The field is set for the PIAA wrestling championships, which begin Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. A total of 448 wrestlers from across the state have qualified, all with the goal of claiming one of 28 gold medals.
Twenty-one of the 448 entries boast an unblemished record, including four from the WPIAL. Nine unbeaten wrestlers are competing in the Class AAA bracket, and 12 have yet to lose in Class AA.
Kiski Area's Shane Kuhn (38-0 at 285) is the lone unbeaten WPIAL wrestler in Class AAA. Kittanning's Jason Nolf (41-0, 132), Jefferson-Morgan's Dustin Conti (37-0, 170) and Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers (32-0, 182) are the only Class AA wrestlers who have yet to lose.
"It's great to finally win a WPIAL title," said Kuhn, who placed second in the WPIAL and fourth in the PIAA a year ago. "My ultimate goal is to win a state title, but it's a tough road. There's a lot of good kids in my weight class."
Nolf is entered in the only weight class with three unbeaten wrestlers. He is joined by Smethport's Karl Lightner (31-0) and Lake Lehman's Austin Harry (37-0).
Conti is one of two unbeaten entries at 170. The other is Brandywine Heights' Pete Renda (38-0), who placed second in the PIAA at 152 a year ago. Conti placed fifth at 170 in 2012.
Nolf is one of five unbeaten wrestlers who also are returning PIAA champions. Kennard Dale's Chance Marsteller (36-0, 160) is the lone Class AAA unbeaten returning champ. The others in Class AA are Benton's Zain Retherford (43-0, 138), Pen Argyl's Michael Racciato (40-0, 145) and Milton's Ryan Solomon (36-0, 195).
• Nineteen WPIAL schools will be represented in Class AAA. Ten schools have multiple entries, including three-time WPIAL champion Canon-McMillan. The Big Macs have seven wrestlers who qualified for the PIAA tournament, including five WPIAL finalists. Franklin Regional was second with five.
North Hills and North Allegheny each have four, and Latrobe has three. Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Norwin, Kiski Area and Hampton each have two who qualified for a trip to Hershey.
• The WPIAL Wrestling Steering Committee did an excellent job seeding the Class AAA bracket. All 14 wrestlers seeded No. 1 advanced to the finals and eight won titles. Twelve No. 2 seeds advanced to the finals and six won titles. Two No. 3 seeds were the other two finalists.
• The lowest-seeded wrestlers to qualify for the PIAA tournament were five entries who were seeded No. 6 -- Gateway's A.J. Wilkins (16-3, 113), Latrobe's Jake Shaffer (34-9, 138), Hampton's Kevin Synan (37-7, 145), North Allegheny's Ben Schweiger (25-11, 160) and Franklin Regional's Luke Fleck (22-3, 285).
City League update
Two City League wrestlers qualified for the PIAA Class AAA tournament by placing among the top three in their weight class at the Northwest Region tournament over the weekend at Altoona High School.
Westinghouse senior Rodjecko Christian (23-5) placed second in the 200-pound weight class. His only loss came in the title match against Bald Eagle Area's Nathan Sharkey (28-5).
Allderdice senior Brian Estep (36-3) placed third at 145 pounds. Estep was pinned by Clearfield's Nolan Barger (30-1), the eventual champion, in the semifinals. Estep rebounded with two victories in the consolation bracket, including a 9-2 win against Mifflin County's Brandon Wilson (22-7) to stamp his ticket to Hershey.
Estep's teammate, Ean DiSilvio (34-6), fell one win short of a PIAA berth in the 138-pound weight class. DiSilvio lost, 7-6, in the semifinals to McDowell's Shawn Spearman (22-8), the eventual runner-up, and was pinned by DuBois' Garrett Brown (33-10) in the consolation final.
The Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic will be March 17 at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. The United States all-star team will face Pennsylvania's all-stars at 6 p.m. in the feature match. A team of WPIAL all-stars will face Virginia all-stars at 4 p.m. in the preliminary match.
The event is produced and sponsored by the Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Charities and local volunteers. Proceeds support a youth wrestling program for inner-city children through the Dapper Dan Youth Sports Leagues at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. Reserved seat tickets are $15 and general admission is $10.
Tickets can be purchased at Wright Automotive Group on Route 19 in Pine, Monroeville Chrysler Jeep, Canon-McMillan High School or by calling the Dapper Dan Charities, 412-263-3850. For more information or to order tickets visit, www.wrestlingclassic.com.mobilehome - hsother