HERSHEY >> Eleven individuals enter the 78th Annual PIAA Wrestling Championships as returning champions, but at least three will have to settle for something less than another title while two others have a chance to become three-time champs.
And a new team champion will be crowned in at least one of the two tournaments, as three-time champion Bethlehem Catholic has moved up to Class AAA. Both tournaments begin Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Franklin Regional senior Devin Brown and Latrobe junior Luke Pletcher are two-time Class AAA champions hoping to win a third title.
Brown (40-2), a West Virginia recruit, won a Class AA title at 106 pounds in 2013 while attending Saegertown, then transferred to Franklin Regional and claimed a Class AAA title last year in the same weight class.
"I just have to stay smart about everything," Brown said. "I have to train, sleep, and eat like I have all season. I just have to wrestle my best and do what it takes to win another state championship."
Pletcher (36-1) has won Class AAA titles at 106 and 120 and is now competing at 132 pounds. But Pletcher suffered a 2-1 loss to Waynesburg's A.C. Headlee in the Southwest Region final in a match that went to the ultimate tiebreaker.
"I didn't capitalize on my opportunities," Pletcher said after the loss that ended his 115-match win streak. "I'll watch the tape and get ready for next week."
Brown's teammate Spencer Lee is also a returning champion. Lee (44-0), a sophomore who boasts a 93-0 career record, claimed a Class AAA title at 113 pounds last season and has since moved to 120.
Also entered at 120 pounds is Bethlehem Catholic's Jake Riegel (36-5), a sophomore who claimed a Class AA title at 106 last season.
Riegel will be hard pressed to repeat and could find it tough to return to the finals, as he lost in the quarterfinals of the Northeast Region Tournament and placed third.
"I'm confident every time I step on the mat," Lee said. "It doesn't matter who I'm wrestling. I could be wrestling (Olympic champion) Jordan Burroughs and I would still be confident I could win."
A similar scenario will take place in the Class AAA 138-pound weight class and the Class AA 120-pound weight class.
Hempfield senior Sam Krivus (39-0) and Penn-Trafford sophomore Cameron Coy (31-5) are entered at 138 in Class AAA. Krivus is a three-time PIAA placewinner who won a title at 120 as a sophomore, then placed fourth last year at 126. Coy won a PIAA title at 132 last year as a freshman.
Krivus and Coy, both Virginia University recruits, met last weekend in the Southwest Region final and Krivus posted a 4-3 victory. It was the ninth time the two have met in two years and Krivus has won all nine, with the last four decided by one point.
"It's really tough to wrestle somebody so many times," Krivus said.
"We've figured each other out. It gets harder each time."
Boiling Springs senior Korbin Meyers (37-1) and Derry Area junior George Phillippi (39-3) are the only returning champs in Class AA and both are entered at 132. Meyers, an Edinboro University recruit, is a three-time state placewinner and two-time finalist who won at 120 last year. Phillippi beat Meyers in the 2103 final at 113 pounds, then placed third at 120 last year.
"My mom takes all my medals from each year and frames them and hangs them on my wall," said Meyers, who led Boiling Springs to a PIAA Team Tournament title one month ago. "I have medals from my freshman year, sophomore year, and junior year. Last year, has all gold medals, except for the bronze medal we won at team states. I said to myself, that doesn't look right. So when we won team states this year, my goal was all gold. I want all gold medals this year."
The other three returning champions in the Class AAA bracket are: Bethlehem Catholic junior Luke Karam (34-2), Pittsburgh Central Cathlic senior Vincenzo Joseph (27-1), and Governor Mifflin senior Jan Johnson (45-1).
Karam was a two-time Class AA finalist who won at 113 last year and is now entered at 126. Joseph, a Penn State recruit, is a three-time state placewinner who claimed the 138-pound title last year and is now at 152. Johnson is the defending champ at 195, but lost in the Southcentral Regional quarterfinals to Big Spring senior Tommy Rayhart (31-3) and eventually placed third. This year's tournament features an expanded 20-man bracket in each weight class for the first time in PIAA Tournament history.
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