HS Wrestling: Senior standouts have goals in mind for final PIAA runs

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A total of 448 individuals will participate this weekend in the PIAA wrestling championships with hopes of claiming one of the 28 titles available.

Ten of those entries have the distinction of making their fourth consecutive trip to Hershey, Pa., to compete at Giant Center.

Four of the 10 are from the WPIAL. Canon-McMillan's Solomon Chishko, Latrobe's Zack Zavatsky and Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith will make their fourth appearances in the PIAA Class AAA tournament, while Kittanning's Jason Nolf is back for a fourth time in the Class AA tournament. Chishko and Nolf are three-time PIAA place-winners, and Zavatsky and Smith are two-time PIAA place-winners.

Chishko (23-3) and Nolf (40-0) also are four-time WPIAL champions, as they joined the WPIAL's most exclusive club, which has only 24 members. Both won their fourth titles while competing at 145 pounds.

"Winning a fourth WPIAL title was awesome, but my ultimate goal is to win another PIAA title," said Chishko, who placed third in the PIAA at 130 and 138 before winning the 145-pound title a year ago.

Chishko, a Virginia Tech recruit, is one of two returning PIAA champs entered in the Class AAA 145-pound bracket. The other is Father Judge's Joe Galasso (23-0), a Cornell recruit who won his PIAA title a year ago at 138.

"I try not to look ahead, but I have visualized the possible matchup with Galasso in the final," Chishko said. "I want to finish my high school career with another title and move on to college."

Nolf, a Penn State recruit, won his first PIAA title as a 103-pound freshman, placed third as a 113-pound sophomore and won his second PIAA title a year ago at 132. He enters the weekend with a 172-1 career record, with his only loss coming in the PIAA semifinals in 2012.

"It's great to be recognized as a four-time WPIAL champion and a four-time Southwest Region champion," Nolf said. "But they are just steps on the way to states. Winning another PIAA title is the ultimate goal for me."

Zavatsky (38-0) is a three-time WPIAL champion and two-time PIAA place-winner. He placed eighth in the state as a 160-pound sophomore, then finished third a year ago at the same weight.

"One goal I set when I started wrestling was to win a PIAA title," Zavatsky said. "I have one more chance to reach that goal. I'm looking forward to my last trip to Hershey."

Smith (33-1), a Bucknell recruit, is a two-time PIAA place-winner and defending champ at 132 pounds, but could find it hard to repeat. Smith lost, 5-2, to Penn-Trafford freshman Cameron Coy (35-5) in the WPIAL final, one week after beating him, 2-1, in a section final.

Hempfield's Sam Krivus (38-3), the PIAA Class AAA 120-pound champion in 2013, faces a similar situation. Krivus started the season at 132, but dropped to 126 after losing twice to Smith. Krivus then lost, 4-3, in the WPIAL final to Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri (36-2). Macri lost to Krivus last year in the PIAA title match at 120.

"I wouldn't be surprised if I faced him again in the PIAA tournament," Macri said. "I would welcome a rematch in the final."

Nolf, Chishko, Krivus and Smith are among 13 entries in the state who have won at least one PIAA title. Latrobe's Luke Pletcher and Franklin Regional's Devin Brown (33-0) also are returning champions.

Pletcher (39-0) won WPIAL and PIAA titles at 106 pounds last season as a freshman. He has moved to 120 this season and is in the same weight class as Parkland's Ethan Lizak (41-3), a three-time PIAA finalist and two-time champ who won at 113 a year ago. The two met in December in the final of the Powerade Christmas tournament and Pletcher posted a 3-2 victory.

Brown (33-0) won a Class AA title last year while attending Saegertown High School, but transferred to Franklin Regional over the summer. He returns at 106 pounds with hopes of claiming a Class AAA title.

"I won in Class AA last year and feel I can win in AAA this year," Brown said. "I've worked so hard with that goal in mind."

Nolf is one of two WPIAL wrestlers who won PIAA Class AA titles last year. The other is Derry's George Phillippi (37-4), a sophomore who has moved to 120 after winning last year at 113.

Smith and Brown are two of six Franklin Regional wrestlers entered in the Class AAA tournament. The Panthers are a strong favorite to win the team title. Franklin Regional's other qualifiers are Spencer Lee (45-0, 113), Michael Kemerer (40-2, 138), Josh Maruca (36-5, 145) and Josh Shields (38-4, 152).

Kemerer is a two-time PIAA runner-up who had previous title-match appearances at 106 and 126. Lee is a freshman who is ranked No. 1 in the country at his weight class. Shields is a two-time PIAA place-winner.

"I want to be a four-time state champ," Lee said. "But to reach that goal, I must win the first. Then I can start thinking about winning four titles."

The WPIAL has 42 wrestlers in the Class AAA bracket and 35 in the Class AA bracket. The City League also has one entry in the Class AAA bracket.

■ What: PIAA Wrestling Championships, Giant Center, Hershey, Pa.

■ When: Thursday-Saturday.

■ The finals: Class AA, 2 p.m. Saturday; Class AAA, 7 p.m. Saturday.

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