The 2010 PIAA Wrestling Championships are now history.
On one level, it was a tough tournament for Lehigh Valley wrestlers, who for the first time since 1966 failed to crown a State champion. In Class AA, Liberty's Anthony Marino and Nazareth's Zach Horan each finished second, while in AA, Bethlehem Catholic's Randy Cruz and Kyle Dehaut had to settle for silver.
In fact, the only District 11 gold medal came from Blue Mountain senior Josh Kindig, who won for the second time. Eagles' teammate Corey Keener ended up placing second.
Truth by told, those results say more about the quality of scholastic wrestling across the state than it does about any decline or deficiency among the Lehigh Valley powers.
The depth in many of the weight classes was remarkable. Even being undefeated or a former State champion, such as North Star's Nick Roberts, Juniata's Arty Walsh (who won gold while at Wyomissing last year), Wyomissing's Nick Hodgkins and Coudersport's Dirk Cowburn (who fell to Benton's Eric Hess in a battle of returning State champs) was enough to guarantee a return to the top of the podium.
Other returning champs, including Hess and Schuylkill Valley's Colin Shober in AA and Derry's Jimmy Gulibon (who knocked off Keener), Franklin Regional's Nico Megaludis (who beat Marino), Kindig, Central Mountain's Alton brothers, Andrew and Dylan, Central Dauphin's Marshall Peppelman and Abington Heights heavyweight Evan Craig, were able to navigate the brackets back to the top.
Blue Mountain has proven its mettle on the State stage, placing second in the team race to Central Mountain and finishing as the highest placing D-11 team. Liberty and Nazareth tied for eighth place. In AA, Benton took the team crown, with Schuylkill Valley and Shady Side Academy tying for second place. Becahi fared the best of D-11 squads with a 12th place finish.
This season also marked the end of the four-year streak of State champions for THE TIMES NEWS area. A total of 10 grapplers from the Region qualified for States, and six came home with medals, quite an achievement considering the AA matmen went 1-for-7 in the preliminary round.
Out of the area medalists, three are underclassmen and will be back next year: Tamaqua junior Garth Lakitsky, whose fourth place finish topped all TN Region matmen; and Northern Lehigh juniors Colin Hedash and Nikko Stevens, who placed fifth and sixth, respectively. The other medalists were No. Lehigh's Craemer Hedash and Pleasant Valley's Jordan Toledo and Jake Chamberlain, all of whom placed sixth.
Three of the other State qualifiers are seniors: Northwestern's Dylan Long, Jim Thorpe's Dillon Smith and Lehighton heavyweight Briar Stern. All three were two-time qualifiers, with Briar keeping with the Stern family tradition of father Larry and brother Levi, both also two-time State wrestlers.
The other qualifier, Tamaqua junior Kolby Mashack, has also made it out to Hershey two-times. Mashack wrestled well against Shady Side's Frank Martellotti in the prelims, falling 9-7. Martellotti ended up placing second at 135 to Boiling Springs' Joe Spisak.
Here are some other notes on the season just completed and what to watch for 2010-11.
Northern Lehigh continued its streak of consecutive years with a State qualifier at 22. The last time the Bulldogs failed to qualify a wrestler for States was 1987. The 'Dawgs have now had 98 PIAA qualifiers and will have a shot at hitting the century mark next season.
"We have two of our three State qualifiers coming back, and a bunch of guys who are underclassmen, two of them (Ty Herzog and Zane Heller) who were one win away from being there," said Northern Lehigh coach Todd Herzog. In addition, Dylan Hofmann was a Regional qualifier. "I feel we have 7-8 kids coming back next year who have the ability to get to that level."
The TN area with the longest State drought is Panther Valley; the last Panther to wrestle in Chocolatetown was Nick Kopp in 2004. However, the Panthers will return two Regional qualifiers in junior Nick O'Donnell and sophomore Mike Weaver, so next year could be the end of the dry spell.
By gaining sixth place medals from Toledo and Chamberlain, Pleasant Valley took home multiple State hardware for the first time since 2003, when Mike Ferrara (third), Ian McGoldrick (seventh) and Steve Mytych (eighth) turned the trick.
The Bears had three underclassmen who were Regional qualifiers (Sean Bianco, Ernie Klingel and Alex Yanovich), as well as another (Mike Dahlstrom) who missed Regionals by one place.
Tamaqua's Lakitsky and Mashack will be shooting to become only the second and third three-time State qualifiers for the Blue Raiders next season. The only one to accomplish the feat was Matt Benza, who wrestled at States from 1999-2001, including a second place finish in 2001.
Lakitsky will be looking to become the Raiders's fourth multiple-medal winner, joining his father, Garth, Sr. (third in 1985 and fourth in 1986), Andy Breiner (second in 1999 and third in 2000) and Benza (eighth in 1999, fifth in 2000 and third in 2001). Mashack's father Jon was a two-time State qualifier in 1985 and 1986.
Lehighton's Anthony Farole just missed going to States by one place aat Regionals and has the potential to extend Lehighton's streak of consecutive seasons with a State qualifier to 10 in 2011.Mike Balliet is the Tribe's other returning Regional qualifier.