SHARON — With the first day of competition complete at the PIAA Class AA Northwest Regional wrestling championships, eight Allegheny Mountain League grapplers still have a shot at a gold medal and a coveted No. 1 seed at next week’s state tournament in Hershey.
Port Allegany’s Braedon and Bryent Johnson, Kane’s Teddy Race and Cameron Whisner, the Johnsonburg trio of Dalton Stahli, Aiden Zimmerman, and Cole Casilio, and Sheffield’s Ethan Finch each won his quarterfinal match to advance to this morning’s semifinal round at Sharon High School.
In a chalk-filled bracket where Brockway 195-pounder Eric Johnson was the only district champion out of 28 to fall short of reaching the semifinals, the rest of the local contingent dropped into the wrestlebacks with prelim or quarterfinal losses in Friday evening’s action.
Stepping onto the mat just ahead of younger brother Braedon, Bryent Johnson wasted little time in taking control of his 113-pound quarterfinal against Harbor Creek senior Joey Gabler, tilting the D-10 No. 3 seed twice for near-fall points on the way to a 14-0 major decision.
“We were a little nervous, because we knew the kid’s aggressive. In the past, Bryent’s been kind of timid when a guy’s real aggressive with him,” Gator coach B.J. Greenman said of the Smethport senior. “We told him, from (boxing heavyweight champion) Tyson Fury, ‘To beat a bully you’ve got to be a bully.’
“So he went out there and was aggressive with him and went right after him, and the kid kind of closed down. When we got up by six in the first period, I think the kid’s head was out of it and we were just coasting the rest of the match.”
Just after Bryent walked off the mat, Braedon finished up his own impressive victory as the 126-pound Gator junior tech-falled Mercer’s Carson Filer, 17-2, in 4:46.
“Braedon looked really good, just being aggressive like he always is and trying to score as many points as he can,” Greenman said of the two-time D-9 champ.
Of Isaiah Caden, Eli Petruzzi, Montgomery Tanner, Derek Kallenborn, and Justin Young, the five Gators still alive in the consis, he said, “They all battled and wrestled hard matches. It’s just that the competition here is so high that you’re going to lose against good kids.”
Much like the Gator tandem, Kane’s Race and Whisner turned in dominating performances to secure their semifinal berths.
Race, who notched his 100th win in the D-9 170-pound title match, got No. 101 with a second-period pin as he decked the D-10 sixth seed, Mercer’s Mason Hesselgesser, in 2:43.
“Teddy wrestled like Teddy does. He was super-aggressive, and that kid was aggressive, too. It got a little bit chippy there for a little bit,” Wolves coach Mike Swartwood said of the Kane senior. “Teddy’s going to wrestle you hard and then he’s going to wear you down, and then just put the crunches down on you. That’s what he does; that’s the name of his game.”
Whisner, the East Forest senior and 182-pound D-9 champ, followed his teammate onto Mat 1 and just missed tech-falling Corry’s Matt Petrilla, the D-10 fourth seed, with a 15-1 major decision.
“Cameron looked phenomenal. That kid he beat was ranked up as high as third in the state, and he was just clicking. I mean, he was scoring from all positions. It was impressive to watch,” Swartwood said. “Both of them wrestled the matches that they should’ve wrestled. That’s kind of what we expected out of them, and that’s what we got.”
The Wolves will send Alex Bechakas, Isaak Johnson, Dillon Illerbrun, Harley Morris, and Luke Ely into this morning’s wrestlebacks.
Overall, Swartwood said, “I felt like all our guys came down and are competing. We got a couple of wins in the first round. I was glad that the guys weren’t just satisfied with being here. Even the couple of matches that we lost in the first round were matches that we were in. The kids came down, they scrapped, they competed. I’m happy with the effort so far.”
On the other side of the 182-pound bracket from Whisner, Finch, a regional finalist last year for the Wolverines, pinned Jamestown’s Hunter Cowher to advance.
District 10 powerhouse Reynolds leads the team score with 87 points, well ahead of runner-up Brookville’s 59.5. Johnsonburg and Kane are tied for sixth with 25 points each, just ahead of the tenth-place Gators (20).
Local wrestlers in the semifinals:
113: 9-2 Bryent Johnson (Port Allegany, sr, 22-3) vs. 10-1 Gary Steen (Reynolds, jr, 42-1)
126: 9-1 Braedon Johnson (Port Allegany, jr, 24-4) vs. 10-2 Alex Kightlinger (Saegertown, sr, 30-7)
138: 9-2 Dalton Stahli (Johnsonburg, jr, 26-9) vs. 10-1 Kenny Kiser (Saegertown, sr, 38-2)
152: 9-1 Aiden Zimmerman (Johnsonburg, fr, 31-5) vs. 10-2 Owen Jefferson (Seneca, sr, 30-6)
160: 9-1 Cole Casilio (Johnsonburg, jr, 35-3) vs. 10-2 Daiveon Say (Grove City, sr, 31-6)
170: 9-1 Teddy Race (Kane, sr, 30-2) vs. 10-2 Holden Cook (Franklin, sr, 30-5)
182: 9-1 Cameron Whisner (Kane, sr, 31-0) vs. 10-2 Vito Pilosi (Slippery Rock, sr, 32-6)
9-2 Ethan Finch (Sheffield, jr, 29-7) vs. 10-1 Bryce McCloskey (Reynolds, sr, 37-5)