Twenty-two area wrestlers will be fighting for a berth in the state tournament when the PIAA Class AA Regional Wrestling Championships begin this afternoon and run through Saturday night at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Ed Frey Arena inside the Kovalchick Convention & Athletic Complex.
Class AAA opens up individual championship action this Saturday when Connellsville hosts the Section 2-AAA tournament. The Falcons will be joined by four other area teams in Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Laurel Highlands and Ringgold. Waynesburg Central heads to Trinity for the Section 4-AAA championships.
The top five in each weight class advance to the WPIAL Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships on March 2 and 3 at Canon-McMillan High School.
Jefferson-Morgan senior and three-time state champion Gavin Teasdale became the 28th wrestler to win four WPIAL titles last Saturday, and the Penn State University recruit looks to add four-time regional champion to his resume this weekend.
“This isn’t the big story, yet,” Jefferson-Morgan coach Mike Lesko said. “You never know what will happen and you can’t overlook anyone, but Gavin will wrestle his style. He also doesn’t worry about who he is wrestling.”
Teasdale is 32-2 this year and 154-2 for his career. He was undefeated going into this season, but suffered several setbacks. Teasdale has the potential to be the all-time career wins leader in Jefferson-Morgan history if he wins the championship.
Teasdale’s former Rocket teammate, Brendan Howard, has the all-time mark with 156 victories. Howard is currently wrestling for the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
“Gavin took his losses like a man,” Lesko said. “He was sick during his second loss, but he will never make excuses for it. He had to bump up because he didn’t want to have to cut weight, but give credit to the kid for beating him.
“In regards to the all-time wins record at Jefferson-Morgan, that is the furthest thing from his mind. He just wants to win each match and get to Hershey.”
Teasdale opens up action in the 126-pound weight class against Bishop McCort’s Cooper Warshel (20-11) in the preliminary round.
Southmoreland’s Tyler Griffiths (18-5) seeks a fourth trip to the state tournament. Griffiths, who has two district championships, was runner-up last week at the WPIAL championships at 145. He opens up against Claysburg Kimmel’s Cade Keithley (17-13).
Frazier’s Thayne Lawrence (23-1) won his second WPIAL title last Saturday, and aims to get back to the state tournament where he was third a year ago as a freshman. Lawrence wrestles Westmont-Hilltop’s Hudson Holbay (31-7) in the opening round at 152 pounds.
Bentworth’s Manny Dovshek (21-6) eyes his third trip to the state tournament after finishing third at the WPIAL Championships. Dovshek wrestles West Branch’s Tyler Denochick (26-8) in the first round at 120.
Mount Pleasant’s Al Miscovich (36-8) is looking for his second trip to the state tournament. The Viking senior qualified as a sophomore. Miscovich opens up action against Penns Valley’s Clayton Royer (30-8) at 132.
Teammate Doug Bittner (33-11) has a similar situation to Miscovich, as the senior qualified for states as a sophomore. Bittner meets North Star’s Jacob Blough (25-5) in the first round at 113.
Beth-Center’s Jimmy Gwyer (27-13) hopes to make a second trip to the state tournament. The junior Bulldog was sixth out of the WPIAL tournament last season, but wrestled a strong regional to qualify for a trip to the Giant Center in Hershey.
“Jimmy went to states last year in the exact same situation, and we hope that history repeats itself,” Beth-Center coach Gary Welsh said. “We know that all of the guys at this level are good, so you just have to go and let if fly. I think making it to states last year helps Jimmy. At this point of the season, the name of the game is advance.”
Gwyer wrestles Westmont-Hilltop’s Derrick Christie (25-8) in the opening round at 120.
Southmoreland’s Ryan Mauro (13-8) is hoping for his second trip to Hershey. He wrestles Huntingdon Area’s Landon Fisher (37-4) in the first round at 220.
Jefferson-Morgan’s Josh Agnew (22-8) looks to make a trip to Hershey as a senior. He opens up action in the 132-pound weight class against Berlin-Brothersvalley’s Bryce Belcher (29-8).
