2022 PIAA INDIVIDUAL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS: PREVIEW
Despite Minor Setbacks at SE Region, SOL Wrestlers Ready to Medal
By Glenn Kaiser
There is such a thing as a good loss in wrestling, but only if the lesson is learned to be more prepared the next time you battle. One more criteria for a good loss: when it doesn’t end your season. A few wrestlers did not fare as well as expected at least weekend’s Southeast Regional tournament, in fact two SOL wrestlers were shockingly upset in the finals. Of course, many dreams were left in the Oxford gymnasium, as many grapplers did not qualify for states to be held this Thursday, March 10, thru Saturday, March 12, 2022 (don’t forget daylight savings as we Spring ahead) at the Giant Center in Chocolate Town, USA.
Both Quakertown’s Mason Ziegler (120-pounds) and CR South’s Matt Colajezzi (160lbs) were two wrestlers that suffered big time losses in their championship bouts at Oxford H.S. at regions. Ziegler on a last second defensive fall (controversial to say the least) at the hands of West Chester Henderson’s Carmen Cortese, and Colajezzi just wasn’t himself in his final, losing 2-1 on a quick first period takedown by Chase Barlow from Strath Haven. The consequences of the losses affected their seeds in the brackets to be wrestled in Hershey. The caveat here is, you still have to beat the best to be the best. Thus, where they finish on the podium will be based upon their effort and experience, putting the past behind, avenging their losses and being victorious in battle, not where they are in the bracket. All wrestlers must take it one match at a time, if you think about it, every match is the state final once you hit the Giant Center mats in the 20-man bracket.
For other SOL wrestlers, their regional finals win propelled them into good positions in the brackets, and boosted their confidence heading to Hershey. Freshman Eren Sement (CR North) continued his dominance in the 106-pound weight class with his regional title over neighbor Luke Reitter (CR South), and both look to finish high on the podium at the Giant Center. Sement will surely be battling to win gold. CR North teammate Tony Burke also has high expectations to place, yet again, but this time higher at 113-pounds for the Indians. Burke was seventh a year ago. Pennridge’s Cole Coffin makes his first trip to Chocolate Town after missing out a season ago due to the COVID format with the Super Regions, as he was fifth at the SE Region in 2021. Quakertown will be heading to these championships with five grapplers. In addition to Ziegler, Todd McGann at 126lbs, and another freshman phenom from the SOL Collin Gaj at 132, who won his first regional title last weekend down low, and in the upper weights the Panthers have 172-pounder Calvin Lachman and Frederick Retter at heavyweight to boost their chances to finish in the top-10 in the team standings after their SE Regional title.
Abington’s Matthew McCaughey remains hot and gets to Hershey as the fourth man from D1 at 126-pounds, McGann was 5th at regions. Shane Kibler will join his fellow Galloping Ghost after finishing third at regions at 145. Council Rock South will also be in the hunt for a top-10 finish with five wrestlers competing in the Giant Ctr. Along with Reitter, the Golden Hawks have a trio of upper-middle weights in Colajezzi and the Sadriddinov’s, Mo (145) and Bek (152), looking for precious metal. Additionally, big Lucas Doyle returns at 215 after qualifying a year ago.
In addition to Colajezzi, the SOL’s biggest hopes for state champions include two Central Bucks wrestlers, East’s Quinn Collins, the #1 seed at 189-pounds, and West’s Carl DiGiorgio. Collins had some scares over the weekend at Oxford, but will be contending for gold, and DiGiorgio will have to avenge his loss at ETR to State College’s Nick Pavlechko in the semifinals if he is to win the title at 215.
Here is a look at each weight class:
106-pounds: Sement is on a semifinal collision course with fellow freshman #1 seed Nathan Desmond (BECA) atop the bracket, while Reitter will need to win his prelim bout to get to second seeded Luke Willochell (Greater Latrobe) in the quarters. Look for an all freshman final here, and a 1-2-3 finish in any order with Sement-Willochell-Desmond.
113lbs: Burke will have a top five finish, he will be tested early by BECA opponent Cole Campbell in prelim action and Tyler Chappel (Seneca Vlly) in the quarters, which will be a tall task for him to reach the semis. Coffin will need to win his pigtail bout before running into Del Val’a Zach Jacaruso. Kaedyn Williams (Manheim Twp) repeats with another state title here.
120lbs: Ziegler will be on a mission to get high on the podium after his seventh place performance in 2021, but he is destined to face Vincent Kilkeary (Grtr. Latrobe) in the quarters. Dover’s Mason Leiphart is 34-0 with the edge here, and Kilkeary and he should hook-up in the finals.
126lbs: A somewhat wide-open weight class, thus McCaughey and McGann will need to be at their best to medal here. Jacob Van Dee (Cathedral Prep) is a returning state champion who will be tested by Central Mountain freshman Dalton Perrey for the title.
132lbs: Q-town’s Collin Gaj maybe a freshman on paper, but on the mat, he is a seasoned veteran, capturing his first regional title. He will be matched-up with another ninth grader in Kollin Rath (BECA) in quarterfinal action. Notice the trend here, everyone seemingly will need to go through BECA wrestlers to stand above on the podium. Tyler Geiger, in contrast a senior, is making his first trip to Chocolate Town. Waynesburg’s Mac Church is atop the bracket and man to beat here as he defends his state title from a year ago.
138lbs: Souderton’s Erick Dominguez is the only SOL rep here, and Souderton’s second qualifier. Although he is a 2x state champ from Kansas, he only finished fourth in the SE Region. He will have to wrestle Nazareth’s Jake Doone in a pig-tail to get into the championship bracket where he would see #2-seed Briar Priest from Hempfield Area. 40-0 Tyler Kasak (BECA) will win another title here over D1’s Dom Findora from Downingtown West.
145lbs: 145 and 152-pounds will be very competitive weight classes in these PIAA Championships. The SOL will be in the mix at both weights. Mo Sadriddinov (CRS) and Shane Kibler (Abington) have been doing battle every weekend it seems against one another, now it’s time for some new competition. Kibler is making his second trip to Hershey as a senior and wants hardware, Sadriddinov wants the same in his first trip. Kibler will have to deal with, you guessed it BECA’s Andrew Harmon in the quarters, and Mo will roll into Jude Swisher (38-1) from Bellefonte. Franklin Regional’s Finn Solomon sits atop the bracket, the returning state champion, but it’s anyone’s to win it.
152lbs: William Morrow (North Penn) has not figured out Bek Sadriddinov (CRS) this postseason despite his eighth placed finish a year ago in Hershey. Bek is the SE Regional champ and will be in a meat grinder with Luke Sipes (Altoona), a 33-1 freshman, and Dylan Evans (Chartiers Vlly) in the top half of the bracket, while Morrow must deal with Kaemen Smith (Erie Cath Prep) out of the gate just to meet up with Northampton’s Dagen Condomitti in the quarters. Mason Stein from CB East returns to the Giant Ctr. and will be looking to get to Caden Dobbins from Dallastown in the quarters. Look for Condomitti to win it in the finals.
160lbs: This was Colajezzi’s weight class to lose, but now that he has a loss to a PA foe, he will need to rebound to win his state title. Neshaminy’s Andrew Pokalsky joins Colajezzi in Hershey from the SOL. Predicition: Colajezzi wins it but will be tested by Jared Keslar from Connellsville in the quarters. This was a likely match-up in the finals had Colajezzi won regionals. He may very well see Chase Barlow (Strath Haven) again in the finals.
172lbs: Only Quakertown’s Calvin Lachman here for the SOL. Dom D’Agostino (Interboro), the SE Region champion will face Rocco Welsh (Waynesburg Central) in the finals. Welsh was a runner-up in 2021, I don’t expect him to be a bridesmaid again.
189lbs: Quinn Collins (CBE) is seeded #1 in the bracket and will have plenty of work to do to make the finals. However, with two undefeated grapplers in Mt. Lebanon’s Mac Stout (38-0) and Nazareth’s Sonny Sasso (40-0) are in the bottom half of the bracket, he is in good shape. Stout sat out last year with an injury and Sasso has good bloodlines, I’ll go with Stout over Collins for the title.
215lbs: As mentioned above, DiGiorgio’s lone loss is to State College’s Nick Pavlechko, and they will likely meet in the semifinals. DiGiorgio will need to generate some offense and stop Pavlechko to win a state title. Lucas Doyle (CRS) and CR North’s Aden Roe are here as well. Doyle is dangerous, and should he get by Thomas Jefferson’s Brian Finnerty after wrestling in from a pigtail, he could make some noise. It’s either DiGiorgio or Pavlechko as your king here.
285lbs: Frederick Retter could not overcome the powerful Julien Laventure from Upper Darby at regionals, but he has been unstoppable everywhere else. He should medal and will be challenged by all in the top half of the bracket. He opens with Waynesburg Central’s Noah Tustin the Southwest Region runner-up. Laventure will need to take out undefeated William McChesney (Greensburg Salem) to reach the final where he should see Nazareth’s Sean Kinney there. Laventure keeps Upper Darby’s big man legacy alive with another state title.