East Xtra: Franklin Regional flexes its muscles at PIAA championships

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HERSHEY -- Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller completed one of the best careers in PIAA wrestling history Saturday night, defeating Central Catholic's Kyle Coniker, 14-2, in the 170-pound title Class AAA match to finish a perfect 166-0 over his four years.

Marsteller also joined elite company, becoming just the 11th wrestler (Solanco's Thomas Haines would later that night become the 12th) to win four PIAA wrestling championships.

And yet, Marsteller sees a better future for another PIAA champion.

"Spencer Lee is going to be way better than I ever will be," Marsteller said. "He's one of the most explosive wrestlers I've ever seen. He's an absolute animal."

Lee, just a freshman, may join Marsteller someday as an undefeated four-time PIAA champion after completing an unbeaten season on Saturday with a 15-5 victory against General McLane's Joe Wheeling in the 113-pound championship match.

The championship match was the only one at the state tournament that Lee had to wrestle the entire six minutes after notching two technical falls and a pin in his first three matches.

"My goal this tournament was to 'tech' or pin everybody and I didn't do that," Lee said. "But it's OK -- I won. So I'm not really upset. There's always room to improve so that's what I'm going to do after this match."

Lee, a sophomore, entered the season with high expectations as the No. 1-ranked high school wrestler in the country. He lived up to those expectations, going 49-0 for PIAA state champion Franklin Regional.

Lee transferred to the Murrysville school from Saegertown prior to the school year, and he gives credit to his Panthers' teammates for his stellar season.

"They're the reason I won [Saturday]," Lee said. "They beat me up in practice. They go after me and push me. Like Michael Kemerer for instance -- he kicks my butt and I love it. He's made me where I am today. He's an animal."

Kemerer (43-3), who finished as a PIAA runner-up for the third consecutive season after losing the 138-pound final to Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph in overtime, was one of five other Panthers in addition to Lee to finish in the top three in their weight class at states this season.

Devin Brown (37-0), who, like Lee, transferred from Saegertown this season, won his second consecutive PIAA championship by beating Dan Moran of Northampton, 8-7, in the 106-pound title match. Brown won the Class AA 106-pound title last season.

Josh Shields (41-5) was the fourth PIAA finalist Saturday for the Panthers, losing a 4-3 decision to Cumberland Valley's T.C. Warner in the 152-pound championship.

Two other Panthers, Tyler Smith (38-2) and Josh Maruca (41-5), took bronzes at 132 pounds and 145 pounds, respectively.

Smith, the defending 132-pound state champion, lost a 3-0 decision to Nazareth's Chase Zemenak in the quarterfinals, but battled his way back to place for the third time.

Like Smith, Maruca battled his way back from a quarterfinal loss to 2013 138-pound state champion Joe Galasso of Father Judge to stand on the podium in Hershey for the third time.

The six Panthers' performances last weekend helped Franklin Regional run away in the team competition. The Panthers finished with 119 points, 59 more than second-place Greater Latrobe. The Panthers beat Latrobe in the PIAA Class AAA team duals championship in February, too.

"There's no competition with us because we're all just a big family," Brown said of his Panthers teammates. "We get along great. We train together and do a lot of stuff together. I just appreciate them being here with me."

It is likely Franklin Regional will be back near the top again next season, with Smith the only one of the Panthers' top six wrestlers who graduates.

But Lee won't look ahead to the next PIAA tournament, or the possibility of joining Marsteller among the state's most exclusive club.

"I'm not really worried about it," Lee said. "I'm just going to go out and train. I take it one match at a time and one tournament at a time. I don't worry about the state tournament until I'm at the state tournament.

"... I'm not going to think in my mind, 'If I lose here, I can't win four state titles,' because that's not what I'm worried about. I want to wrestle my best every match, every tournament and just have fun."

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