Rocky Road Ahead for Golden Tide Trio at NW Regional

CURWENSVILLE — Having cleared the first hurdles on their journey to, hopefully, a step on the winner’s stand at the PIAA Class AA Tournament, the three Curwensville Area High School wrestlers who placed in the District 9 Tournament will face obstacles every bit as tough, or tougher, in the Northwest Region Tournament.

Qualifiers from 41 District 9 and District 10 teams will step on one of four mats in the Sharon High School gym Friday for the 5:30 p.m. preliminaries and/or the ensuing quarterfinals.

While a gold medal is the ultimate goal for Golden Tide 113-pounder Blake Passarelli, 132-pounder Zach Holland and heavyweight Steven McClure this weekend, advancing out of the always-rugged NW regional is all-important.

“The ideal goal is go to states as a No. 1, because you’re gonna have an easier match in the first round, but you’ve gotta give yourself the opportunity to get to the next level,” Curwensville coach Dean Swatsworth said.

Passarelli (26-5) will be seeking his third trip to Hershey as the D-9 champion at a weight that has returning state champ Beau Bayless (41-4) on the other side of the bracket.

The Golden Tide junior, ranked No. 8 in the state by Off The Mat has wrestled Bayless (2nd-OTM) and five other qualifiers, including two in his half of the pairings, D-10 runner-up Hunter Thompson (29-5) of Titusville and D-9 bronze medalist Dylan Pesock (26-6) of Oswayo Valley.

Passarelli beat Pesock 2-0 in the district semifinals Saturday. He pinned Pesock as a freshman, when he was at 106 and lost 4-2 in the Fred Bell Tournament at Grove City and was majored 11-2 by Bayless in the regional as the D-9 runner-up.

Pesock or Thompson would be Saturday’s semifinal foe for Passarelli if he defeats the winner of the prelim between D-10’s Alex Kightlinger (18-10) of Saegertown and Carson Filer (27-12) of Mercer.

“Blake is sitting pretty good, but he’s gonna have a tough semifinal match,” Swatsworth said. “If he makes it against Bayless, it could be a good match.”

Passarelli owns wins this season over three wrestlers in the bottom of bracket with Bayless, a 10-0 major decision over Reese Vollmer (31-5, No. 16-OTM) of Port Allegany in the D-9 finals, a fall over Mason Songer (23-11) of Redbank Valley and a 4-3 decision over D-10 third-place William Burgess (30-5, No. 10-OTM) of Union City.

Bayless, a two-time region king at 106 who is OTM’s No. 2 behind unbeaten Wyatt Lutz of Montoursville, nipped Burgess 4-3 in the D-10 semifinals before pinning Thompson at 1:21 in the title bout.

Holland, who did not wrestle in the regional because of an injury last year after finishing second at 106 in the district, won four of six bouts to place fourth last weekend.

The two who beat him as possible opponents, runner-up Tyler Thompson (28-6) of Bradford is in his half of the bracket and third-placer Noah Blankenship (17-6) of Kane is in the bottom half. Thompson won 10-1 and Blankenship won 9-0 in those matches.

Holland, a sophomore, will take on D-10 sixth-placer Zachary Helstern (28-10) in the prelims, with the D-10 champ Mark-Samuel Sallot (40-2, No. 6-OTM) awaiting the winner.

D-9 champ Bryce Barclay (29-4, No. 11-OTM) is on the opposite side, along with D-10 runner-up Rocco Bartolo (30-7, No. 8-OTM) and D-10 fourth-placer Garrett Kopp (30-7, No. 15-OTM) of North East,

“All these kids are good,” Swatsworth said. “The kid from Reynolds was ranked higher, and Sallot beat him in districts, so Zach will have his hands full there.

“I think he should win his first one, and if he loses to Sallot, he would fall to the bottom of the loser’s bracket, and he might not have to see either of the kids he lost to in districts.

“I just told him to keep wrestling, and his time will come.”

McClure, a senior who was 1-2, all overtime bouts, at last year’s regional, has history with four other contenders.

First, he’ll have to contend with D-10 bronze medalist Matt Long (31-3) of Union City in a quarterfinal showdown of Top 10 heavyweights.

OTM has McClure No. 7 and Long No. 9.

D-10 champ Max Wills (29-5, No. 8-OTM) also is in the lower bracket, as is D-10 fifth-placer Bobby Gregory (29-7) of Mercer.

McClure edged Gregory 3-2 at the Redbank Valley Duals.

He was 2-1 this season against qualifiers in the top half of the bracket, the loss to No. 6-ranked Colby Whitehill (35-3) of Brookville in the district finals, 6-2 in the overtime tiebreaker periods.

McClure pinned D-10 fourth-placer Mason Benjamin (25-12) of Youngsville at the Fred Bell tourney and D-9 third-place Hayden Thompson (21-11) just 17 seconds into the second period of their district semifinal match.

His other losses were 3-0 to Whitehill in a dual meet and 2-1 to South Side Beaver’s Bishop McCoy in the Fred Bell tourney finals. McCoy won the gold medal in the Southwest Region Tournament Saturday.

“That whole D-10 have all beat each other, and there probably are five kids who could win,” Swatsworth said. “Honestly, it could be Brookville and Curwensville in the finals, or in the consy finals.

“Like our other two, Steven just has to show up and wrestle.”

Bayless is one of eight returning champions, including two other two-timers, Cole Matthews of Reynolds at 138 and Cody Mulligan of Saegertown at 182, both of whom joined the short list of D-10 four-time champs Saturday at Sharon.

Looking for a second region title are Ridgway’s Kyle Bush, up a weight at 120; Cambridge Springs’ Ty Varndell at 126; Reynolds’ Hunter Michaels, up from 132 to 145; Brookville’s Caleb Hetrick, who moved down to 145 from 152, an Cambridge Springs’ Clay Verbanec at 195.

In addition, 10 silver medalists, seven bronze medalists and eighth fourth-placers are back from last year.

Everybody returns Saturday morning for the first round of consolations at 9:30, followed by the championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals and then the consolation semifinals, all on four mats.

Two mats will be used for the consolation finals at 3:30 p.m.

The spotlight will be on one mat for the championships right after the Parade of Champions, set for five o’clock.

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