The wrestling postseason officially begins Wednesday as the WPIAL will hold seven section tournaments to determine seeding for the upcoming WPIAL team tournaments, which begin next Monday. The top five teams from each section qualify for the WPIAL team tournaments.
At each of the section tournaments, the first-place finisher from each sub-section will wrestle the second-place team from the other sub-section. The two winners face off to determine the section champion, while the two losers wrestle for third place. A match between the two third-place teams will determine the fifth participant.
The Class AAA section tournaments will be held at: Kiski Area (Section 1), Connellsville (2), North Allegheny (3) and Canon-McMillan (4).
The Class AA section tournaments will be held at: South Fayette (1), Jefferson-Morgan (2), and South Allegheny (3).
This year marks the fifth year the WPIAL has held section team tournaments. Only two teams have won four consecutive section titles: Canon-McMillan and Burrell. North Allegheny and Chartiers-Houston have won three section titles in that stretch.
Fleck returning strong
Luke Fleck is back for Franklin Regional and it couldn't have come at a better time, as the Panthers are entered in the Class AAA Section 1 tournament.
"Luke made his season debut in our section match against Gateway [Jan. 16]," said Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser of Fleck, a 285-pound senior who has recorded 92 career wins since earning a spot in the Panthers starting lineup as a freshman.
Fleck, who has been recovering from an injury from football season, recorded a forfeit victory against Gateway.
"Having Luke back for the postseason tournaments will help, but he's still not back to 100 percent," Mausser said. "With that in mind, we will use him as needed. We don't want to take a chance on having Luke get hurt again."
Section 1 is considered the strongest of the four Class AAA sections.
"It's going to be a total slugfest," Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said. "Four of the top seven teams in the WPIAL rankings are from Section 1."
Kiski Area, the Section 1 champion a year ago, is ranked No. 2. The Cavaliers face No. 7 Greensburg Salem in one semifinal match. No. 4 Franklin Regional is paired with No. 6 Latrobe in the other semifinal. Kiski placed first in sub-section A, while Franklin Regional finished second. Latrobe won sub-section B, while Greensburg Salem placed second.
"Latrobe has a great wrestling tradition," Mausser said. "We've only beat them once in the last six years."
Matches to watch
South Allegheny will play host to its first playoff match in school history when the Gladiators hold the Class AA Section 3 tournament. The Gladiators, the top team from sub-section A, will face Kittanning, the runner-up in sub-section B, in the semifinals. It's the third consecutive postseason appearance for South Allegheny. Kittanning is ranked No. 4 in the WPIAL.
Avonworth, the runner-up in sub-section A, will face six-time defending WPIAL champion Burrell in the other semifinal match. The Antelopes are making their first postseason appearance since 1993. Burrell is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL.
A look at the City League
The City League playoffs begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Regular-season champion Allderdice (5-0) plays host to Obama Academy (2-3) in one match, while Brashear (4-1) plays host to Perry (3-2) in the other. The two winners will meet in the championship match Jan. 31 at a site to be determined.
Allderdice had an impressive performance at the Burgettstown tournament, which was held over the weekend. The Dragons placed fifth in the team standings with 125.5 points and had two champions. Brian Estep won the 152-pound weight class with an 8-6 win against Freedom's Boe Bonzo, who was a two-time champion. Ranier Smith claimed the 195-pound title with a second-period pin of Burgettstown's Brandon Hucik.
Some standout teams
Hopewell claimed the team title at the Burgettstown tournament. The Vikings had five wrestlers advance to the finals and three won titles: Travis Sonson, Damon Drositis and Michael Tempalski.
Sonson captured the 120-pound title with a 5-2 win against Seneca Valley's Nick Zoria. Drositis claimed his second title with a 10-2 major decision of Forest Hills' Zack Pinkas at 170 pounds. Tempalski pinned Avella's Zack Simonelli in the 182-pound final.
Beth-Center's Zach Swarrow and Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi claimed third consecutive titles, while Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths won his second title.
Swarrow captured the 113-pound title with a pin of Shaler's Aaron Rouda. Gavazzi pinned Beth-Center's Tony Welsh in the 138-pound final. Griffiths posted a 5-2 win against Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt in the 106-pound final.
"It's going to be a total slugfest. Four of the top seven teams in the WPIAL rankings are from Section 1."