The field is smaller at this year’s PIAA Wrestling Championships – just eight per bracket. The tournament length is shorter, too – cut down to one day from the typical three.
But North Penn’s William Morrow knows one thing that is not changing is the level of talent on the mats in Hershey.
“Only having these one-day tournaments, I mean I’m sure it helps some kids a lot but still the same competition going to states,” said the Knights junior at last Saturday’s Class 3A East Super Regional. “Maybe a slight difference but still got to beat the best to be the best.”
Morrow is one of five area wrestlers – three in 3A, two more in 2A – to clinch state medals last weekend and now heads to the Giant Center to battle for the top spot on the podium.
Action starts Friday with 2A with 3A held Saturday with schedules the same both days. Weights 106-138 begin at 8:30 a.m. with the opening session for 145-285 set at 12:30 p.m. Finals and consolations for 106-138 are at 5 p.m. while 145-285 goes at 8 p.m.
In Class 3A, Morrow and Central Bucks West junior Carl DiGiorgio (215) are back at Hershey for the second straight season while La Salle senior Regan Loughney (172) is competing there for the first time.
Faith Christian junior Eric Alderfer is in the Class 2A 138-pound bracket and looks to better his eight-place finish in 120 at states in 2020. Also in 2A, Pope John Paul II junior Alan Alexander competes in a 152-pound field with just one prior state medalist.
At last year’s state tournament, Morrow (13-4) won his preliminary match at 138 then dropped his next two. The NP junior opens the 145 quarterfinals Saturday against Norwin senior John Altieri (30-3), the West Super Regional champ who took fourth at states last season in 138.
Morrow is coming off a fourth place finish at East Super Regionals, splitting his four matches with a pair of tight losses – falling 5-3 in sudden victory to Bensalem’s Connor Eck in the semifinals then in the third-place match was edged 1-0 by Dagen Condomitti of Northampton.
“I got to start moving on my feet a lot more though,” said Morrow last Saturday. “When I’m practicing in the room sometimes it doesn’t translate into my matches and, I don’t know, I just got to break that mental block. I can compete with these kids. I got to start winning these close matches cause this week I made it but next week is what’s important. That’s what everybody’s going to remember so I got to turn it up next week.”
All eight wrestlers in 145 are previous state qualifiers – four having won medals with Iowa commit Wyatt Henson of Waynesburg Central claiming gold at 138 in 2020. Altieri got the win over Henson at West Super Regional after Henson was disqualified due to an illegal slam.
A quarterfinal win by Morrow could give him a third match this postseason against Eck having so far gone 0-2 against the Bensalem senior.
“If the way it works out, I’m going to be coming for him,” said Morrow of another meeting with Eck. “I don’t want to be 0-3 against him so I mean we’ll see what happens next weekend.”
Loughney (17-3) was fourth at the North East Regional but earned his first state medal by taking silver in 172 at the East Super Regional – besting Lower Merion’s Jack Lledo (8-4 decision) and Downingtown East’s Matt Romanelli (7-5 sudden-victory decision) before falling 7-0 to Easton’s Dominic Falcone in the final.
“I got I think 10 matches going into PCLs but I had only one six-minute match before regionals last week,” said Loughney last Saturday at the East Super Regional. “So I didn’t really know how I was going to do gas tank, where my stamina was in that third period because since my first match of the year, it’s like an 8-3 win, I hadn’t had a single six-minute match. And then after that weekend, I saw I was gassing kids and in that third period I was still feeling good after those matches.”
Loughney, whose previous best postseason finish was reaching the 2019 South East AA Regional while wrestling at Bishop McDevitt, takes on Kiski Area senior Sammy Starr in the 172 quarters. Starr (37-4) was a state qualifier at 152 last year.
Reaching the semis for Loughney means either a rematch with Romanelli or facing unbeaten Mifflin County senior Trey Kibe, a Virginia Tech commit who won states at 160 in 2019 and was fourth at 170 in 2020.
DiGiorgio (23-5) went 0-2 at states last year and goes to for his first win at the Giant Center against Wilson-West Lawn senior Josh Harkless in the 215 quarters. Harkless (27-1), who made states in 2020 at 195, took first at last Saturday’s West Super Regional.
“I really like it this week the way they structured this year cause you’re going to Hershey knowing you’re getting a medal,” said DiGiorgio after placing fourth last Saturday at the East Super Regional. “It’s really relieving, you can kind of relax a little bit, kind of wrestle. There’s no stress.”
All eight wrestlers at 215 are previous state qualifiers with four PIAA medalists, two meeting in the quarters as Sun Valley senior Ryan Catka (third at 195 in 2020) takes on junior Cole Weightman of Belle Vernon (sixth at 220 last year).
Alderfer (21-3) won Faith Christian’s first-ever state medal last season and doubled the Lions’ total last Saturday in claiming East 2A Super Regional gold at 138. Alderfer won all three of his matches at Pottsville’s Martz Hall by decision – the last 3-1 over Allentown Central Catholic’s David Kreidler in the final.
Alderfer, who comes in with 97 career wins, faces Mercer senior Carson Filer (29-5) in the 138 quarters and could meet Burrell’s Ian Oswalt – the state runner-up at 132 last year – in the semis. Glendale’s Brock McMillen, a two-time PIAA champ (126 in 2019, 132 in 2020) and Pitt commit, is on the other side of the bracket.
PJP II’s Alexander (15-4) reached Hershey with a fourth-place finish at East 2A Super Regionals and takes on Laurel sophomore Grant Mackay (37-3) in the 152 quarters. Mackay was West Super Regional champ and last year qualified for states.
The lone returning medalist in the 2A 152 is Hamburg’s Dalton Gimburg, who placed eighth in 126 in 2019.
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