Alle-Kiski Valley girls wrestlers ready for state tournament

Friday, March 10, 2023 | 5:25 PM

Plum’s Alaina Claassen hasn’t let an injury prevent her pursuit of a state girls wrestling title.

A freshman, Claassen said she dislocated her knee and damaged cartilage early in the season. Though the knee is not at 100 percent, she’s returned to the mat. Claassen placed second at 235 pounds during last weekend’s West Region tournament to qualify for the state championships on Sunday at Central Dauphin High School.

“She hurt her knee pretty significantly, but the doctors said it was OK to try to wrestle and she wanted to try,” Plum coach Dave Miller said. “She has a brace, and we wrap it up. She’s giving it a shot, and a lot of people wouldn’t have given it a shot with that injury.”

Claassen said she’ll need surgery on the knee after the season.

“It’s still not great, but it will have to get me through the weekend,” she said.

Plum never has had a girls wrestler bring home a state high school title, according to Miller. Claassen, who’s won junior high state titles, will begin her quest for high school gold against Paige Kepner of Hughesville.

Despite not being at full strength, Claassen said “my goal still is to win it all.”

Miller added: “I like her chances, even with the knee.”

Claassen will be joined by four other local wrestlers at the state championships: Kiski Area’s Bella DeVito (124 pounds), Valley’s Paula Sanchez (142) and Knoch’s Miranda Lajevic (100) and Braylee Ireland (118).

DeVito decisioned Saegertown’s Kylie Stafford, 9-0, to place first in the regional at Kiski Area. The senior is considered a top contender at 124 after finishing third and fourth at the state meet the past two years. DeVito is scheduled to open this year’s state tourney against the winner of the match between Selinsgrove’s Anna Kalcich and Lancaster McCaskey’s Lounijah Larue.

Valley’s Sanchez comes into the state meet following a fourth-place finish at the regionals. The Vikings sophomore drew a first-round matchup against Marlo Williams of Springfield.

Lajevic and Ireland advanced to the state finals with third-place finishes at the regionals.

“It will be the first time we’re going out there for the high schools girls,” Knights coach Josh Orris said. “Braylee finished fifth last year at the junior high tournament. She’s much improved this year, and we’re excited to see how she does on Sunday.”

A freshman, Ireland expects her experience at the state junior high tourney to help her cope with the intense environment at Central Dauphin. She’ll open competition against Hamburg’s Shannon Govern.

“It’s nerve-wracking at first, but when the wrestling starts you just shut everything else out,” she said. “It will be a lot of tough competition, but I’m excited to go and push myself and test where I’m at.”

Lajevic is in her second year of wrestling. The sophomore has been recovering from an ankle injury, but said she’ll be at “almost 100 percent” when she squares off against Kennett’s Taya Wuchter in her first match.

“It will be a new experience for me,” she said. “My goal obviously is to place. I’m going to work hard to win matches there. I want to soak up the experience and work toward getting back next year.”

Regional tournaments were held last Sunday in the west, east, northeast and central parts of the state. The top five finishers in each of 13 weight classes (100, 106, 112, 118, 124, 130, 136, 142, 148, 155, 170, 190 and 235) qualified for the state tournament.

Competition will begin at 9 a.m. at Central Dauphin. Medals will be awarded to the top eight place winners in each class and the top three teams.

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