It was another impressive performance for Section 1 at the Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region tournament this past weekend at Norwin High School.
Twelve wrestlers from Section 1 advanced to the finals and six claimed a title. Four others placed third in their weight class. That translates to 16 qualifiers for this weekend's PIAA Class AAA tournament, which began this morning at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"It was no surprise to see Section 1 do so well at the WPIAL tournament," Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky said. "We have some of the best wrestlers in the state in this section. They will get a chance to prove it this weekend at Hershey."
Kiski Area entered the WPIAL/Southwest Region tournament with the only two remaining unbeaten wrestlers in the WPIAL in Class AAA. And both were returning WPIAL champs. Unfortunately, only one survived the weekend with an unblemished record. Junior Shane Kuhn claimed his first title, while senior Matt McCutcheon fell short of claiming a second title.
Kuhn (38-0) made a second consecutive appearance in the 285-pound final and captured his first title with a 3-1 victory against Canon-McMillan's Angelo Broglia.
"It feels a lot better to be the champion," said Kuhn, who placed second in the WPIAL and fourth in the PIAA last season. "I'm really excited about my second trip to Hershey. It's going to be a tough road, but my goal is to win the state title."
McCutcheon (34-1), a returning WPIAL and PIAA champion who has committed to Penn State, dropped a 3-1 decision in overtime to Hampton's Jake Hart in the 195-pound title match.
Latrobe had two wrestlers win WPIAL titles. Senior Zack Zavatsky claimed his second title, while freshman Luke Pletcher captured his first.
Zavatsky (38-1) made his third appearance in the 160-pound final and claimed his second title with a 7-2 victory against Greensburg Salem's Zach Voytek.
"This was the third time I faced Zach this season," Zavatsky said. "I just tried to score more points each time. It's also my third time to wrestle in the WPIAL finals, and my third time to qualify for the state tournament. That's special."
Pletcher (37-2) became the 19th Class AAA wrestler since 1975 to win a WPIAL title as a freshman. He posted a 4-1 win against North Hills freshman Gage Curry in the 106-pound title match.
Franklin Regional had four wrestlers advance to the WPIAL finals, but only one came home with a gold medal. Josh Maruca (40-6) claimed his first WPIAL gold with a 4-3 overtime victory against North Allegheny's Jesse Rodgers in a 138-pound final that was decided in the tiebreaker period.
"I was a little worried that I wouldn't get it," said Maruca, referring to his takedown with eight seconds remaining to tie the match and send it to overtime. "That gave me a lot of confidence going into overtime."
Maruca's teammates Michael Kemerer (34-6), Tyler Smith (41-4) and Josh Shields (40-5) were not as fortunate, as all three were defeated in the finals.
Kemerer lost, 3-2, to Canon-McMillan's Connor Schram in the 126-pound final. Smith had to settle for a silver medal for the third consecutive year after losing, 14-12, to Connellsville's Ethan Kenney in the 132-pound final. Shields lost, 3-2, to Canon-McMillan's Solomon Chishko in the 145-pound final.
"It was really tough watching my teammates lose in the finals," Maruca said. "They are like brothers to me. I expect all of us to do well at the state tournament."
The Panthers foursome will be joined by teammate Luke Fleck (22-3), who battled back from a knee injury to place third at 285 pounds. It will be his second trip to Hershey in three years.
Hempfield's Sam Krivus and Norwin's Heath Coles were repeat winners.
Krivus (36-3) turned in the most dominant performance of the WPIAL with his 12-0 shutout of Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph in the 120-pound final.
"Two down and two to go," said Krivus, a sophomore. "My goal is to win four WPIAL titles. I just have to keep working hard."
Coles (33-4) claimed the 152-pound title with a 4-3 win against Greensburg Salem's Tyler Reinhart in the 152-pound final. It was the fifth time the two have wrestled this year, and Coles leads the series, 3-2.
"It's been back and forth all year with Tyler," Coles said. "Each match seemed to get closer. I'm just glad I was able to win the most important of my matches with him."
Central Catholic was a member of Section 1 last year. The Vikings are now competing in Section 3 and had two wrestlers advance to the WPIAL finals. Zach DeLuca won a title, while Joseph placed second.
DeLuca (38-7) earned his berth by winning the 220-pound title at the WPIAL tournament. He defeated top seed Alex Campbell of Canon-McMillan, 10-5, in the championship match.
"It's so exciting to finally win a WPIAL title," DeLuca said. "I can't wait until I get to Hershey and see what I can do."