5 things to watch at the WPIAL Class AAA wrestling championships

Thursday, February 28, 2019 | 7:24 PM

If you follow WPIAL high school wrestling, there is a good chance you’ve heard about North Hills junior Sam Hillegas, Norwin junior Kurtis Phipps, Franklin Regional senior Colton Camacho, Seneca Valley sophomore Alejandro Herrera-Rondon and Shaler senior Ryan Sullivan.

All are either past WPIAL or PIAA champions who are looking to add more titles to their resume over the next two weeks.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, a broken right hand will not allow him to defend his 2018 WPIAL and PIAA championships.

The WPIAL/PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional tournament begins at 4 p.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan High School and concludes with the finals at 5 p.m. Saturday. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the PIAA tournament March 7-9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Here are five wrestlers to watch this weekend who could make a name for themselves this weekend:

Jake Slinger: This Upper St. Clair heavyweight has been unbeatable this season. He is ranked No. 1 in the Trib HSSN rankings and seeded first in this weekend’s tournament. Slinger is ranked third in the state by PaPowerWrestling.com.

Slinger is 32-0 with tournament wins at Chartiers-Houston, Southmoreland, Allegheny County and Tri-State Scuffle at Burgettstown.

He was a WPIAL runner-up in 2018 and placed seventh in the state at 220 pounds. He qualified for the state tournament in 2017, but did not place. He’s won 31 or more matches in every year in high school and enters the tournament with a 131-25 career record.

The top contenders at heavyweight include Hempfield sophomore Isaiah Vance (27-3), Mt. Lebanon senior Nathan Hoaglund (28-7) and South Fayette junior Quentin Franklin (32-7). He’s beaten all three this season.

Ogden Atwood: The Armstrong senior is seeded No. 1 in the tournament and is ranked fifth in the state at 220 pounds.

He won two tournaments this season: Chartiers-Houston and Armstrong.

While his resume may not be impressive and he didn’t wrestle a lot of matches, Atwood is still the favorite to win the weight class.

Norwin coach Vince DeAugustine said Atwood is the real deal.

“We saw him early in the season in 2018 when I was at Hempfield, and I walked away saying we can beat him,” DeAugustine said. “The next two times we faced, he pinned us. He impressed me.”

There are several wrestlers who could challenge Atwood for the title. They include Hempfield junior Dillon Ferretti (28-8), Norwin junior Ryan Weinzen (28-4) and Greensburg Salem junior Trent Patrick (21-4).

Max Shaw: The Thomas Jefferson senior was a star running back for the Jaguars football team in the fall.

Now he’s running, untouched, through the 195-pound weight class.

He is 29-0 and is seeded No. 1 in the tournament. He is ranked No. 1 by Trib HSSN and is second in the state.

Shaw won three tournaments this season: Penn Cambria, Powerade and Allegheny County. He helped TJ win its first county title.

He placed third in the state and the WPIAL at 182 in 2018.

Hampton sophomore Justin Hart (26-3), Kiski Area sophomore Brayden Roscosky (34-6) and Montour senior Dante Presutti (25-6) are Shaw’s main challengers.

Jackson Gray: The Mt. Lebanon junior is seeded No. 1 in the 145-pound weight class.

This class is wide open with many talented wrestlers.

Gray (27-8) is seeded No. 1 by Trib HSSN, but is 11th in the state.

He competed in three tournaments this season, placing second in the Allegheny County tournament, third at the Eastern Area Invitational and went 1-2 at the Powerade tournament.

His win in the WPIAL team playoffs against Waynesburg senior Trey Howard (32-5) gave him the top seed.

The other challengers for the title include Greensburg Salem junior Ian Ewing (28-6), Seneca Valley sophomore Antonio Amelio (26-13), Connellsville senior Colin Franks (4-1), Latrobe freshman Jack Pletcher (22-13) and Kiski Area freshman Enzo Morlacci (28-11).

Carter Dibert: The Franklin Regional sophomore gets overshadowed by Camacho, but he’s put together another solid season.

He is 34-1 with tournament wins at Eastern Area Invitational, King of the Mountain, Westmoreland County Coaches and Penn-Trafford.

Dibert is ranked No. 1 by Trib HSSN and seeded first in the tournament. He is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Seneca Valley sophomore Dylan Chappell.

His lone loss was to Gary Steen of Reynolds in the semifinals at the Powerade Tournament. He finished third by defeating Council Rock North’s Kyle Hauserman, 4-3. It was his only decision win of the season.

He placed third in the WPIAL in 2018.

The top contenders include Chappell (35-4), Connellsville sophomore Mason Prinkey (28-5), Canon-McMillan sophomore Costa Moore (23-6) and Plum freshman Vince Citrano (27-4).

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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