Roadblocks abound at PIAA wrestling
When you have qualified for the PIAA Wrestling Championships - as have six Franklin County athletes - you know you've put in a lot of time and sweat and effort just to get to Giant Center.
And then the real work begins.
Because there is no such thing as a breather at states.
"I've told our kids that all of the other 19 kids in their bracket are state-caliber kids," Chambersburg coach Matt Mentzer said. "There's nobody you can take lightly - they are all roadblocks."
Class 3A action begins Thursday at 4 p.m., with the preliminary and first round, and one round of consolations.
Some roadblocks, however, may be taller than others.
Take Shippensburg senior Chandler Olson, for example. Olson is a three-time PIAA medalist and was the runner-up at the District 3 championships. His reward: He faces a regional champion in the first round; if he wins, he'd likely see another regional champ in the quarterfinals, and if he wins that, he'll almost certainly see Franklin Regional's Spencer Lee, a world champion and three-time PIAA champ, in the semifinals.
"I don't think there are any good draws at states," Greyhound coach Tony Yaniello said. "In Chandler's freshman year, in his first match he drew a returning placewinner. That's just how it is."
Of the six area state qualifiers, four would likely face the top-seeded wrestler at their weight in their second match. Two of those four top seeds are unbeaten.
Olson and Chambersburg's Drew Peck both placed fourth last year at states after losing to eventual champions in the semifinals.
Peck (31-4), as the area's only district champion, was slotted in the No. 3 spot, and he and Nazareth's Travis Stefanik (33-2) are the only regional champions in the bottom half of the bracket. The favorite at 182 is Nino Bonacorsi of Bethel Park (36-0), who was a state runner-up at 170 last year.
"I've been watching these guys, and I feel confident after seeing their styles," Peck said.
He said having an extra week off while the other areas of the state held regionals last week, and having two years of experience at states are factors in his favor.
"The extra week is a big advantage," Peck said. "You have two weeks to zone in on your goals. And there's not much of a chance for them to work out between regionals and states. I noticed a big difference between my sophomore and junior year. I was more focused last year, but I did get nervous in the semifinals. I hope to get there again and use my experience to get through."
Mentzer said, "It seems like a pretty open weight. I think there are five or six kids who think they can win that weight, and Drew's one of them."
Last week at districts, Olson barely got through Central Dauphin's Jake Cherry in the semifinals, and lost big in the final to Austin DeSanto of Exeter Township.
Yaniello said Olson is in a better place this week.
"He was having some weight issues and wasn't strong or sharp," he said. "But he looks strong and determined now."
Olson (38-2), with both losses to DeSanto, will take on Ryan Anderson of Bethlehem Catholic (27-3) in the first round.
Yaniello said, "That kid was ranked No. 9 in the country at 120 earlier this year and was second at the Beast. But he got a knee injury and when he came back he stayed at 126."
Also for Shippensburg, junior Cole Forrester (36-5) at 195 and senior Cameron Tinner (36-2) at 285 have qualified. It's the first trip for Forrester; last year Tinner came into states unbeaten and went 1-2. Should they win their first bouts, Forrester would hit returning 182 champion Jake Woodley of North Allegheny (46-2) and Tinner would likely meet Bethlehem Catholic's Niko Camacho (38-3), who was fourth last year.
"I'm impressed with how all three kids have responded from their losses last week," Yaniello said.
Chambersburg's other two entries are both at states for the first time, junior Drake Brenize (31-10) at 152 and freshman Luke Nichter (29-8) at 160. Should they win their openers, Brenize would meet Cam Coy of Penn Trafford (34-0) and Nichter would likely face Trent Hidley of Mifflin County (34-0).
Mentzer said, "They both have decent first-round matchups, and it doesn't get much tougher than their next ones. But I think they're both looking forward to it and they'll give it their best shot."