Districts and Regionals are completed, and Hershey looms ahead for 10 TIMES NEWS area wrestlers this week.
Those elite 10 will now get to navigate the rough waters of the PIAA State Championships, beginning Thursday at the Giant Center.
Four wins are what it takes to sail to the top of the 16-man brackets, but each match is a treacherous turn, with another top grappler battling to advance and to send another opponent tumbling into the consolation rounds.
Northern Lehigh is sending three to States, including Craemer and Colin Hedash and Nikko Stevens. Tamaqua is sending two, Kolby Mashack and Garth Lakitsky, as is Pleasant Valley, with Jordan Toledo and Jake Chamberlain. Others who are State-bound are Lehighton's Briar Stern, Northwestern's Dylan Long and Jim Thorpe's Dillon Smith.
The TN area has been blessed over the past four years to crown a State champion each season, beginning with Northwestern's Scott Clymer (2006) and continuing with Northern Lehigh's Andrew Arnold (2007), Northwestern's Ben Clymer (2008) and the Tigers' Evan Yenolevich a year ago.
Will someone emerge from this year's slate of area contenders to make it to the top of the mountain?
This is an experienced contingent that is traveling to Chocolatetown this week. Of that group, all but Pleasant Valley's Chamberlain qualified for States last season, with three earning medals: Colin and Craemer Hedash, who placed fourth and eighth, respectively; and Long, who placed seventh.
The following is a look at the opening round match-ups for TN area matmen, as well as a look at some of the top contenders at those weight classes.
112 - Dylan Long, Northwestern, Sr. (29-5) vs. David White, Athens, Sr. (41-3). Long took home a seventh place medal last year, while White was a fifth place finisher. Long's half of the bracket is loaded with returning State placewinners. If he gets past White, he could face State runner-up Evan Link (34-4) of Pen Cambria in the quarterfinals and either Westmont-Hilltop's Josh Polacek (32-7), a bronze medalist, or Schuylkill Valley's Nate Giorgio (43-5), who Long beat out for seventh last year, in the semis. The top half of the bracket includes a pair of returning District 11 State medal winners in Pen Argyl's Jamie Welsh (37-9, fifth) and Bethlehem Catholic's Randy Cruz (34-5, sixth). Also watch out for Phil Elisas of Shady Side Academy (29-6).
130 - Kolby Mashack, Tamaqua, Jr. (35-5) vs. Frank Martellotti, Shady Side Academy, Sr. (45-2). A tough opening assignment for Mashack, who wrestled well in placing third at Regionals. Martellotti was a State bronze medalist last year and is perhaps the favorite in the bottom half of the bracket, which also includes a pair of freshman phenoms in Pen Argyl's Mikey Racciato (41-4) and Austin Matthews (41-6) of Reynolds, as well as a Schuylkill League foe, Shamokin's Brandon Pesarchick (35-5). In the top half are Tyrone's undefeated Ronnie Garbinsky (38-0), Boiling Springs' Joe Spisak (43-1) and three-time Mashack opponent Derek Goodwin (40-7) of Hamburg.
135 - Nikko Stevens, Northern Lehigh, Jr. (30-7) vs. Trevor Kushner, Westmont-Hilltop, Sr. (32-6). Stevens meets a fellow returning State qualifier in Kushner, but also lurking in his half of the bracket is Riodgway's Grant Pisani (34-2), who was eight last season, and Montoursville's undefeated Luke Frey (30-0). The top half of the bracket is no easier, especially since returning State champion Nick Hodgkins (33-1) of Wyomissing resides there, as do Tyrone's unbeaten A.J. Schopp (38-0), a State runner-up a year ago, and Shamokin's Josh Lahr (17-7), who was sixth in 2009.
145 - Dillon Smith, Jim Thorpe, Sr. (34-10) vs. Shawn Perich, Portage, Sr. (37-1). A year ago, Smith has the misfortunate of running into three-time State champ Dane Johnson of Shady Side Academy in the opening round. This time he gets Perich, who placed seventh last year. Also in that half of the bracket are unblemished Jordan Moss (42-0) of Sharon, Warrior Run's Elliot Biddle (33-5) and Garrett Russell (36-8) of Athens. In the other half, Muncy's Aaron Fry is 40-0 and placed sixth a year ago, as did Pen Argyl's Phil Racciato (38-3). Nick Carr of South Fayette is 28-2 and took home a fifth place medal in 2009.
