HERSHEY — Follow- ing this weekend’s regional wrestling tour- naments, eight area wrestlers have earned their way to the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, begin- ning Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Tri-Valley’s Sammy Hepler and Chase Schaeffer, Williams Val- ley’s Willy Girard and Ian Minnich, Line Moun- tain’s Brian Earlston and Garrett Kieffer, Upper Dauphin’s Bran- son Garber and Pine Grove’s Carson Ritten- baugh all punched their ticket for Chocolatetown with their placements at the Southeast Regional Class AA tournament in West Lawn and the Northeast Class AA Regional Tournament in Williamsport.
For Garber and Kief- fer, the weekend was capped with winning a
regional gold medal. For Garber, the win at 113 pounds was a point of redemption as he defeat- ed his nemesis this sea- son, Boiling Springs’ Kollin Myers, 11-7 in the final match. Myers defeated Garber twice this season, both in the finals at sectional and the District III Tourma- nent.
Kieffer put on a domi- nating performance in his regional tournament, starting with a fall at 3:26 in his quarterfinal bout, a 5-2 decision in the semis and then pin- ning his opponent, John Sheridan, of Hanover Area, in 2:21 to win the regional championship.
Line Mountain’s Brian Earlston earned a silver medal in his perfor- mance at the Northeast
Regional tournament. After pinning his quarterfinal oppo- nent by pinfall and getting a deci- sion win in the semis, Earlston ran into another Brian, Brian Courtney of Line Mountain, who put on a wrestling clinic, defeat- ing Earlston with a 26-9 technical fall in 5:09.
Four wrestlers — Hepler, Schaef- fer, Rittenbaugh and Minnich also found themselves in the champi- onship semifinals where they all suffered their first loss of the tournament. Making to the semi- finals assured them all a spot in the state tournament so it was all a matter of placement and seed- ing then.
Hepler won his fourth round consolation bout by forfeit, while WV’s Willy Girard — who already wrestled two bouts in the consola- tion bracket — pinned his oppo- nent.
Schaeffer, Rittenbaugh and Minnich lost their bouts, mean- ing the best they could do was
fifth place in the tournament, but assuring their spots in Hershey.
That wasn’t case for Line Moun- tain’s Cole Hauck, who won fifth place at the Northeast Regional, but only the top four in the region make the state tournament.
Girard and Hepler earned third place medals for their schools, while Schaeffer took fifth place and Rittenbaugh and Minnich won sixth.
So, beginning at 9 a.m. Thurs- day, eight wrestlers in six weight classes will take to the mats of the Giant Center in search of AA wrestling gold. Two of the weight classes, 113 and 285 pounds have two areas where two wrestlers (Garber and Girard, Minnich and Kieffer) are competiting, but are on opposite sides of the brackets and may only meet in the champi- onship finals or somewhere in the consolations.
First opponents for each wres- tler in the PIAA State Tourna- ment and their seedings are as follows:
113 — First round matchups: (5)
Darren Yearick, Penns Valley vs. (12) Willy Girard, Williams Val- ley; (3) Brandon Garber, Upper Dauphin vs. winner of (19) Kea- ton Furry, North Star vs. (12) Sebastian Corrales, Church Farm School.
126 — First round match: (11) Brian Earlston, Line Mountain vs. (6) Masn Brockway, Brockway.
132 — First round match: (11) Chaise Hauck, Reynolds vs (6) Sammy Hepler, Tri-Valley
152 — Preliminary bout: (19) Steven Yates, Towanda vs (14) Chase Schaeffer, Tri-Valley
182 — Preliminary bout: (19) Christian Hutzell, Meyersdale vs (14) Carson Rittenbaugh, Pine Grove
285 — Preliminary bout: (17) Colton McClain, Ridgway vs. (16) Ian Minnich, Williams Valley; first-round match: (15) Garrett Kieffer, Line Mountain vs winner of (20) Matt Matko, Schuylkill Haven vs. (2) Trevor McIntyre, Fort Cherry.