No time to waste before I load the van full of triplets and head out to Hershey for some pre-tournament chores, so here are the predix and what passes for analysis.
TOP FIRST-ROUND MATCH
That’s at 126 where Central Dauphin’s Tyson Dippery (45-2) and Delaware Valley’s C.J. Palmer (37-3) meet, the result of Palmer’s semi-upset loss in teh Northeast Region quarterfinals to Michael Dahlstrom (42-5) of Pleasant Valley . Dippery was third at 119 last year; Palmer was knocked out of medal contention after suffering a 2-1 loss to eventual PIAA runner-up MacKenzie McGuire of Upper St. Clair in quarterfinals (McGuire also beat Dippery 2-1 in semis when Dipp tried to hang onto a 1-0 lead and was reversed late). The thing is, the winner of this match has only taken the first step down a winding path; 126 is loaded on both sides of the bracket.
TOP QUARTERFINAL MATCH
This is like being a great buffet – too many choices and too small of a plate. There’s a lot of prime rib in this round.
Almost every weight class has a QF that, assuming the opening round follows the chalk, pairs erstwhile medal winners. But no potential QF match beats the 138-pound top bracket pairing of Canon-McMillan’s Solomon Chishko (40-1) and La Salle College High School’s Matt Cimato (45-2). Both were third last year, Chishko at 130 and Cimato at 140. Alone in a weight class, either would be a serious candidate for state title.
Far from that, the winner is likely to get 2010 PIAA champion Steve Spearman (34-2) of McDowell. Chishko’s lone loss this season was to Spearman in the finals of the Class AAA PIAA Team Championships.
Chishko has a 3-2 win over Cimato in the Powerade semifinals (the other Cimato loss is a 6-2 decision to Dylan Milonas of Blair Academy at the Beast). The top bracket of 138 is a small world, obviously. By contrast, the bottom half of 138 is a prairie by comparison.
BEST WEIGHT CLASS
I foreshadowed this above with the top first-roound match; I have to think it’s 126. PIAA champ Corey Keener (43-1) of Blue Mountain, Dippery, T.J. Brandt (29-3) of Altoona, Josh DiSanto (32-1) of Pennsbury, Nick Gibson (23-2) of McDowell and Dahlstrom (who meet in the opening round), Palmer and Colton Shorts (37-6) of Canon-McMillan. That’s a lot of talent.
AND THE CLOCK IS TICKING …
Knew this was going to happen. Just had a bunch of things to do around my post, and I ran out of time. So the predictions, which are all anyone really cares about, will be done in machine-gun fashion.
103: Ethan Lizak (39-1), Parkland over Michael Kemerer (36-0), Franklin Regional: Lizak was a hot freshman product last year; Kemerer is this year’s version, part of a wave of great young talent coming out of Franklin Regional.
113: Dalton Macri (39-3), Canon-McMillan over Sam Krivus (40-3), Greensburg Hempfield Area: Macri reverse his Southwest region finals loss to Krivus, yet another superb freshman.
120: Conner Schram (22-0), Canon-McMillan over Godwin Nyama (34-2), Brashear: I’m openly rooting for Nyama to reach the finals, even though it’s 50-50 at best (the bottom of 120 is pretty good). I just want to see a Pittsburgh city kid make in hopes that it will help wrestling take root in the city. A long shot, I know, buta guy can dream. Schram bounces back from that execution that Jordan Conway of New Oxford laid on him in last year’s finals.
126: Corey Keener (43-1), Blue Mountain over Tyson Dippery (45-2), Central Dauphin: In all honesty, Dippery (called “Buck” by his family and CD insiders) hasn’t wrestled at 100 percent since suffering an ankle injury. He’ll have to turn it up a notch to reach finals in this weight class. Keener is ridiculously tough, but he has some land mines in front of him too.
132: Mackenzie McGuire (37-3), Upper St. Clair over Devon Loitito (35-1), Liberty: I’m not a big fan of McGuire’s deliberate style, but I’m guessing he doesn’t care. The guy wins, and wins a lot, and his experience tilts in his favor over Lotito.
