PIAA STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
A breakdown of the classses that local wrestlers will be competing in at the PIAA State Championships.
106 - Colin Mashack, Tamaqua (37-3), sophomore, is wrestling in his first State Meet. He won a Schuylkill League title this year, finished second at districts and third at regionals. He faces Josh Brown, a junior from Claysburg-Kimmel, in his opening round bout. Brown, entering his second state tournament, is 31-5 and placed second in the Southwest Regional. In Mashack's bracket is Korbin Myers, the Boiling Springs freshman who defeated the Blue Raider in the semifinals of Regionals and finished second. Myers is one of four freshmen in that side of the bracket. A Mashack victory could pit him against Saegertown's ninth-grader Tyler Vath, who is 39-2 and ranked third in the state. The favorite to win the championship is probably Bethlehem Catholic's Darian Cruz, who is in the other side of the bracket.
113 - Josh Evans, Palmerton (30-7), sophomore, is making his first appearance at Hershey in the state tournament. Evans took second at districts and fourth at regionals. He will take on undefeated Jason Nolf (39-0) of Kittanning in the opening round. Nolf is a sophomore, a defending state champion, and the favorite to earn gold. The Southwest Regional champ is the top-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds. The field of 16 contains 10 wrestlers who have been state qualifiers, including six who are making their third trip to Hershey.
120 - Sam Oberlander, Palmerton (37-5), senior, is making his first trip to the state tournament. Oberlander finished third at districts and fourth at regionals. The Blue Bomber, who earned his 100th career win in the consolations at regionals, will meet undefeated Jarray Norris of Sharon in the opening round. Norris (39-0) is a junior and is making his second trip to states. Despite being undefeated, he is only ranked seventh (according to Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings). Half of the field has qualified for states in the past. The favorite, who is in the opposite bracket of Oberlander, is North Star's Nick Roberts. The senior is 40-1 and is a two-time state champion.
145 - Ty Herzog, Northern Lehigh (29-7), junior, is making his second trip to states. A year ago he suffered two straight losses at Hershey. This season he placed second at districts and regionals, losing in the finals both times to Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora. Herzog's first-round opponent this year is Tanner Sutton of Chartiers-Houston. Sutton, a junior, is 26-2 and the third-place finisher out of the Southwest Regional. This is also his second trip to states. All totaled, eight of the wrestlers in the weight class are returning state qualifiers although only three of them have medaled. If Herzog wins his opener, he more than likely will face the only undefeated wrestler at 145 - Hughesville's Kyle Barnes. The favorite is Zach Beitz of Juniata, who is a three-time state medalist.
152 - Cody Grohotolski, Palmerton (30-7), senior, is competing for the first time in the state tournament. Grohotolski took a second place at districts and finished fourth at regionals. The Bomber is scheduled to face Cory Berchick of Conemaugh Township in the opening round of the tournament. Berchick, a senior, is 41-1 and the Southwest Regional champion. He is also making his first trip to Hershey and is ranked fourth in the state according to Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings. Only three wrestlers in the field are returning state qualifiers, one of them being Cody Copeland of Greenville. Copeland is the favorite with a 41-0 record and finishes of second and third at states.
170 - Mike Balliet, Lehighton (34-6), senior, will be making his first appearance in the state tournament. Balliet was third at districts and followed that with a third at regionals. He will take on Mount Carmel's Brett Przekop in the opening round. Przekop is a senior with a 28-3 record. He finished second at the Northeast Regional and is also making his first trip to states. There are 10 seniors in the 16-person field and there are six making a second tripe to states. The favorites for gold are probably Bethlehem Catholic's Elliot Riddick and Muncy's Troy Hembury, the only two in the field who have earned medals at Hershey. Both those wrestlers are in the opposite bracket of Balliet.
182 - Levi Veppert, Northwestern (34-2), senior, is a first-time state qualifier after claiming gold at both districts and regionals. The Tiger is currently ranked fifth in the state according to Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings and will face Dylan Ludwig of Moshannon Valley in his opening bout. Ludwig is also a senior, sports a 23-3 record, and finished fifth at the Southwest Regionals. Only four in the weight class have been at states before. The favorite is Grove City's Wes Phipps, who is 36-0 and a four-time qualifier with three medals. Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers is also a threat. He is 42-0 with two state medals to his credit.
195 - David Tirpak, Northwestern (19-5), senior, will be participating in his first state tournament. Tirpak, who was bothered by shoulder injuries during the season and missed some time, earned a silver medal at districts and finished fifth at regionals. Tirpak matches up with Southmoreland's Jordan Kitta, a former state medalist, in the first round. Kitta is 32-1 and claimed gold at the Southwest Regional. There are seven returning state qualifiers in the field. Ryan Solomon of Milton is in his third state tournament, having earned a second and sixth place. While Solomon (31-1) seems to be the favorite he's expected to get a stiff challenge in his second bout when he faces Saucon Valley's Ray O'Donnell (42-1).
220 - Kane Kralik, Palmerton (36-3), senior, gained his first trip to states in his final scholastic season. Kralik finished third at districts and earned a fourth-place showing at regionals. The Blue Bomber will meet junior Eric McCracken of Central Columbia in the preliminaries. McCracken is 35-4 and the runner-up at the Northeast Regional. Field consists of nine seniors and seven juniors. There are five returning state qualifiers, four of whom have medaled. Odds are for a finals matchups of Richland's John Rizzo (38-1) and Lackawanna Trail's Eric Laytos (35-0). Rizzo has won two state titles while Laytos also owns a state gold medal.
106 - Kenny Yanovich, Pleasant Valley (41-5), sophomore, is making his second straight trip to the state tournament. As a freshman, Yanovich did post a win but didn't medal at Hershey. The Bear grappler gained third-place finishes at both districts and regionals. Yanovich is one of six returning state qualifiers in the 106-pound class. There are four freshmen in the field, including Yanovich's first-round opponent - Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer. The ninth-grader is 36-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state according to Pennsylvania Wrestling Rankings. Kemerer, along with Parkland state runner-up Ethan Lizak (39-1), are considered the favorites to win gold.
113 - Sean Bianco, Pleasant Valley (40-2), junior, is making his first appearance at Hershey after winning gold medals at both districts and regionals. Bianco is scheduled to make Derek Gulotta of Owen J. Roberts in the first round. Gulotta is a freshman with a 33-8 record. He finished third at the Southeast Regional. Only three wrestlers in the 113-pound field have state experience, but two are in Bianco's side of the bracket. Tanner Shoap of Chambersburg owns a PIAA medal while Council Rock South's Billy Rappo, the favorite in the weight class, is a former state champion and is making his third trip to states.
126 - Michael Dahlstrom, Pleasant Valley (42-5), senior, is a returning state qualifier who gained one win at the tournament a year ago. Dahlstrom finished third at districts and earned a silver at regionals. His first-round opponent will be Nick Gibson of McDowell. Gibson, a junior, is 23-2 and took a second place at the Northwest Regional. In the latest Pennsylvania Wrestling Rakings, Dahlstrom is ranked fourth and Gibson is 10th. Dahlstrom is one of eight wrestlers in the field who are returning state qualifiers. One of them includes his nemisis and the favorite for gold, Corey Keener of Blue Mountain. Keener is in his fourth state tournament and owns one state championship and one runner-up finish. Keener has handed Dahlstrom three of his five losses this season.
Compiled by Rod Heckman