HERSHEY — When opening whistle sounds Thursday at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships, Clarion senior Tom Wurster and Redbank valley junior Mason Songer will be taking in the state tournament experience first-hand for the first time.
Both wrestlers put together strong weekends at the Northwest Regional Tournament in Sharon to punch their tickets to states with fourth-place finishes. Wurster scored a 4-2 win against returning state medalist Tyler Cook of Brookville in the 220-pound consolation semifinals to guarantee his trip.
Being regional fourths, both wrestlers landed in pigtail bouts at their respective weights.
Wurster (28-7) landed in the bottom half of the bracket at 220 and wrestles Salisbury Township junior Jonah Niesenbaum (Southeast No. 5, 18-12). The winner advances to face Northeast Region champ Hunter Poust (40-1), a senior from Muncy who is a returning state qualifier.
The bottom is dotted with more state returnees, including two medalists in Derry junior Dominic DeLuca Southwest No. 2, (45-4) and Northwest Region champ Jacob McMaster (38-0) of Greenville. DeLuca was third at 182 last year, while McMaster was eighth at 195.
The top half at 220 has five more returning qualifiers, with the headliner being Bishop McCort senior Anthony Waters (31-0), the Southwest champ. Walters is a three-time medalist, having placed second each of the past two years.
As for Songer (27-13), he finds himself in the top half in the 113-pound bracket and wrestles Northern Lebanon senior Kyler Anspach (Southeast No. 6, 34-17). Bishop McDevitt sophomore Nate Smith (Southeast No. 1, 28-1), who was fifth at 106 last year, awaits the winner.
Defending 106-pound state champ Beau Bayless (Northwest No. 1, 44-4) of Reynolds also is the in top part of the bracket.
The bottom at 113 features another area wrestler — Curwensville junior Blake Passarelli (Northwest No. 2, 28-5), a three-time state qualifier.
Also in the bottom half are Mount Union senior Josh Boozel (34-3), the Southwest champ who was a state runner-up at 106 in 2017, returning state medalist senior Wyatt Lutz (Northeast No. 1, 36-2) of Montoursville in the quarterfinals. Lutz was third at the weight a year ago.
Wrestling action gets underway in Class AA Thursday at 9 a.m. in Hershey.