Golden Tide Trio Begin NW Region Action Friday

CURWENSVILLE — Three Curwensville Area High School wrestlers will attempt to move past the second stop on the PIAA Class AA tournament trail Friday and Saturday when they seek the two wins necessary to step on the podium in Sharon High School.

The top four finishers in the new 12-man brackets qualify for the state championships next week in the Hershey Giant Center.

That’s the ultimate goal for senior 126-pounder Blake Passarelli, who already is a rare Golden Tide three-time state qualifier, junior 145-pounder and District 9 champion Zach Holland and senior 160-pounder Cole Bressler.

“I think our guys can win two matches if they just wrestle like they did last weekend,” Curwensville coach Dean Swatsworth said. “You just have to wrestle the kid who comes out against you. You can’t look ahead. You’ve got to win one at a time.”

All District 9 and District 10 champs and runners-up received byes into the quarterfinals, so only Bressler will see action in the preliminary round.

Holland would be making his third region appearance if an injury had not prevented him from competing in his freshman season when he lost in the district finals at 106. He was 1-2 at 132 in his region debut last year.

A preseason injury cost Holland (5-0) most of this season, too, as he wrestled in just two dual meets.

Swatsworth likes his draw that has him awaiting the winner of the prelim between two D-10 qualifiers, fourth-placer Marshall Marfinetz (27-9) of Girard and sixth-placer Kalob Brown (9-8) of Cochranton. Brown is a returnee but did not place last year.

D-10 runner-up Caiden Mooney (27-7) also is in the top half of the bracket. The Northwestern senior placed fourth at 132 in 2018 and was ranked No. 1 in the region by PA Power Wrestling, which has Holland No. 7 but not ranked in the state as of last week.

PA Power has Mooney ranked No. 13 in the state, while D-9 silver medalist Isaac Smoker (25-5) of Port Allegany is No. 9.

Smoker and D-10 titlist Jackson Spires (11-3) of General McLane are the ones to beat in the bottom of the bracket.

Holland nipped Smoker 2-1 in the D-9 finals.

“Zach looks like he’s in a pretty good spot, but he still has to go out and wrestle tough like he did at districts,” Swatsworth.

So will Passarelli (24-6), who is ranked No. 5 in the state and seeking his fourth region medal after placing third at 106 as a freshman, fourth at 113 as a sophomore and second at 113 last year when Beau Bayless of Reynolds beat him 5-2 for his third gold medal.

He will have to get past two tough D-10 qualifiers to get a rematch of his heart-breaking 3-2 (UTB) loss to two-time D-9 champion and No. 4-ranked Anthony Glasl (31-1) last Saturday.

He probably will meet third-placer Will Burgess (28-4) of Union City in the quarterfinals, with D-10 champ and No. 13-ranked Bryce Knauf (38-3) of Greenville a good bet to make the semifinals in that half of the bracket. Knauf dropped down for the tourneys after wrestling at 132 for much of the season.

D-10 runner-up and No. 14-ranked Andrew Ischo of Reynolds and D-9 third-placer Mason Songer (30-4) of Redbank Valley are in the bottom of the bracket with Glasl, who earned region silver medals at 106 and 120 the last two years.

Ischo placed sixth in the state at 120 last year after finishing third in the region. He was second in the region in 2017.

Bressler (15-11) finds himself in a loaded bracket with nine of the 12 qualifiers sporting at least 25 wins and three ranked very high in the state, D-9 champ Alec English (29-1) of Kane at No. 3, D-10 champ Peyton Hearn (33-2) of Conneaut at No. 4 and 10-4 Jason Bratt (27-5) of Harbor Creek at No. 5.

English, a returning champion, will have to contend with Bratt, who was fourth at the same weight last year, and D-10 runner-up Hunter Thompson (22-9).

Bressler gets 10-5 Luke Gaston (25-8) of Sharon in the prelims, with the winner going against Hearn, who lost in the finals but went on to place sixth in the state last year.

Bayless is up at 120 and aiming to become Reynolds’ fifth four-time NW Region champion, while Tye Varndell of Cambridge Springs is going for his third region belt at 132.

Other returning titlists are Gary Steen of Reynolds at 106, Gavin Henry of Union City at 182, Jacob McMaster of Greenville at 220 and Colby Whitehill of Brookville at 285 from last year and Kenny Kiser of Saegertown at 132 from two years ago.

The region format has changed this year as District 10 is sending eight qualifiers per weight, up two from past seasons, while District 9 continues to be represented by four placewinners.

The 12-man brackets will require four preliminary bouts in a round that is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m. Quarterfinal action will follow immediately.

Four mats will be set up again Saturday morning for the 9:15 session that begins with the consolation first round, followed by the championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals and then the consolation semifinals.

The afternoon session will begin at 3:30 with the third-place and fifth-place matches on two mats, with the Parade of Champions at 5:15 setting the stage for the championship duels.

All-session tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, while Saturday passes will be available at $14 and $7, respectively. Admission will be $6 (adults) and $3 (students) for the Friday and Saturday morning sessions and $8 (adults) and $4 (students) for the finals.

Brackets can be found here, courtesy PA-wrestling.com

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