Franklin Regional senior Carter Dibert and Hempfield senior Ethan Berginc), and one has two PIAA titles to his credit (Seneca Valley senior Alejandro Herrera-Rondon). The other WPIAL returning state champs are Waynesburg senior Wyatt Henson and Latrobe sophomore Vinny Kilkeary. Surprisingly, both Henson and Kilkeary are coming off of losses in the West Super Region finals that they both look to avenge in Hershey. Henson was disqualified in the Super Regional finals after a ferocious double-leg takedown attempt was ruled a slam, less than 45 seconds into the bout.. Norwin’s John Altieri won by default. The last time these two met prior to the Super Regional Henson beat Altieri via decision, 8-3. Henson, a future Iowa Hawkeye, also has a state championship from Missouri to his credit as well. The two non-WPIAL returning gold medalists are  Mifflin County senior Trey Kibe (20-0) and Selinsgrove senior Nate Schon (36-1).
  3. Pay special attention to the Williams twins, Kamdyn (113) and Kaedyn (106), both freshman lightweights out of Manheim Township. Kam put the wrestling world on notice when he won a 9-7 decision over a defending state champion, Kilkeary (23-2). Not only did Kam win, but he did so dominantly. The heaver Williams twin tilted Kilkeary for nearfalls twice. Kam’s win in the finals was his third of the day over a 2021 PIAA state finalist. On the other hand, brother Kaedyn battled to a third-place finish, advancing to Hershey despite illness. A potential second matchup with Kam and Kilkeary would be epic. Also, wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kaedyn meet Secena Valley’s Tyler Chappell in the state finals. Kaedyn (24-1), suffered a tough 2-1 Tyler during the West Super Regional earlier this month. For what it’s worth, Kilkeary’s only other loss this season came to Chad Ozias (Connellsville), Jan. 16, via a narrow 6-5 decision. Ozias will be wrestling in the 120-pound weight class in Hershey.
  4. The 152-pound class ought to be another fun one just as it has been all season. The weight’s top seed, Herrera-Rondon (36-0), is likely on a collision course to once again meet Waynesburg’s Rocco Welsh (24-4), who placed second at 126 last season. The pair have met four times this season and are projected to do so one last time in the final. All four of Welsh’s losses were to Herrera-Rondon, including an injury default in the West Super Region finals due to a knee injury. Herrera-Rondon, who will be suiting up for the Big 12 co-Champion  Oklahoma Sooners in 2021-22, looks to acquire his third PIAA crown after a four-place stumble last year.
  5. Hempfield’s Isiah Vance (285) Waynesburg’s Welsh are two of four WPIAL entries who have placed second at Hershey in past seasons. The others are Seneca Valley senior Dylan Chappell (132) and Franklin Regional junior 138-pounder Finn Solomon (32-2).  All four look to capture titles in 2021 after tasting heartbreak in the tournament finals previously.

As we have seen all postseason, the tournament has been divided into four sessions due to COVID-19 protocols. The first session will have quarterfinal, semifinal and consolation rounds for weight classes 106 through 138. The second session will have quarterfinal, semifinal and consolation rounds for weight classes 145 through 285. The finals and consolation finals will be held in sessions three and four. All the action will be broadcast live on FloWrestling, subscription is required.

Class-2A

  1. There will be 14 WPIAL products from Class-2A competing in the final individual event of the season. Heavyweight is the only weight class without a WPIAL entrant. The headliner of this group is 2A’s lone “returning” PIAA champ, Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer. The 215-pounder (39-2) won the Class 2A 182-pound title as a freshman in 2019 before missing his entire sophomore season with a knee injury. The junior has returned to peak form. Pitzer has pinned 13 opponents in a row – including 10 in the first period – with 30 of his 39 wins this season coming by fall.
  2. While Pitzer might be the most acclaimed grappler returning to Hershey, there are also four other WPIAL top-seeded wrestlers who enter the PIAA tournament as West Super Region champions, probably the toughest postseason event of the year so far. Two unbeaten wrestlers in South Park’s Joey Fischer (21-0 at 126) and Burrell’s A.J. Corrado (30-0 at 160) look to remain unblemished. Fischer dropped a 4-2 overtime decision to two-time PIAA champion Gary Steen of Reynolds in last year’s 113-pound finals, while Corrado lost a 3-2 decision to Caleb Dowling of St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy at 152 pounds. For Corrado, he is now part of the rare four-time PIAA medalist club, while Fischer will now have an impressive three PIAA medals to show for his prep efforts.
  3. Laurel sophomore Grant Mackay (37-3 at 152) and Blackhawk senior Kenny Duscheck (24-3) are two grapplers that suited up for different high schools last year. Mackay was in Class-3A at North Allegheny as a freshman and Duscheck was still in Class-2A, but with freedom Area. Neither has lost a step on the mat during their transitions. Mackay was not challenged at the Southwest Region and West Super Region tournaments the past two weeks, picking up bonus points in four of his six wins and winning his other two matches by blanking his opponents. As for Duscheck, he is placing his name in the Blackhawk record book.
  4. Rounding out the list of Super Region champions from the WPIAL is Frazier freshman Rune Lawrence (27-1 at 172), who continues to put together one of the most impressive debut seasons in recent memory. With three more wins in Hershey, he can join Pitzer as the only freshmen in WPIAL history to win PIAA titles at a weight class above 152 pounds. His lone defeat this season came at the Powerade 54 Tournament to a participant out of Ohio. Two other impressive rookies to keep an eye on are Burrell’s Cooper Hornack (27-2 at 106) and Chris Vargo (17-1 at 113). Both Hornack and Vargo have been pinning machines in their first seasons of high school action.
  5. Even after the tournaments this weekend, here’s friendly reminder that the season isn’t over. Following the individual postseason, team postseason will be held March 22-27 with first-round matches and quarterfinals at home sites and the semifinals and finals at Cumberland Valley High School. Though this usually unfolds at the Giant Center, there was a scheduling conflict due to the PIAA basketball tournament being scheduled there already.

The same scheduling format used used for 2A will be used for 3A as well. The first session will have quarterfinal, semifinal and consolation rounds for weight classes 106 through 138. The second session will have quarterfinal, semifinal and consolation rounds for weight classes 145 through 285. The finals and consolation finals will be held in sessions three and four. Again, all the action will be broadcast live on FloWrestling, subscription is required.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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