The PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships get underway Thursday, with 24 local wrestlers — 19 in Class 3A and 5 in Class 2A — among the qualifiers. That bunch will be looking to improve on last year’s performance, which included three local medal winners in each classification.
An uptick seems within reach in 3A. Regional titles have given wrestlers such as Mechanicsburg’s Brayden Wills and Big Spring’s Tucker Brough more advantageous bracket positions than they had last year, and others, including Cumberland Valley’s Wyatt Long, enter the tourney healthier than they were in 2016. Here’s a look at a few of the other contenders:
Last round for Olson
There’s only one three-time state medalist among the local contingent, and it’s the light-on-flash, heavy-on-substance Chandler Olson (38-2).
The Shippensburg senior has made a steady climb up the PIAA medal podium during his career, having finished eighth as a freshman, sixth as a sophomore and fourth as a junior.
Taking the next step will be a challenge, as Olson finds himself in a 126-pound bracket featuring two of the country’s best in Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee (32-0) and Exeter’s Austin DeSanto (49-0). The latter has dealt Olson his only two losses this season, one of them coming two weeks ago in the District 3 finals. The former is considered the nation’s top scholastic wrestler.
First things first, though: Olson would not have to worry about Lee until the semifinals, and will kick off the tourney with a match against Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Anderson, the Northeast Region champ.
A single loss anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Olson’s ascension of the medal stand, proven when he won three straight matches in the consolation bracket last year after falling in the quarterfinals.
Breakthrough for Duggan?
Cedar Cliff junior Francis Duggan (34-3) already has an impressive state tournament resume, having finished seventh as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore, both times while competing at 195 pounds.
Simply listing Duggan’s finishes doesn’t tell the tale of his tourney experience, though. In both years, Duggan was knocked into the consolation bracket via a tight loss to the eventual state champion — a 1-0 defeat against Stroudsburg senior Jake Jakobsen last year, and a 3-0 loss to Governor Mifflin senior Jan Johnson in 2015.
Those losses were part of oh-so-close performances that saw Duggan drop a total of five matches by a combined 10 points.
Now competing at 220 and entering the tournament on a serious roll, Duggan is now longer the underclassman trying to knock off the hammer — he is the hammer.
The top-ranked Duggan is a gold-medal contender, and he faces a potential semifinal meeting with Upper Darby’s Brian Kennerly (34-0) that would match two of the state’s best. Duggan will open his tourney against either Unionville’s Michael Maguire (35-6) or Pocono Mountain West’s Greg Bensley (31-3).
Myers a wild card
The season has progressed in stages for Boiling Springs sophomore Kollin Myers. He took a few lumps at high-level tournaments early in the season while competing at 132 pounds, and then he regained his state-level form after dropping to his more natural 126 pounds.
Myers appears to be back in line to replicate the second-place state finish in Class AA he achieved as a freshman. But the last two weeks have featured hiccups, with Myers taking losses against Bermudian Springs’ Austin Clabaugh in the District 3 final and Pequea Valley’s Tanner Ball in the Southeast Region semifinals.
All that leaves Myers as a wild card this weekend — a wrestler with the skill level and experience to compete for gold, but one who isn’t entering the tournament on a hot streak.
He’ll get started on the next stage of the campaign with a first-round match against Benton’s Joe Klock, with a potential semifinal matchup against Jefferson-Morgan junior Gavin Teasdale (36-0) — the wrestler who knocked off Myers in last year’s state finals at 113 — waiting in the wings.