CURWENSVILLE — After earning a medal last year in his third trip to Hershey, Curwensville Area High School senior Blake Passarelli is hoping to climb higher on the Giant Center podium at the 2019 PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships that run Thursday through Saturday.
The Golden Tide 126-pounder, who placed eighth at 113 last March, finds himself in a typically-loaded bracket in which he is one of a dozen region survivors who have past experience at the state level.
“Ultimately, everybody’s goal is to finish at the top, but I know one of Blake’s goals for this season was to place higher than he did last year,” Curwensville coach Dean Swatsworth said. “This bracket could be wide open. There’s about eight different kids who could win.”
Swatsworth includes Passarelli, 30-8 with a 105-34 career record, in that group.
“He’s ready to go,” Swatsworth said. “Honestly, this week is to get healthy and drill on a few things.
“We’ve been telling him all week he’s gotta win that first one. If he doesn’t, it going to be a tough road.”
Passarelli, ranked No. 7 in the state by PA Power Wrestling before placing fourth in the Northwest Region last week, is paired against Southwest Region fifth-placer Byron Daubert (32-12) in Thursday’s 9 a.m. preliminary round. The Forest Hills senior is making his third appearances at states but has yet to place.
Awaiting the winner will be three-time medal winner Chase Shields (36-3, 141-23 career) of Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt. The four-time Southeast Region champ placed sixth at 106 as a freshman and has been second at 113 and 120 the last two years.
NW Region champ Bryce Knauf (41-3) of Greenville also is in the bottom half of the bracket with Passarelli, as are returnees Tyler Cymmerman (36-6) of Derry and Chase Proudfit (29-11) of Penn Cambria, neither of whom has placed.
No. 1-ranked Brock McMillen (39-1) of Glendale is one of three medal winners among the seven wrestlers with prior state tourney experience in the top half of the bracket.
The SW Region champ lost in the 113 finals last year, while SE Region silver medalist Bronson Garber (38-4) of Upper Dauphin finished sixth at 126 and NW Region runner-up Anthony Glasl (33-2) of Brockway placed sixth at 106 in 2017 but did not medal last year.
Like Shields, Garber owns three medals, having placed fifth at 113 in 2016 and fourth at 120 as a sophomore.
The quartet of returnees seeking their first medals are NW Region third-placer Will Burgess (32-5) of Union City, SW Region fourth-placer Z.J. Ward (19-6) of Freedom, SE Region fifth-placer Joshua Tuckey (35-6) of Biglerville and SE Region sixth-placer Dalton Gimber (40-9) of Hamburg.
Garber was ranked No. 5 and Glasl No. 6 prior to the regionals.
Glasl will meet No. 3 and SE Region bronze medalist Brandon Chletos (40-10) of Notre Dame-Green Pond in the first round, and the winner probably will test McMillen in the quarterfinals.
No. 2 Elijah Bundro (22-0) of Wilson is out of the picture because he did not make weight for the SE Region tourney.
Swatsworth has cautioned Passarelli over and over to stay focused solely on the match in which he is wrestling.
“Every kid is gonna be good,” Swatsworth said. “You have to wrestle every match like it’s your last one. You can’t take a second off. You’ve gotta be ready to wrestle a full six minutes, maybe more.”
Passarelli has shown he is up to that challenge.
“Blake already has wrestled a few overtime matches in districts and regionals,” Swatsworth noted.
The first session will include the championship first round and, beginning at 1:15 p.m., the consolation first round.
On Friday, the quarterfinals and consolation second round are on tap at 9 a.m. with the consolation third round set for 11:45.
The survivors, all of whom are guaranteed a medal, will return at 7:30 p.m. for the championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals, followed by the consolation semifinals at 9:30.
All place rounds are booked for Saturday at 2 p.m.
Complete AA bracket courtesy PA-Wrestling.com can be found by clicking here.