“Josh (Agnew) was one match away from going to states last year,” Lesko said. “You don’t know what could happen. I’ve watched many things in 26 years and I say, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Teammate Nate Bilonick (22-16) looks to surprise some people as the seventh-place finisher out of the WPIAL at 138. Bilonick meets St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Caleb Dowling (30-1) in the opening round.
“Nate (Bilonick) was 9-16 last year and now he is going to regionals,” Lesko said. “You really can’t put it past anyone.”
Beth-Center’s Jacob Baker (30-10) is hoping to make his first trip to Hershey at 195. He wrestles Chestnut Ridge’s Duane Knisely (26-11) in the first round.
“I really feel Jacob (Baker) has the potential to make it,” Welsh said. “He was having a great season last year, but had a season-ending injury at the Bedford Tournament.”
Teammate Ronnie White (20-16) joins Gwyer and Baker at IUP this weekend. White meets Chestnut Ridge’s Dalton Seace (28-13) in the preliminary round.
“Ronnie (White) is a first-year kid that never even watched a match before,” Welsh said. “I also coach football and was going after another kid when Ronnie told me he was going to wrestle. I never expected him to get this far to be honest, but he is not intimidated by anyone and it has been a pleasant surprise.”
The absence of Dominic Fundy has been quite upsetting for Welsh and the Beth-Center wrestling program. Fundy, a junior, was seeking a third trip to the state tournament and having a solid season before a fracture to his hand and ligament damage ended his season. Fundy was second in the state last year.
“Dom (Fundy) had a ligament strain in football and suffered a fracture and ligament damage in our dual meet against Moon,” Welsh said. “It is a tough loss, but he is very tough and still has high aspirations and goals. I know he will do whatever he can to get back on the mat next season stronger than ever.”
Bentworth junior Jon Vargo (26-6) won his first district title last Saturday, and hopes to win his first regional championship this weekend. Vargo wrestles Mount Union’s Tucker Helfrick (19-16) in the first round at 182.
Teammate Ashton Lopez (26-9) meets Chestnut Ridge’s Wyatt Maxwell (3-2) in the opening round at 220.
Mount Pleasant’s Damian George (27-10) wrestles Penns Valley’s Baylor Shunk (31-4) at 106. Teammate Zack Charlesworth (28-14) meets United’s Riley Miller (25-5) at 195 and the Vikings’ Cody Vokes (32-5) battles HOPE for Hyndman’s Hunter Burkett (19-11) at 285.
Elizabeth Forward’s Ryan Michaels (30-2) faces Berlin-Brothersvalley’s Gabe Latuch (22-10) in the opening round at 106. Teammate Jordan Devine (26-12) battles Chestnut Ridge’s Gryphon Callihan (23-15) at 120. The Warriors’ Noah Hunnell (24-12) wrestles Chestnut Ridge’s Scotty Miller (29-10) at 138.
West Greene’s Connor Main (29-7) wrestles Forest Hills’ Eric Elgin (30-7) in the opening round at 220.
Southmoreland’s Jaden Datz (25-4) meets Bishop McCort’s Ethan Marcozzi (21-11) in the first round at 170.
The top six in each weight class qualify for the state championships on March 8-10 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
15 area wrestlers earn top seeds
The area will be well represented at the Class AAA Section Championships, as 15 locals earned top seeds.
Connellsville’s Mason Prinkey (16-5 at 106), Dylan Keefer (14-9 at 120), Mason Franks (24-7 at 126), Dylan Ross (20-6 at 132) and Nate Ansell (15-3 at 195) are seeded first in Section 2-AAA.
Belle Vernon’s Brock Godzin (25-4 at 152), Zachary Hartman (33-1 at 160) and Scott Joll (33-2 at 170) have earned top seeds.
Albert Gallatin’s Tim Wallace (28-2) is the No. 1 seed at 182.
Laurel Highlands’ Ian Edenfield (24-5) earned the top spot at 220.
Waynesburg Central has five seeded No. 1 at the Section 4-AAA Championships in Caleb Morris (34-6 at 126), Luca Augustine (11-2 at 132), Jackson Henson (32-3 at 138), Trey Howard (20-7 at 152) and Kyle Homet (33-5 at 170).
The top five in each weight class qualify for the WPIAL Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships on March 2 and 3 at Canon-McMillan High School.