HERSEY — Going into this past weekend’s Class AA Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament, there was some talk in wrestling circles about how District 9 might struggle this year in Sharon.
Apparently, that talk didn’t find its way to the wrestlers, or if it did it served as some added motivation as the District 9 — and the Tri-County Area in particular —put together another strong weekend on the mats at Sharon High School.
When the dust settled on the weekend, 14 Tri-County Area wrestlers had punched their ticket Hershey to keep alive their dreams of winning a prestigious state medal. Brookville and Ridgway combined for 12 of those 14 qualifiers, with seven Raiders and five Elkers landing on the podium (Top 4) to earn their trips to Chocolatetown.
The 14 qualifiers is just three less than last year’s 17, which was the most the area had in recent memory.
The group includes three returning state medalists — Brookville Gavin Park, (7th last year), Keelan Kunselman (5th) and Caleb Hetrick (8th) — and another four returning qualifiers in Brookville’s Noah Cieleski and Tyler Cook, Ridgway’s Colton McClain and Curwensville’s Blake Passarelli.
Park and Hetrick enter states as regional champs, with Park collecting his third regional crown over the weekend.
That group will be joined by seven state newcomers — Brookville’s Donate Constable and Xavier Molnar, Brockway’s Anthony Glasl and Ridgway’s Kyle Bush, Bryce Barclay and the McClain twins (Lukas and Logen).
Bush captured the area’s only other regional title as he beat Kunselman in the finals to help push Ridgway’s resurgence when it comes to postseason success.
Glasl (32-7) is the area’s lone representative at 106 pounds and is one of 12 freshmen in the 20-man bracket that features just two state returnees.
The Rover opens against Cambria heights sophomore Allen Simmons (34-8), with the winner likely facing Bishop McDevitt freshman Nate Smith (37-5), the Southeast Regional champ.
The other regional champ in the bottom is Muncy freshman Jacob Blair (38-3), who won the Northeast Region. Blair could face returning qualifier Hosh Boozel (32-7), a sophomore from Mount Union, in the quarterfinals, with the winner being a potential semifinal opponent for Glasl or Simmons.
The lone returnee in the top half at 106 is Reynolds’ sophomore Beau Bayless (30-4), the Northwest champ who placed fourth last year.
Bush, Kunselman and Passarelli are all in the field at 113 pounds.
Bush (28-3), a junior, is in the bottom half along with sophomore Passarelli (29-6).
Bush await the winner of a preliminary bout between Tri-Valley freshman Carl Schoffstall (30-15) and Everett sophomore Garrett Cornell (32-4), a returning qualifier.
Passarelli is in a prelim himself and wrestles Burrell sophomore Bryan Gaul (32-14), with the winner getting Southeast champ Chase Shields (35-4), a sophomore from Bishop McDevitt, in the first round. Shields placed sixth last year.
The bottom also has two other returning qualifiers in Montoursville junior Wyatt Lutz (34-7) and Westmont-Hilltop junior Derrick Christie (18-8).
Kunselman (29-11), a senior, landed in a tough section of the top half of the bracket at 113. The Raider faces Notre Dame-Green Pond sophomore Richie Markulics (40-3), an eighth-place finisher last year in the first round.
Whoever wins will most likely face returning state runner-up Jaret Lane (44-0) of Southern Columbia in the quarterfinals.
Park (39-3), another Raider senior, landed at the very top of the 120-pound bracket. He wrestles the winner of a prelim bout between Newport junior Isaiah Bryner (33-11) and McGuffey sophomore Jett Pattison (37-10).
Two of the other three state returnees in the top half meet in another first-round match with Upper Daugh sophomore Bronson Garber (39-1) battling E.L. Meyers senior Colin Pasone (37-4). Garber placed fifth a year ago. The winner of that bout could be a potential semifinal opponent for Park.
The bottom at 120 features five returning qualifiers, including Southeast champ Josh Jones (41-7) of Saucon Valley and Benton junior Cole Rhone (35-4), the Northeast champ. Penns Valley senior Darren Yearick (35-7) is the lone returning medalist in the bottom, having placed sixth last year.
Elker junior Barclay (27-8) finds himself in a preliminary bout at 126 and squares off against Notre Dame-Green Pond sophomore Nicholas Vonelli (34-11). Those two are fighting for the right toi wrestle two-time state champ Gavin Teasdale (36-0) of Jefferson-Morgan in the first round.
Teasdale is one of three returning medalists in the top half and four at the weight. the other two in the top square off in the first round, as returning state runner-up Kollin Myers (34-8) of Boiling Springs battles Benton junior Joseph Klock (12-3), a seventh-place finisher in 2016.
