SHARON — A year ago, Teddy Race went to the PIAA Wrestling Championships as the fourth-place qualifier from the Northwest Region, a seeding which usually means a quick first-round loss to one of the other three regional champions.
Now, he’s going back to Hershey on the other side of that equation. The Kane senior pinned his first two opponents to reach Saturday’s 170-pound Class AA regional final, then outlasted Greenville sophomore Cole Karpinski, 3-0, under the Sharon High School spotlights to claim the Allegheny Mountain League’s lone Northwest crown.
Following a scoreless first period, Race (32-2) started from the bottom in the second and earned an escape for a 1-0 lead, then added a takedown with just 0:21 remaining to secure the win.
“I knew he was going to be a decent wrestler, put up a really good fight. I went in pumped up and ready to go,” Race said. “He was good, everything and more than I expected. He was a great wrestler, showed some great competition, and I’m excited to see him at states.
“It doesn’t seem real,” he added with a smile.
Eight AMWL grapplers qualified for this week’s PIAA tournament, set to begin at the Giant Center on Thursday morning. Also headed to Hershey are three Northwest silver medalists, Johnsonburg’s Aiden Zimmerman and Cole Casilio and Race’s teammate Cameron Whisner, bronze medalists Bryent and Braedon Johnson of Port Allegany and Ethan Finch of Sheffield, and fourth-place finisher Dalton Stahli, also of Johnsonburg. It’s the second state berth for Race, Whisner, Finch and both Johnsons, the first for the three Rams qualifiers.
Whisner (32-1), the East Forest senior wrestling for Kane, advanced to the 182-pound regional final against D-10 champ Bryce McCloskey. The Reynolds senior scored the only points of the match on a first-period takedown, claiming a 2-0 decision.
“I don’t put a ton of stock in the rankings, but the kid he lost to is ranked second, third in the state, maybe fourth at worst, so it’s not like that’s a bad loss,” Kane coach Mike Swartwood said following Whisner’s first setback of the season. “Cameron didn’t wrestle his best match out there. I think if he does, if he wrestles more to his ability and does the things that he’s good at, he can beat that kid.”
Johnson and Johnson, the Smethport brothers wrestling for Port Allegany, both battled back from semifinal losses to earn another ticket to Hershey. After running into eventual three-time regional champ Gary Steen (Reynolds) in the semis of the 113-pound bracket, Bryent (24-4), a senior who qualified as a Hubber in 2018 before just missing out on a return trip last season, blanked his blood-round opponent 4-0, then eked out a 2-1 decision over D-10 runner-up Connor Saylor (Hickory) for bronze.
“It felt really good,” he said of securing another state berth. “I didn’t make it last year, which was really hard on me. So I just worked a lot over the offseason, and obviously it turned out in my favor this weekend.”
Even better, he said, the two brothers are going to states in the same year for the first time in more than a decade.
“The last time we went to states was in J.O. Every other time we’ve always been like, either I haven’t made it or he hasn’t made it. This is the first time we’ve went together in 13 years. Pretty awesome for being my senior year,” he said.
Braedon (26-5), a regional finalist last year, rebounded from his semifinal loss with a near-fall and a 9-1 major decision in the blood round before topping Titusville’s Seth Donovan, 3-2, for third.
“I knew in the semifinals, I didn’t really get on my offense as much as I’d like to. So I just had to keep the same attitude of winning and not lay an egg out there, just try to make it to states with Bryent. Once I saw he made it, it was kind of an energy booster for me,” the Smethport junior said. “Especially in Bryent’s senior year, it’s awesome that we can get to go together one more time, and hopefully we can get on the podium together next week, too.”
State dual-meet champ Reynolds scored 187 points for its eighth consecutive team title, but D-9 schools Brookville (123.5), Johnsonburg (84), Brockway (71) and Kane (61) rounded out the top five, with Redbank Valley (eighth) and Port Allegany (ninth) also turning in top-10 finishes.
Swartwood, who saw four district champions graduate from last year’s D-9 runner-up, was satisfied with a performance which also saw sophomore Alex Bechakas (28-10) place fifth.
“I think a lot of people thought that this was going to be a tough year for Kane wrestling,” he said. “Certainly, losing that kind of talent doesn’t help things, but we’ve got a lot of young kids and guys that were juniors last year who really stepped up this year. We had a successful season.”