CURWENSVILLE — The path to the podium at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships always is full of pitfalls, and Curwensville Area High School senior 152-pounder Shae Bloom and freshman 106-pounder will have to navigate around their share to claim medals Saturday afternoon.
Bloom, the Northwest Region champ, will be out to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish at 138 in his fourth Hershey Giant Center appearance.
The four-time District 9 titlist was 1-2 at 106 as a freshman and 1-2 at 126 as a sophomore for DuBois in Class AAA before winning four of six bouts last March to become the first Golden Tide medal winner since 2012.
Bloom (32-1) is one of eight returning placewinners in a loaded bracket that also includes five other state qualifiers.
Southwest Region runner-up Damon Greenwald (39-8) of Burrell is the only one back at the same weight. He placed seventh as a junior.
Moving up from 145 are SW Region champ Robert Patrick (38-2) of Ligonier, NW Region third-placer and three-time PIAA placewinner Nick Monico (37-5) of Saegertown, SW Region fourth-placer Gio Vonne Sanders (26-6) of Jeannette, Southeast Region champ Nate Newberry (36-2) of Biglerville and Northeast Region champ Zach Fry (30-0) of Hughesville. They placed second, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth in that order.
SW Region third-placer Jon Wagner (41-6) of Huntingdon is dropping down a weight after taking sixth at 160.
Among the others with state tourney experience is Brookville sophomore Caleb Hetrick (25-9), who was up at 160 and lost both of his matches. Bloom defeated the Raider 7-1 in the district finals and 6-3 in the region finals.
SE Region runner-up Hunter Gimber (38-3) of Brandywine Heights and SE Region sixth-placer Ali Capacitance (37-12) of Panther Valley were at Bloom’s weight last year, finishing 1-2 and 0-2 respectively.
SE Region fifth placer Chase Schaeffer (33-8) of Tri Valley was 1-2 at 145 and SE Region fourth-placer Nathan Harka (34-9) was 1-2 at 152.
“Hetrick is the only kid we’ve wrestled,” Curwensville coach Dean Swatsworth noted. “Shae’s gonna have a tough road ahead of him, and we’re hoping he can place higher on the podium.
“But we’re really hoping he can get to the finals.”
Bloom’s first opponent in the first session Thursday morning will be determined by a preliminary bout between Harka and SW Region sixth-placer Ben Previte (44-13) of South Fayette.
A win would set up a quarterfinal duel with Greenwald or NE Region third-placer Denton Porter (36-8) of Wyalusing Friday morning.
“Greenwald is pretty good,” Swatsworth said. “That’s who we’re thinking we’ll probably see. I’m glad we have a match to watch him and try to do a little bit of homework on him.”
Newberry and Wagner also are in the top half of the bracket, with Patrick and Fry owning the best records in the bottom half.
At 106, three bantams who placed in the top five last year are back, and the only two seniors in the bracket are in the same half as Passarelli (29-8).
SW Region champ Aaron Burkett (37-3) of Chestnut Ridge lost in the finals to Jefferson-Morgan’s Gavin Teasdale, who is up at 113 and still undefeated, while SE champ Kevan Gentile (36-1) of Jim Thorpe placed fourth.
NE champ Jaret Lane (43-1) of Southern Columbia will be trying to improve on his fifth-place finish as one of the favorites to come out of the top half along with NW Region champ Beau Bayless (35-7) of Reynolds.
Passarelli, who gets NE Region runner-up Joe Klock (27-7) of Benton in the first round, met four of the qualifiers this season.
He owns three wins over NW Region fourth-placer Devan Davis (31-9) of Cochranton, a possible opponent if they both lose their opening matches.
Passarelli was a technical fall victim of NW Region runner-up Keelan Kunselman of Brookville in the district finals and major decisioned by Bayless in the region semis and NE Region third-placer Wyatt Lutz of Montoursville at the Clearfield duals. Kunselman and Lutz are paired in the first round.
“Blake’s got some tough kids, but, hey, he had some tough kids up in the region and he ended up third, so you just never know,” Swatsworth said. “I really feel style of wrestling is a factor in the whole thing. Some kids can beat someone with one style and have trouble beating a kid with another style.
“We’ll have to scout the first kid on-line. After that, we can watch and see how the others wrestle.
“I’d dearly want Blake to get on the podium as a freshman. I don’t care where.
“He and Shae just have to go out and wrestle hard and wrestle smart.”
The three-day tourney gets under way Thursday at 9 a.m. with four preliminary bouts at each weight, followed by the championship first round and then the consolation first round.
On Friday, the championship quarterfinals and consolation second round will begin at 9 a.m. to set up the consolation third round matches for 11:45. The evening session is set for 7:30 and will include the championship semifinals, consolation quarterfinals and consolation semifinals.
The finals that will determine all eight places will run on four mats Saturday at 2 p.m.