The area has two entrants at 132, with juniors Lukas McClain (26-8) and Constable (25-14) each landing in the top half of the bracket.
McClain faces eighth-place medalist Tanner McHugh (36-4) of Tamaqua in the first round, with the victor likely getting returning state champ Brian Courtney (39-2) of Athens in the quarters. Courtney is a three-time placewinner who also has silver and bronze medals on his resume.
Constable wrestles Northern Lebanon senior Trevor Leonard (42-13), a returning qualifier. The winner of that bout could face two-time qualifier Carnell Andrews (32-7), a junior from Bishop McCort who is the Southwest Regional champ.
The bottom half at 132 features five returning qualifiers, including Southmoreland junior Tyler Griffiths (35-2) who was eighth two years ago.
Unfortunately for Logen McClain (33-4), he got a draw at 138 very similar o his twin brother at 132. He also landed in the top half and wrestles Northern Lebanon senior Zach Kelly (41-9) in the first round. The winner should face three-time state medalist Max Murin (36-0), a senior from Central Cambria who was a runner-up last year and won a state title as a sophomore.
The only other returning qualifier in the top half is Northeast champ Brett Uhrin (37-3), a senior from Valley View.
The bottom half at 138 is headlined by Reynolds’ junior Cole Matthews (40-1), the Northwest champ who placed third a year ago and won a state title as a freshman.
Hetrick (40-3), a junior, finds himself at the very top of the 152-pound bracket and is part of a loaded top half that features four returning medalists and five qualifiers.
The Raider awaits the winner of a prelim between Moshannon Valley sophomore Jon Dale (30-9) and Mifflinburg freshman Tyler Stoltzfus (38-10).
Northwestern Lehigh junior Caleb Clymer (39-4) and Pen Argyl junior Chase Anklam (31-4) are both six-place medalists in the top half, while Bermudian Springs senior Ashton West (40-5) finds himself in a preliminary bout being a returning eighth-place finisher.
Past state runner-up Robert patrick (35-1) of Ligonier Valley is in the bottom at 152, as is Susquehanna Township sophomore Edmond Ruth (36-0), who was eighth a year ago. Those two could meet in the semifinals.
At 182, Raider senior Cieleski (33-8) is in a preliminary bout against Johnstown junior Austin Barber (22-2) in the bottom half, with the winner getting Southeast champ Luke Funck (46-3) of Northern Lebanon in the first round. Funck placed fourth a year ago.
Saegertown junior Cody Mulligan (42-3), the Northwest champ who was sixth in 2016, also is in the bottom half.
The top at 182 has six returning qualifiers, including a trio of medalists in Troy senior Zach Zimmerman (30-3, 5th a year ago), Meyersdale’s Christian Hutzell (21-9, 6th a year ago) and Palmerton senior Jared Mooney (32-1, 8th a year ago). Hutzell and Zimmerman could wrestle in the first round.
Molnar is part of a 195-pound field that has just five state returnees — but two are returning state champ Gavin Hoffman (38-1), a senior from Montoursville, and Bishop McCort junior Anthony Walters (33-5), who was a runner-up a year ago.
Those two are on opposite sides of the bracket, with Molnar landing in the top with Hoffman, although those two wouldn’t potentially see each other until the semifinals. Molnar opens against Johnstown senior Exree Loe (21-4).
Raider junior Cook (37-5) finds himself in the top half at 220 and wrestles South Side Beaver junior Bishop McCoy (32-4) in the first round. The winner could see Northeast champ Max Mason (30-5) of Jersey Shore in the quarterfinals.
Defending state champ Harrison Cole Nye (37-3), a senior from Bishop McDevitt, also is in the top part of the draw.
The bottom is highlighted by Bishop McCort junior Josiah Jones (25-3), a returning state runner-up, and Greenville senior Blake Reynolds (10-0), the Northwest champ who placed fourth a year ago.
Colton McClain, a senior, is one of seven returning qualifiers in the top half of thee heavyweight bracket, with the bottom having just two.
McClain is in a preliminary round bout against Everett senior Kyle Peterson (29-11), with the winner wrestling Southeast champ Dan Sheib, a junior from Tri Valley. Scheib (36-2) missed last season but placed eighth as a freshman.
The top half also features Reynolds senior Cole Rickert (17-0), a two time medalist who was eighth in 2016; Freedom senior Evan Sweesey (44-6), who was eighth a year ago and Wyalusing senior Dawson Otis (42-4), a sixth-place medalist in 2016.
The PIAA Class AA Championships get underway Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey.