Montour High School wrestling coach Jason Bombardier had a bittersweet experience with the Spartans' record-setting performance at the Class AAA Section 4 tournament Saturday at Moon Area High School.
"We set a school record by qualifying eight wrestlers for the WPIAL tournament," Bombardier said. "Our previous high was seven qualifiers, in 2008. That's a sign that our program is going in the right direction."
Bombardier was happy to see eight of the Spartans' 13 entries qualify, but was disappointed that a few others didn't place.
"We had a couple kids qualify who I didn't expect, and a few others who I thought would qualify but didn't," said Bombardier, who was especially disappointed with Dave Lyons, a 182-pound senior. "Dave lost in overtime in the consolation semifinals, and could have qualified with a win in the consolation for sixth place, but he didn't show up for the match. He did the same thing at the end of last season."
Bombardier was both pleased and surprised by Kevin Ball, a junior who qualified by placing fifth at 138.
"Kevin came into the tournament with only one win," Bombardier said. "He lost in the first round, then pinned his opponent in the consolation bracket to advance to the fifth-place match. He won that match by forfeit when his opponent pulled out with an injury."
Bombardier was even more impressed with the performance turned in by Cole Macek, who won the 195-pound title after placing second three years in a row. Macek (30-0), a West Point foot ball recruit, impressed the WPIAL wrestling steering committee enough to be seeded No. 1 in the bracket.
"Only one kid has given Cole a good battle this year," said Bombardier, referring to Macek's narrow win against Ellwood City's Brad Grinnen in the title match of the MAC tournament. "It's great to finally see him win a section title. Next on his list of goals is a WPIAL title."
Bombardier also has high hopes for Zack Jablonski (29-7), who is seeded No. 6 at 285.
"[Kiski Area's] Shane Kuhn is a strong favorite to win at heavyweight," said Bombardier, referring to the defending WPIAL champion.
"The other two berths are up for grabs. Zack is one of six or seven kids who are capable of qualifying."
High hopes for Wilps
Chartiers Valley coach Bill Evans is confident that Noah Wilps will make a second consecutive appearance in the WPIAL finals and earn a second trip to Hershey for the PIAA tournament. And he's hoping that Wilps will have company this year.
"It would be great if Noah had a few teammates join him at Hershey this year," Evans said. "We're really looking forward to the tournament and see how many qualifiers we can get."
Wilps (27-1) placed second in the WPIAL and sixth in the PIAA last season. He returns at 170 pounds as a strong favorite in the WPIAL.
"Noah has improved so much since last season," Evans said. "His only loss was to [three-time PIAA champion] Chance Marsteller [of Kennard-Dale] in the Powerade Christmas Tournament finals."
Wilps was one of three Colts wrestlers to win a section title on Saturday. The others were Jacob Paris (22-9 at 182) and Mike Roper (27-5 at 220).
"Jacob and Mike have benefitted significantly from working out with Noah every day in practice," Evans said. "Both have the talent and desire required to qualify. We'll find out this weekend if they are ready to take that step."
Nine from Hopewell advance
Hopewell has nine entries in the WPIAL tournament, thanks to a strong performance in the consolations for fifth place at the Section 4 tournament.
"We had seven kids in the fifth-place match and five came away with victories," Jason Martsolf said. "We did much better than I thought we would do."
Hopewell had two wrestlers advance to the finals, Dustin Winkle (20-11 at 138) and DiMantae Bronaugh (26-9 at 170), but both had to settle for second place.
"Dustin and DiMantae are deserving of a top-eight seed, maybe top-six," Martsolf said. "Both are in a strong weight class."
* West Allegheny has four entries, including Nathan Hall (31-2), a junior who was seeded No. 4 at 152 pounds after claiming a Section 4 title. Hall finished sixth in the WPIAL at 145 last season.
"Nathan is physically ready to take the next step and become a PIAA qualifier," West Allegheny coach Mike Johnson said. "He just needs to be mentally ready."
* Moon has one entry. Nathan Barcaskey (24-10) qualified at 195 after placing third in Section 4. Barcaskey will be making his second trip to the WPIAL tournament.