HERSHEY — Curwensville senior Blake Passarelli made history last weekend at the Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament when he became the school’s first-ever four-time state qualifier with a fourth-place finish.
Redbank Valley junior Ethan Wiant also placed fourth in Sharon, securing his first trip to Hershey.
While the two will have vastly different experience levels when it comes to wrestling inside the Giant Center this weekend, they will have the same goal in mind — capturing a state medal.
Passarelli (27-8), who placed eighth last year for his first PIAA medal, will have his work cutout to earn a second medal in a tough 126-pound bracket that features 13 past state qualifiers — including a pair of returning state runner-ups in Glendale sophomore Brock McMillen (39-1, Southwest-1st) and Bishop McDevitt senior Chase Shields (26-3, Southeast-1st).
Passarelli landed in a pigtail bout following his fourth-place regional finish and faces a two-time returning qualifier right out of the chute in Forest Hills senior Byron Daubert (32-12, Southwest-5th). The winner most likely draws a date with fourth-ranked Shields in the quarterfinals.
Northwest champ Bryce Knauf (41-3) of Greenville also in the bottom along with three other returning qualifiers.
On paper the top half looks even tougher as four of the Top 6 ranked wrestlers in the state on that side. Top-ranked McMillen headlines that group, while Brockway’s Anthony Glasl (33-2, Northwest-2nd) battles Notre Dame-Green Pond freshman Brandan Chletsos (40-10, Southeast-3rd) in the first round. Chletsos entered last weekend ranked third in the state, while Glasl was ranked sixth.
Three-time state medalist Bronson Garber (38-4, Southeast-2nd), a senior from of Upper Dauphin, also is in the top half of the bracket. Garber has placed fourth, fifth and sixth during his career.
As for Wiant, he looks to be in an even deeper weight class at 132 that has 15 competitors who have been to states — nine of whom have won medals. That group includes a state runner-up and three others who have placed third.
Wiant (33-8) drew a tough assignment from the get-go as he faces returning third-place finisher Garret Cornell (31-4), a senior from Everett who placed fifth at the Southwest Regional last weekend. Cornell is a four-time state qualifier.
The winner moves on to face Sullivan County sophomore Nathan Higley (3402, Norteast-1st), who placed sixth as a freshman a year ago. Higley is ranked fifth.
Also in the bottom are Northwest champ Ty Varndell (39-0) of Cambridge Springs and St. Joseph Academy’s Zack Witmer (30-8, Southwest-3rd). Varndell was fourth last year and Witmer fifth.
There are four returning medalists in the top half, led by top-ranked Joshua Jones 42-4) of Saucon Valley who won silver last year. A pair of past bronze medalists — Bedford junior Kaden Cassidy (34-1, Southwest-1st) and Quaker Valley sophomore Conner Redinger (33-8, Southwest-6th) — could meet in the first round.
The PIAA Class AA Championships get underway Thursday at 9 a.m.