Format change ramps up intensity for WPIAL Class AAA wrestling tournament

Friday, February 26, 2021 | 6:05 PM

High school wrestling coaches always talk about the “blood round” in the sport.

It’s the round in the consolation bracket where a wrestler puts his career on the line to become an All-American in college, or in high school, earn a spot at advancing to become all-state.

Because the coronavirus has changed the way wrestlers can qualify for the state tournament by reducing spots in the field, some coaches feel the entire WPIAL/PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional on Saturday will feature those types of battles.

If Franklin Regional wrestling coach Matt Lebe had a choice, he’d rather be in his wrestlers’ shoes.

“At least I’d be able to control what’s happening,” Lebe said. “It’s going to be crazy. Every match is big. You have to be ready when it begins. It’s nerve-wracking for a coach.”

Lebe said there are numerous key quarterfinal matches at Canon-McMillan. There are eight wrestlers in each weight class looking to finish in the top three so they can advance to the PIAA West Super Regional on March 6 at Altoona.

In the past few seasons, the top four wrestlers advanced to the state tournament. Now, the PIAA has added a step. WPIAL wrestlers will now face wrestlers from different areas including Erie, Altoona, State College, Selinsgrove, Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley and Chambersburg.

“The next two weeks is going to be fun,” Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. “Some of the weight classes are stacked with talent. Almost all of the matches will be good. The 106-, 126-, 132- and 145-pound classes are some of the great weights.”

The 126-pound weight class features two returning state champions, Franklin Regional senior Carter Dibert (113 champion in 2019) and Hempfield senior Ethan Berginc (113 champion in 2020).

There are 10 returning WPIAL champions including Hempfield’s Ty Linsenbigler (145 pounds) and heavyweight Isaiah Vance. Latrobe’s Vinny Kilkeary (106) and Berginc are returning PIAA champions.

“I like our wrestlers’ chances at advancing,” Latrobe coach Mark Mears said. “Vinny (Kilkeary) is Vinny. He doesn’t worry who he’s facing. Nath (Roth) and Corey (Boerio) are closing the gap.”

The Wildcats have four wrestlers in the quarterfinals. The other is Jacob Braun at 106.

Here’s a look at each weight class:

106 pounds

Top seed: Ty Chappell (27-0), Seneca Valley.

Keep an eye on: Antonino Walker (20-1), Plum, and Giavonie Schipani (23-3), North Hills.

Predicted winner: Chappell.

113 pounds

Top seed: Vinny Kilkeary (18-1), Latrobe.

Keep an eye on: Troy Hohman (20-1), Penn-Trafford, and Joe Simon (19-3), Waynesburg.

Predicted winner: Kilkeary.

120 pounds

Top seed: Mac Church (20-1), Waynesburg.

Keep an eye on: Dylan Coy (22-1), North Allegheny.

Predicted winner: Church.

126 pounds

Top seed: Carter Dibert (27-0), Franklin Regional.

Keep an eye on: Ethan Berginc (27-3), Hempfield, and Mason Prinkey (14-1), Connellsville.

Predicted winner: Dibert.

132 pounds

Top seed: Dylan Chappell (29-2), Seneca Valley.

Keep an eye on: Briar Priest (27-3), Hempfield, and Nate Roth (15-6), Latrobe.

Predicted winner: Chappell.

138 pounds

Top seed: Cole Homet (22-1), Waynesburg.

Keep an eye on: Finn Solomon (27-1), Franklin Regional and Dylan Evans (26-6), Chartiers Valley.

Predicted winner: Solomon.

145 pounds

Top seed: Wyatt Henson (24-0), Waynesburg.

Keep an eye on: John Altieri (25-2), Norwin.

Predicted winner: Henson.

152 pounds

Top seed: Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (30-0), Seneca Valley.

Keep an eye on: Rocco Welsh (20-2), Waynesburg.

Predicted winner: Herrera-Rondon.

160 pounds

Top seed: Cole Spencer (17-1), Pine-Richland.

Keep an eye on: Enzo Morlacci (21-1), Kiski Area.

Predicted winner: Spencer.

172 pounds

Top seed: Luca Augustine (13-0), Waynesburg.

Keep an eye on: Sammy Starr (32-2), Kiski Area.

Predicted winner: Augustine.

189 pounds

Top seed: Justin Hart (20-4), Hampton.

Keep an eye on: Cooper Baxter (19-2), Butler.

Predicted winner: Hart.

215 pounds

Top seed: Cole Weightman (26-4), Belle Vernon.

Keep an eye on: Ty Banco (24-7), Trinity.

Predicted winner: Weightman.

285 pounds

Top seed: Billy McChesney (19-3), Greensburg Salem.

Keep an eye on: Dawson Dietz (28-3), Hampton.

Predicted winner: Isaiah Vance (27-1), Hempfield.

WPIAL/PIAA AAA Southwest Regional

• When: Saturday

Where: Canon-McMcMillan

Times: 10 am., quarterfinals; 11:15 a.m, semifinals; 5 p.m. finals.

The skinny: Eight wrestlers in each weight class vying for three spots to advance to PIAA West Super Regional on March 6 at Altoona.

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

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