Seven strong: 7 Punxsy wrestlers states-bound
PUNXSUTAWNEY — For a group of 14 Punxsy area wrestlers, the feat of making the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling (PJW) Area V tournament last weekend in Clarion was an accomplishment in itself. More impressively, seven of those 14 qualifiers aren't quite finished wrestling yet.
Punxsy was especially successful in a pair of age brackets, with four grapplers advancing to the PJW State Championship Tournament in the 13- and 14-year-old brackets and three in the nine- and 10-year-olds. States will be held Friday and Saturday at the Hershey Park Arena in Hershey.
"It was a pretty good showing, and we're pretty pleased with these numbers, as this was one of our better results over the last couple years," Punxsy coach Bill Burke said. "We wrestled well at Areas for the most part, and a couple others who didn't make it fell just short."
One of the 13- and 14-year-old qualifiers — Kaleb Young — earned his seventh Area V Championship to earn the berth to states at 117 pounds.
Fellow 13- and 14-year-olds Zoie Smith (second place, 77 pounds); Keegan Fischer (first place, 147 pounds); and Travis Perry (second place, 167 pounds) also qualified for the state tournament — and Burke said they will have their work cut out for them.
"The level of competition escalates tremendously at the state level," he said. "Each qualifier will be heading into a 22-wrestler bracket and, in order to medal, must finish in the top eight — a very difficult feat."
As the Area V champion, Young earned a bye through the first round and will face the winner of a first-round match between Area VI runner-up Garrett Zuver, of Saegertown, and Area VII runner-up Salvatore Peluso, of North Allegheny.
Fellow Area V champ Fischer didn't draw a first-round bye and will face Area III's No. 2 seed, Nathanial Vukovich, of Kittanning, in the first round.
As Area V's runner-up, Smith will face Sharon's Julius Hicklin, Area VI's runner-up, in the opening round.
Perry will also take on a runner-up, Area IV's Frank Dreucci, of Beth Center, in the opening round.
The nine- and 10-year-old class was also a successful one for Punxsy, as Conner Giavedoni was crowned Area V champion at 95 pounds, and fellow grapplers Jake Skarbek (65 pounds) and Dylan Ishman (105 pounds) advanced to states with second-place finishes.
Burke said each weight class will be packed with talent, meaning every wrestler has to perform at his or her best on the large stage.
But he also added that the youngsters should realize just how big an accomplishment they have reached, as well.
"You definitely have to bring your A-plus game to reach the podium at the state level," he said. "But regardless, these wrestlers have already reached quite an accomplishment by making it this far."
As the 95-pound Area V champ, Giavedoni earned a first-round bye and will face the winner between Area VII's Andrew Franklin, of South Fayette, and Jacob Lloyd, Area VIII's runner-up in the second round.
At 65 pounds, Skarbek will face Jeffrey Boyd, of McDowell, for the opportunity to face Area I's king seed, Bailey Kist in the second round.
Ishman rounds out Punxsy's solid field at 105 pounds, where he will take on Area VIII's Dorian Crosby, of East Erie, to earn a shot at Nicholas Florschutz, Area XI's top seed.
The tournament kicks off bright and early Friday morning with an 8 a.m. start time, and anyone interested can follow round-by-round results and see updated brackets at www.pajw.org.