The selection committee faced an interesting dilemma when choosing the teams for the 39th Annual Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, which will be held today at the University of Pittsburgh's Fitzgerald Field House.
"We had a very strong group of 195-pounders to pick from," said Frank Vulcano Sr., co-director of the selection committee. "And most of the top 220-pounders were either injured or unable to participate since they were underclassmen."
Take a look at the national rankings compiled by Amateur Wrestling News every month and it's easy to see what Vulcano was referring to. Four of the top seven wrestlers at 195 pounds are from Pennsylvania in the Feb. 15 rankings, with Milton's Ryan Solomon heading the list. Solomon (142-14), a Pitt recruit, is a two-time PIAA Class AA champion.
Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon (158-14), a Penn State recruit, was No. 2 in the rankings, while Hampton's Jake Hart (143-20) was No. 7. The rankings were obviously released before Hart and McCutcheon faced off in the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA finals, as Hart was victorious in both matches.
With that in mind, the selection committee chose Hart to be the 195-pounder on the Pennsylvania All-Star Team and moved Solomon up to 220 pounds. Ironically, Solomon will face another 195-pounder in his match at 220, as the committee chose Blair Academy's Frank Mattiace (160-16), a two-time National Prep School Tournament champion. Mattiace is ranked No. 6 in the country at 195 but agreed to wrestle up at 220 for The Classic.
"We decided to take advantage of the depth we have at 195," said Vulcano, who also pointed out that the injury suffered by Canon-McMillan's Alex Campbell at Hershey played a part in their decision. Campbell is a two-time WPIAL finalist and two-time PIAA place-winner, but a shoulder injury forced him to default in his final two PIAA bouts.
McCutcheon will compete at 195 for the WPIAL All-Star Team. Chartiers-Houston's Garrett Vulcano (154-38), a WPIAL Class AA champion and PIAA runner-up at 195 pounds, will move up to 220 for the WPIAL All-Stars.
"I wrestled at least half of my matches at 220 and 285 during the regular season, so wrestling in The Classic at 220 will be no problem," Garrett Vulcano said. "I'm really looking forward to it."
Pitt and Penn State will be well represented at The Classic.
Four Pitt recruits are featured, including three on the Pennsylvania All-Star Team. Solomon will be joined on the Pennsylvania squad by Canon-McMillan's Cody Wiercioch (167-5 at 170) and Pen Argyl's Michael Racciato (186-8 at 145).
Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta (132-27 at 132), the third member of his family to accept a scholarship to Pitt, is on the WPIAL All-Star Team.
"It's an honor to be chosen for The Classic, especially since J.J. and Anthony were picked," Zanetta said, referring to his brothers. "I remember watching them and thinking about how great it would be to be picked in my senior year. Now I get a chance."
McCutcheon is one of three Penn State recruits. The other two are: Benton's Zain Retherford (130-3 at 138) and Forest Hills' Cody Law (112-26 at 160), who are competing for the Pennsylvania All-Stars.
Clarion, Edinboro, and Mercyhurst also have a recruit entered in The Classic.
Hart, an Edinboro recruit, and Reynolds' Austin Matthews (184-17 at 152), a Clarion recruit, are on the Pennsylvania squad. Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers (152-14 at 182), a Mercyhurst recruit, is on the WPIAL squad.
• What: The 39th Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic to benefit Dapper Dan Charities.
• Schedule: WPIAL All-Stars vs. Virginia All-Stars, 4 p.m.; Pennsylvania All-Stars vs. United States All-Stars, 6 p.m.
• Where: Fitzgerald Field House, Pitt campus.