The WPIAL is well represented in the national high school rankings compiled by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. In each issue, WIN ranks the top 20 wrestlers in the country in each weight class. Of the 280 wrestlers recognized in the Feb. 12 issue, 17 are from or have ties to the WPIAL.
Canon-McMillan has five nationally ranked wrestlers, including three among the top 10: Cody Wiercioch (No. 2 at 170), Connor Schram (No. 3 at 126) and Solomon Chishko (No. 7 at 145). The other two ranked Big Macs are Dalton Macri (No. 15 at 120) and Alex Campbell (No. 11 at 220).
Franklin Regional has three ranked wrestlers: Michael Kemerer (No. 6 at 126), Josh Maruca (No. 17 at 138) and Josh Shields (No. 17 at 145).
Latrobe and Kiski Area each have two ranked wrestlers. The Wildcats have Luke Pletcher (No. 3 at 106) and Zack Zavatsky (No. 19 at 160), while the Cavaliers have Matt McCutcheon (No. 8 at 195) and Shane Kuhn (No. 9 at 285).
"Southwestern Pennsylvania is one of the strongest areas in the country for high school wrestling," Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. "The national rankings prove it."
Other ranked Class AAA wrestlers from the WPIAL are Hempfield's Sam Krivus (No. 7 at 120) and Waynesburg's A.C. Headlee (No. 17 at 113).
Two Class AA wrestlers from the WPIAL are ranked: Kittanning's Jason Nolf (No. 8 at 132) and Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers (No. 10 at 182). Also ranked is Kiski School's Zach Kelly (No. 17 at 152), a former Burrell wrestler.
Class AAA tournament
The WPIAL Class AAA tournament begins Thursday at Norwin. The three-day tournament features nine wrestlers who have won at least one WPIAL title.
The Canon-McMillan trio of Schram (37-3 at 126), Chishko (3-0 at 145) and Wiercioch (36-1 at 170) are two-time champs who have a chance to hit the trifecta.
The other returning champions are Kemerer (31-5 at 126), Krivus (32-3 at 120), Norwin's Heath Coles (29-4 at 152), Zavatsky (34-1 at 160) and McCutcheon (31-0 at 195). Connellsville's Ethan Kenney (26-6 at 132) won a title in 2010 and placed third the past two years.
McCutcheon and Kuhn (34-0 at 285) are the only remaining unbeaten wrestlers in WPIAL Class AAA.
Class AA Southwest Regional
Kittanning's Nolf (38-0 at 132), Jefferson-Morgan's Dustin Conti (34-0 at 170) and Burrell's DesLauriers (29-0 at 182) headline this weekend's Class AA Southwest Regional tournament at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown. The WPIAL trio is among five returning regional champions. Nolf and DesLauriers are two-time regional champs. Conti and DesLauriers are back at the same weight to defend the title they won last year.
The other two returning regional champs are Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick (30-3 at 113) and Forest Hills' Cody Law (27-0 at 160). Patrick won at 106 last year after placing fourth the year before. Law is the defending champ at 160.
The WPIAL's top seven wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the regional and make up half of the 14-man brackets. The top four finishers from District 6 and the top three finishers from District 5 also qualify. The tournament begins at 1 p.m. Friday. The top five regional finishers advance to the PIAA championships, March 7-9, at Giant Center in Hershey.
The District 6 tournament was Feb. 15-16. Ligonier Valley's Josh Patrick (24-0 at 120) claimed his third district title. Claiming a second were Blairsville's Andrew Doak (33-1 at 152) and Scott Thompson (12-0 at 182), and Moshannon Valley's James Stodart (28-4 at 195).
The District 5 tournament was held over the weekend and three entries claimed a third consecutive title: Bedford's Ryan Easter (31-1 at 120), Conemaugh Township's Tanner Cahill (32-2 at 145) and Chestnut Ridge's Tyler Dibert (35-4 at 170). Bedford's Toby Brett (25-6 at 138) and Chestnut Ridge's Dan Albright (33-4 at 195) won their second district title.
Class AA qualifiers
South Fayette turned in the best overall performance of any team at the WPIAL Class AA tournament, which concluded Saturday at Chartiers Valley. The Lions had eight wrestlers qualify for the Southwest Regional tournament, including six who finished among the top three in their weight class. Chartiers-Houston and Mount Pleasant each had seven wrestlers advance, while Burrell, Jefferson-Morgan, Bentworth and West Greene each had six.
Twenty-nine teams had at least one wrestler qualify for the Southwest Regional. Eighteen teams had a finalist, and 12 teams had a champion. The only team with more than one champion was Burrell, which had three. South Fayette had four in the finals, but only one captured a gold medal.
Section 2 had the most qualifiers with 41. Section 1 had 35 qualifiers, including seven champions. Section 3 had a disappointing weekend, as only 22 qualified.
Class AAA qualifiers
Canon-McMillan and Greensburg Salem were the top teams at Saturday's Class AAA section tournaments.
Canon-McMillan had 12 wrestlers qualify for the WPIAL tournament by placing among the top five in their weight class at the Section 4 tournament. The Big Macs had nine champions and two runners-up.
Greensburg Salem led all teams in Section 1 with 12 qualifiers, but had only one champion. Franklin Regional and Latrobe each had 10 qualifiers. The Panthers had five champions.