152 - Craemer Hedash, Northern Lehigh, Sr. (29-7) vs. Tyler Hain, Warrior Run, Sr. (33-4). A clash of returning State medal winners, Craemer is facing a PIAA runner-up in Hain. Should Craemer win, Cody Wiercloch of Charleroi is 34-1 and looms in the quarterfinals. As for the bottom of the bracket, there's Burrell's Travis McKillop (41-4, fifth last year) and Fort LeBoeuf's Jeremy King (37-1, sixth), not to mention District 11 rival Kyle Dehaut (34-6), who knocked off Craemer in the District and Regional finals.
171 - Colin Hedash, Northern Lehigh, Jr. (32-3) vs. Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell, Fr. (21-4). After a fourth place finish at States last year, Colin is one to watch in his half of the bracket. If he wins in the prelims, he could face a rematch with Sharon senior Lewendo Teague (41-1), who edged for third at 160 last year. Also drawing attention in Colin's half are Lewisburg's undefeated Nathaniel Brown (37-0) and D-11 rival Luke DeLuise (35-3) of Pius X. In the bottom half, State runner-up Matthew Cunningham (44-4) of Shady Side and Hamburg's Glenn Miller (42-2, sixth last year) face each other in the prelims.
189 - Garth Lakitsky, Tamaqua, Jr. (35-3) vs. R.J. Malson, Greenville, Sr. (33-7). A year ago Lakitsky ran into defending State champ Roman San Doval in his State opener. This time, it's Malson, who placed fourth. At the bottom of Lakitsky's half of the bracket is Towanda senior Travis Chesla (37-1), who could be considered the favorite here. The top of the bracket features Commodore Perry's unbeaten Stephan Ceremuga (38-0), as well as seventh place medalist Kyle Dudley (33-3) of Valley and Lakitsky's D-11 rival Ian Gimbar (40-5) of Saucon Valley, who is 2-for-3 vs. the Raider junior this season.
285 - Briar Stern, Lehighton, Sr. (25-11) vs. Jeff Tarley, Beth-Center, Jr. (35-1). Stern returns to States and will be tested right off the bat by Tarley. Boiling Springs' Tylor Unger, who beat Stern at Regionals, could be a quarterfinal foe, but also watch out for Benton's Tyler DeMott (36-2), a State runner-up a year ago, and Ridgway's undefeated Joe Chittester (37-0) in Stern's half of the bracket. In the top half, Richland's John Rizzo is 37-1, Union City's Greg Reinke is 27-1 and Ben Ancheff of Williams Valley is 23-1.
130 - Jordan Toledo, Pleasant Valley, Sr. (37-4) vs. Ty Lydic, Greater Latrobe, So. (36-5). Toledo became a four-time State qualifier this season and he opens his quest for hardware vs. Lydic. At the top of the bracket, however, is a preliminary round battle between Blue Mountain's Tyler Rauenzahn (43-7), a State runner-up last year, and Erie McDowell's Steve Spearman (38-0). In the bottom half are Toledo's Easton rival Mitchell Minotti (38-3), who placed seventh at States a year ago, and Tyler Buckman (34-4) of Central Dauphin, who placed fifth in 2009.
135 - Jake Chamerlain, Pleasant Valley, Sr. (31-7) vs. Travis Shaffer, Derry, Jr. (29-3). In addition to Shaffer, Chamberlain's half of the bracket includes Cumberland Valley' Shawn Greevy (20-2), who placed third at States, as well as Boyertown's Alex Pellicciotti (41-4), a seventh place medalist. The bottom half features two fourth place medalists in Central Mountain's Jordan Rich (34-2) and Canon McMillan's Nick Catalano (29-3), as well as Easton's Joseph Rizzolina (31-11), who placed sixth.
OFF THE MAT PROJECTIONS - Mark Dugan released his Off The Mat Class AA State rankings for this week's PIAA Championships in which he predicts each place for each weight class in Hershey.
Among TN wrestlers at states in AA, he projects Lakitsky fifth, Mashack sixth, Colin Hedash seventh, Craemer Hedash ninth, Stevens 11th, Long and Smith 14th and Stern 16th.