North Xtra: Outlook bleak for Section 3

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If the seedings are any indication of what to expect at this weekend's Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region tournament, it could be a disappointing weekend for Section 3 fans.

No wrestler from Section 3 is seeded No. 1 in the brackets and only six individuals from the section are seeded No. 2. Four entries are seeded No. 3, but seedings do not guarantee PIAA berths.

A total of 280 wrestlers, 20 in each weight class, are entered in the three-day tournament, which begins today at Canon-McMillan High School. Only the top three finishers in each weight class qualify for next weekend's PIAA tournament, which means only 42 of the 280 entries will qualify for a trip to Hershey.

"I think it's safe to say that Section 3 is not as strong as it was last year," North Allegheny coach Jamie Kyriazis said.

Section 3 had 13 PIAA qualifiers last year, and three won WPIAL titles. Seven of those 13 graduated, one is injured, and one decided not to wrestle this year. That leaves four returning PIAA qualifiers, North Hills sophomore Gage Curry, North Allegheny senior Dom Forys, Central Catholic junior Vincenzo Joseph and Pine-Richland junior Brendan Burnham.

Curry (32-0 at 106) is the only remaining unbeaten wrestler in Section 3, but seeded No. 2. He placed second in the WPIAL and fourth in the PIAA last year at the same weight. Franklin Regional junior Devin Brown (29-0), a PIAA Class AA champion last year at Saegertown, is seeded No. 1.

"The WPIAL has the top two wrestlers in the state at 106, and both are unbeaten," North Hills coach Jose Martinez said. "I would be very surprised to see anybody else in the WPIAL title match."

Forys (36-3 at 126), a three-time PIAA qualifier, two-time WPIAL runner-up and two-time PIAA place-winner, has the challenge of being entered in the strongest weight class in the WPIAL. That's why he's seeded No. 3.

"Dom is one of four returning PIAA place-winners entered at 126 in the WPIAL," said Kyriazis, also referring to Hempfield's Sam Krivus, Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri and Waynesburg's A.C. Headlee. "All four deserve to be at Hershey, but one will have to stay home. I hope it's not Dom."

Burnham (28-2 at 160) placed third in the WPIAL and seventh in the PIAA last season at 152. He moved up one weight class this year and is seeded No. 2 after a 3-2 win against North Hills senior Jonathan Avon (29-4) in the Section 3 final. Avon is seeded No. 5.

"The section isn't as loaded as it's been in the past, but there's still quite a few talented wrestlers," Martinez said.

Forys claimed his fourth Section 3 title on Saturday, while Joseph and Burnham captured their second titles. Avon and Butler senior Ryan Hannon were also returning section champs, but both failed to repeat. Hannan (31-4 at 182) lost in the section final to North Allegheny's Clay Byerly (31-7).

"Ryan went to double overtime with Byerly, but couldn't escape when he was on the bottom," Butler coach Scott Stoner said. "He was that close to a section title."

Curry, Joseph and Burnham are three of the six Section 3 wrestlers who are seeded No. 2 in their weight classes. The other three are North Allegheny freshman Luke Landefeld, Central Catholic senior Kyle Coniker and Butler senior Will Bortmas.

Landefeld (31-7) is making his WPIAL debut at 113. Coniker (23-3) has moved to 170 after falling one win short of a PIAA berth last year after placing fourth in the WPIAL at 152. Bortmas (30-5) is No. 2 at 220.

"Kiski Area's Tyler Worthing (28-1) is the clear favorite at 220," Stoner said. "The other two berths are up for grabs. Will has as good a chance as the others to qualify."

Forys and Byerly are two of three North Allegheny wrestlers seeded No. 3. The other is Zach Smith (33-6 at 195). Seneca Valley's Hunter Baxter (28-3 at 106) is also a No. 3 seed.

North Allegheny had 10 wrestlers qualify for the WPIAL tournament at the Section 3 tournament. North Hills had nine qualify and Butler had eight.

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