HERSHEY – Thirteen individuals enter the 77th Annual PIAA Wrestling Championships as a returning champion but at least two will have to settle for something less than another title, while two others have a chance to join the state’s most elite group.
Kennard-Dale senior Chance Marsteller and Solanco senior Thomas Haines have won three PIAA Class AAA titles and are heavily favored to claim a fourth when the championships begin Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Only ten individuals have won four PIAA titles since the tournament debuted in 1938.
Marsteller (37-0), an Oklahoma State recruit, is also trying to finish his career with a perfect record, as he enters the weekend with a 162-0 record. He has moved to the 170-pound weight class after winning a title at 152 and a pair of titles at 160.
“I have a chance to join an elite group, something not too many people have done. That’s neat in itself,” Marsteller said. “From Day One I’ve wanted the opportunity to be a four-timer and so has everyone else, so it’s just a matter of the amount of work you put into it every single year. That’s the difference between me and someone else. I was given the opportunity, I took it and ran with it when I was young and I’ve been going ever since. It’s an exciting thing to look forward to but I have to take it one match at a time.”
Haines (38-0), an Ohio State recruit, has moved to the 285-pound weight class after winning a title at 215 and two more at 220.
“It’s amazing to have that opportunity (of winning four titles),” Haines said. “I’ve been working all my life for it. I never thought I’d be able to say I’d get to try for it. But I get to and that’s amazing. It’s just great.
“You have to focus on one match at a time or otherwise it won’t happen, but sometimes I do (think about it) and it’s just kind of awe-inspiring because there are so few people that did it.”
Parkland senior Ethan Lizak (41-3) would be in the same boat with Marsteller and Haines if it wasn’t for a loss in the Class AAA 103-pound final as a freshman. Lizak, a Minnesota recruit, has since won titles at 106 and 113. He is now competing at 120 and will have to beat another returning champion to claim his third title.
Latrobe sophomore Luke Pletcher (39-0) has moved to 120 after winning the 106-pound title last year. The two met in December in the finals of the Powerade Christmas Tournament and Pletcher posted a 3-2 victory over Lizak.
The same scenario will take place in the Class AAA 145-pound weight class. Canon-McMillan senior Solomon Chishko (23-3), a Virginia Tech recruit, is the defending champion and a three-time PIAA place-winner.
Also entered at 145 is Father Judge senior Joe Galasso (23-0), a Cornell recruit who won a state title at 138 last year.
“I try not to look ahead, but I have visualized the possible match-up with Galasso in the finals,” said Chishko, who is also a two-time bronze medalist. “I want to finish my high school career with another title and move on to college.”
Franklin Regional has two returning state champions: junior Devin Brown and senior Tyler Smith.
Brown (33-0) won a Class AA title last year while attending Saegertown, but transferred to Franklin Regional over the summer. He returns at 106 pounds with hopes of claiming a Class AAA title.
“I won in Class AA last year and feel I can win in AAA this year,” Brown said. “I’ve work so hard with that goal in mind.”
Smith (33-1), a Bucknell recruit, is the defending Class AAA champ at 132 pounds, but may find it hard to repeat. Smith lost 5-2 to Penn-Trafford freshman Cameron Coy (35-5) in the Southwest Region final, one week after beating him 2-1 in a section final.
Hempfield’s Sam Krivus (38-3), last year’s Class AAA 120-pound champion, is facing a similar situation. Krivus started the season at 132, but dropped to 126 after losing twice to Smith. Krivus then lost 4-3 in the Southwest Region final to Canon-McMillan’s Dalton Macri (36-2). Macri lost to Krivus in last year’s state title match at 120.
The only other returning champion in Class AAA is Central Dauphin senior Garrett Peppelman (42-1), a Virginia recruit who won a title at 152 as a sophomore, but lost to Marsteller in last year’s final at 160.
The Class AA tournament has only three returning champions: Derry sophomore George Phillippi, Kittanning senior Jason Nolf, and Lakeview senior Sam Breese. Phillippi (37-4) has moved to 120 after winning last year at 113.
Nolf (40-0), a Penn State recruit, is a two-time champ entered at 145. Nolf won his first title as a 103-pound freshman, placed third as a 113-pound sophomore, and won a second title last year at 132.
Breese (32-0), a Kent State recruit, is the defending champ at 285.
Three individuals enter the PIAA championships as a two-time runner-up. Franklin Regional’s Mike Kemerer (40-2 at 138) and Cumberland Valley senior T.C. Warner (41-2 at 152) have placed second twice in Class AAA, while Bethlehem Catholic’s Zeke Moisey (40-0 at 126) is a two-time runner-up in Class AA.