138: Steve Spearman (34-2), McDowell over Cole Landowski (30-3), Kiski Area: Spearman survives the top bracket meat-grinder while Landowski surprises out of the bottom. Really, the way this weight is bracketed, it’s a dice roll.
145: Mitch Minotti (37-0), Easton over Garrett Hammond (35-4), Chambersburg: Not a lot different than last year when Minotti won at 140 and Hammond finished second at 135. Minotti’s in the tougher half, but he’s the class of this weight.
152: Garrett Peppelman (44-4), Central Dauphin over Rustin Barrick (36-6), Mechanicsburg: OK, I went homer on you and went with my locals, and not because Peppelman is a classmate of my daughters’ at CD. G-Pep has shown some maturity this year, especially since his D3 Team Championships loss to Barrick, who he beat in the district finals. Barrick has faced all comers this year, thus the six losses, but he’s smart, sharp and savvy, enough to carry him through a touch bracket.
160: Chance Marsteller (39-0), Kennard-Dale over Brian Brill (38-0), Central Mountain: One word – wow. The two returning state champs are among the biggest names at Hershey this weekend; having them in the same weight is a rare treat. Marsteller is every bit the phenom that was promised last year, and if he continues on his current arc, he will be seriously considered one of the best wrestlers in Pa. history. But not so fast: Brill is definitely one of the toughest, most physical kids in the state. If anyone has a shot at slowing down Marsteller’s cosmic offense, it’s Brill.
Although I’m in favor of at least trying the new format of all place matches being wrestled simultaneously (let’s give a shot, and if it bombs, it goes), this is the one match that should be wrestled solo with the house lights down.
170: Cody Wiercioch (42-0), Canon-McMillan over Shane Springer (50-5), Norristown: Remember when Wiercioch transferred to Canon-Mac from Charleroi over the summer? Two things were uttered: (1) Hand Canon-Mac the dual meet trophy and (2) Will Wiercioch be able to hold up in Class AAA? (1) was right on; (2) was a laugh. Wiercioch’s physical style works at any level, and it should carry the 2010 AA champ and 2011 runenr-up to his first AAA title.
182: Matt McCutcheon (37-1), Kiski Area over Khalique Harris (35-2), Sharon: Just can’t see anyone, including the tall, talented Harris, taking out McCutcheon, whose only loss to Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s unbeaten Perry Hills. Harris is great on his feet, but McCutcheon just seems unstoppable at this point.
195: Perry Hills (31-0), Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Jake Hart (37-3), Hampton: Hills, the Central Catholic quarterback, is a phenomenal athlete, which has served him well as a wrestler. I have to imagine that he was one of the folks who loved seeeing the new weights this year. He would have had to cut to go to 189 or go up to 215 under the old weights; 195 is perfect fit for him.
220: Thomas Haines (40-0), Solanco vs. Bryton Barr (34-5), Mechanicsburg: This might be the easiest call of the AAA field. haines is simply one of the best young upper weights – if not the best – in Pennsylvania history. Very few upper weights have performed the way Haines has both in terms of maturity and style. Barr is a longshot, but I never count that guy out of any match (except with Haines). He’s a literal bull, charging in with his double-leg; he took down Haines in districts, which only served to awaken the giant in an eventual tech fall.
285: Dawson Peck (10-0), Chambersburg over Cody Klempay (38-1), Canon-McMillan: This is the deepest heavyweight field in recent memory. returning champion Averee Robinson (38-3) of Susquehanna Twp. is still a very obvious threat and should he beat Klempay in the semis, I think he’ll win it. But Robinson just hasn’t had the same level of aggressiveness he had last year and must have that in place when he wrestles Klempay. Peck has recovered from Tommy Johns surgery that appeared to have eliminated his senior season, but his rapid rehab got him back on the mat, and he’s making good use of it.
Team: Canon-McMillan. In a breeze. Big, big year for the WPIAL.