Strong fields lining up for 'AA' sectionals
Twelve wrestlers enter this weekend's Class AA Section 1 Tournament at Chartiers-Houston High School as returning champions, but at least three will fall short of claiming another title, as a pair of returning champions are entered in each of three weight classes -- 120, 132 and 160.
South Side Beaver's Nathan Reckner (23-2) and Chartiers-Houston's Richie McGinnis (27-11) are entered at 120. Reckner is a three-time section champ who won his previous titles at 103, 112 and 120. McGinnis is a two-time champ, who won previously at 103 and 106.
"The top three kids in the WPIAL rankings at 120 are from our section, and Richie will probably be the No. 3 seed," said Chartiers-Houston coach Bill Sutton, who pointed out that South Fayette's Mike Carr is also entered at 120. "Richie lost to Carr at the section team tournament."
South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry (29-1) and Burgettstown's Stephen Kotouch (22-9) are entered at 132. Gentry is the defending champion, who also won a title at 125 in 2011. Kotouch won at 126 last season.
South Fayette's J.J. Walker (22-5) and South Side Beaver's Connor Payne (27-6) are entered at 160. Walker won section and WPIAL titles last year at 152. Payne won a section crown at 135 in 2011, then lost to Walker in last year's 152 title match.
Payne dropped to 160 after spending most of the season at 170. Walker and South Fayette teammate Grant Fetchet (27-6) had the option of moving down one weight class, but decided to stay at 160 and 152.
"Grant and J.J. moved down for one match during the PIAA team tournament, but decided it wasn't an option for the long run," South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard said. "Neither felt comfortable moving down and both have done well at their current weights."
Chartiers-Houston's Tanner Sutton (33-5) joins Reckner as the only three-time champs entered in the section tournaments. He's won titles at 125, 130 and is the defending champion at 145.
Sutton's teammate, Garrett Vulcano (34-2), is a two-time champ. Vulcano won titles at 160 and 170 and is now entered at 195.
The other four returning champions are South Fayette's Seth Carr (27-3) and Michael Fetchet (30-1) and Freedom's Boe Bonzo (18-3) and Tyler Cousins (22-8).
Carr is the defending champ at 113. Michael Fetchet won at 160 and is now at 170.
Bonzo won at 119 as a freshman and has placed second the past two years at 130 and 145. Cousins has moved to 220 after winning at 195 last year.
South Park a threat
South Park coach Walt Karrenbauer has a small squad that is very young, but the Eagles are a team to watch in the Section 1 tournament.
"We started off with 13 kids," said Karrenbauer, now in his second stint as the Eagles head coach. "Two are out with injuries and two others quit. That leaves us with nine kids and only one is a senior. The others are sophomores and freshmen."
The lone senior is Taylor Wentzel, who placed third in the section and fourth in the WPIAL last year at 145. He's now competing at 138 and has a 17-4 record.
South Park features a trio of freshmen, Max Hartman (16-9 at 106), Greg Bulsak (24-7 at 126) and Jake Wentzel (23-4 at 132). Sophomore Rob Wolak (15-6) is a two-year starter.
"This is the most exciting group of kids I've had," Karrenbauer said.
Section 3 hopefuls
South Allegheny and Keystone Oaks will be short-handed when they enter the Section 3-AA tournament at Avonworth High School.
The Gladiators lost two starters to season-ending injuries during the past month. Noah Stoker, a 106-pound freshman, sustained a broken arm at the Allegheny County tournament. Junior heavyweight Mark Tortorice incurred a season-ending shoulder injury at the section team tournament.
"I feel bad for both, because they would have done well in the postseason tournaments," South Allegheny coach Tony DiGiorgio said.
South Allegheny's top entries are Justo Hernandez (26-6 at 113) and Seth Hitchens (23-7 at 195). Hitchens placed second in the section and fifth in the WPIAL last season at the same weight.
Keystone Oaks is missing sophomore Brett Beltz, who is out with a broken thumb incurred at the Allegheny County tournament. Beltz won a section title and placed second in the WPIAL at 120 last season.
"We had hoped he would be able to wrestle, but it's just not possible," Keystone Oaks coach J.J. Zanetta said.
Keystone Oaks' top returnee is Nick Zanetta (24-1), a 132-pound senior and the coach's younger brother who placed second in the WPIAL and PIAA last season at 126.