WPIAL establishes dominance in opening round of Class AAA wrestling

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HERSHEY, Pa. -- It was a big day for WPIAL wrestlers in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament, which began Thursday night at the Giant Center. Twenty-eight of the WPIAL's 42 entries posted a victory in the opening round, and all but four enter the second day of competition with a chance to become a place-winner.

Making the performance even more impressive was the five third-place finishers from the WPIAL who posted victories.

"Seeds don't mean anything to me," said North Hills senior Tyler Walker, who posted a 13-7 win against Manheim Township's Cortlandt Schuyler in the opening round at 126 pounds. "I just go out there and give it 100 percent in every match I wrestle."

Walker (36-2) was making his second appearance in Hershey. Schuyler placed first in the Southcentral Region.

"It was much easier this time around," said Walker, who posted a 1-2 record in last year's state tournament. "I knew what to expect. I was much more comfortable this time."

Walker's twin brother, Drew, another third-place finisher from the WPIAL, followed suit with a 4-1 win at 138 pounds against Delaware Valley's Jalen Palmer (32-6), a second-place finisher from the Northeast Region.

"When Tyler walked off the mat, he told me to follow him," said Drew Walker (33-5). "He also gave me some advice on what to expect, but I was familiar with the Giant Center because I came to watch him last year. It's so exciting to have both of us win in the first round."

The WPIAL's other third-place finishers who posted wins in the first round were Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri, Pine-Richland's Brendan Burnham and Hampton's Kevin Synan.

Macri (42-6) knocked off Bethlehem Liberty's Grimaldi Gonzalez (33-4), the Northeast Region champion, at 120 pounds. Gonzalez was a bronze medalist in the state tournament last year.

Burnham (32-4) posted a 7-2 victory against General McLane's Mike Sutton (31-4) at 152 pounds. Sutton was the Northwest Region champion.

Synan (38-7) recorded an 8-7 victory against Neshaminy's Ryan O'Connor (37-5) at 145 pounds. O'Connor was a runner-up from the Southeast Region.

"I try not to look at seedings because it can mess with your mind," said Synan, who was making his PIAA debut. "I did attend last year's tournament to watch [teammate] Jake Hart, so I did have an idea of what to expect."

In Class AA, Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi (35-2) pulled the biggest upset of the day. Gavazzi, a fifth-place finisher in last week's Southwest Region tournament, pinned Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora (43-7) in a first-round match at 138 pounds.

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