Wrestling fans were treated to one of the most impressive runs in PIAA history when Canon-McMillan High School won five of the possible six Class AAA team tournament titles over the past three seasons, including five in a row.
Chris Mary, who retired at the end of last season, was in the corner when the Big Macs won three team titles at the individual tournament and two in the team event. In the process, the Big Macs competed in two dual meets against Central Dauphin – one in last year’s team finals and the other in the team semifinals two years ago – that will be considered among the greatest and most thrilling in the history of that tournament.
The Big Macs have a new coach in Jason Cardillo and a very different lineup – eight senior starters graduated – for this season.
For the first time in three years, the Observer-Reporter Preseason Team Rankings show a new No. 1 team: Franklin Regional.
The Big Macs are ranked third, behind Latrobe and Franklin Regional.
Canon-McMillan lost nearly all of its heavyweights to graduation, including Cody Wiercioch, who won back-to-back PIAA titles for the Big Macs and a Class AA title at Charleroi. Wiercioch, Sam Minor, Steve LaFrance, Alex Campbell and Angelo Broglia combined for a 177-42 record last season.
Connor Schram, who won the 126-pound state title while compiling a 44-3 record last season, also graduated, accepting a scholarship to Stanford.
Only Solomon Chishko, who missed all but 11 bouts of his junior year, returns after winning the 145-pound state title. Chishko fractured his elbow at the Super 32 tournament and did not get clearance to compete until the postseason.
Dalton Macri, one of three C-M wrestlers to win 40 or more matches, also returns after finishing as a state runner-up last year at 120. Brendan Price, Alex Hutchin, Josiah Hritsko and Malachi Krenzelak give the Big Macs power in the lighter and middle weights.
Franklin Regional returns four of its five state placewinners in champion Tyler Smith at 132; Michael Kemerer, who lost to Schram in the finals; Josh Shields, who was third at 145; and Josh Maruca, who was fifth at 138.
The Panthers got two major transfers in Spencer Lee, one of the top rated freshmen in the country; and Devin Brown, who won a state title for Saegertown last season. Last week, the WPIAL denied Brown eligibility but the family is appealing to the PIAA, which will meet in early December. Lee’s family moved into the area when his father got a job at Carnegie Mellon University.
Latrobe returns super sophomore Luke Pletcher, a state champion last season, and added two transfers in Ethan McCoy, a National Prep runner-up at 106; and Dom Scalise, who was third at 160 in the National Prep Championships. Only two starters graduated from last year’s team.
In Class AA, Burrell is No. 1, thanks to the return of three of its five state qualifiers. Jefferson-Morgan is second and South Fayette third.
Burrell lost state champion Dakota DesLauriers and Phillip Marra, who was fourth at 145. But John Andrejcik and Steven Edwards, who had a 40-win season, join heavyweight Alan Beattie as returning state qualifiers. Corey Falleroni and Derrick Beattie were injured last season but are expected to be back.
Jefferson-Morgan has a new coach in Mike Lesko but lost Dustin Conti to graduation. John Demaske (4th at 126) and Brendan Howard (PIAA qualifier) return as do the bulk of last year’s starters.
South Fayette will get a late start because of the success of the football team, but the Lions will eventually get most of the team back that lost to Burrell in the WPIAL Team Tournament finals. Mike Carr, Grant Fetchet and Jared Walker qualified for the state tournament last season.
The rankings and more details for each of the ranked teams can be found on the Mat Matters blog on the Observer-Reporter’s website. A preview of each area team and individual rankings will appear on the site over the next week.
Assistant Sports Editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mat Matters blog: http://joesmatmatters.blogspot.com