By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
Breese leads a Mercer County contingent of 11 wrestlers to the Class AA tournament which opens Thursday morning. The AA consolation and championship finals are run concurrently Saturday, starting at 2 p.m.
The only other state place-winner making the trip among that group is Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer (145), who placed 7th at that weight last season. Raiders Seth Hogue (113), a sophomore, and Michael Bartolo (126), a junior, were both qualifiers last year and hope to reach the medal stand this season.
Other qualifiers are: Gage Bayless (106), Mike Millero (170), Cole Rickert (220), and Gene Ringer (285), all of Reynolds; Faris Messai (113) and Mohamed Messai (182), both of Jamestown; and Greenville’s Michael Lineman (106).
Following is a look at the state tourney by weight class, featuring local matmen:
106 - Reynolds freshman Gage Bayless (38-5) and Michael Lineman (39-6) are on the same side of the bracket and could meet in the semis if both can make it through a group of youngsters that features no state place-winners and only one returning qualifier. Bayless, Section 2 and District 10 champion, opens Thursday against Angel Barberio (34-8) of Muncy, while Lineman (39-6) goes against Alan Diltz (29-10) of Benton.
113 — Jamestown sophomore Faris Messai (29-5) won district and section titles before falling in the region finals. He opens against Lenny Ogozalek (41-6) a Panther Valley senior. Raider Seth Hogue (34-9) tangles with Palisades junior Jacob Wasser (35-3), a fourth-place finisher at 106 last season. Messai and Hogue could meet in the semis if both win their first two matches.
120 — There are no locals at this weight, but George Phillipi of Derry Area, who won state at 113 last season as a freshman, will be one of the top contenders. Another is Boiling Springs’ Korbin Myers, third at 113 last year after an overtime loss to Phillipi in the semis. Myers is coached by Rod Wright, former three-time state champ for Lakeview.
126 — Reynolds’ Michael Bartolo (33-9) meets Charles Johnson (36-5) of Wyoming Area in his first match and a win would probably send him against Jefferson-Morgan’s John Demaske (40-0), a 4th-place finisher at this weight in 2013. Unbeaten Zeke Moisey (40-0) of Bethlehem Catholic is also on that side of the bracket.
132 — District 10 wrestlers Tyler Vath of Saegertown and Conneaut Area’s Kyle Lukowich make return trips to Hershey in a tough weight class. Vath, 8th at 120 last year, is one of six wrestlers who have made it to the medal stand in the past at various weights. There are also five previous qualifiers.
138 — Northwest Region champ Brock Zacherl (37-2) of Brookville is expected to make some noise here, even better than his 4th-place finish at the same weight last season. Saegertown’s Nick Monico was 8th last year at 126, but will face tough competition as he tries to earn another medal.
145 — Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (30-3) has won every postseason tourney this season and would like to add one more of course. He faces Jacob Oliver (37-3), a Huntingdon freshman, in his first match. If he keeps advancing, he’ll probably meet unbeaten Billy Barnes (39-0) of Williamson in the semis. Williamson was 6th at 145 last year, but didn’t meet Stoyer who took 7th.
152 — There are no county wrestlers at this weight, but Cochranton’s Robert Boozer, the D-10 champ, has a good shot to earn a medal in a wide-open group that has no returning place-winners higher than 6th — Burrell’s Steve Edwards (42-4).
160 — Coudersport’s Kyle Bova (32-0) lost a tough 4-2 decision in the 152 state finals last year to Reynolds’ Austin Matthews and wants to move up one step on the medal stand in 2014. He could see Ryan Preisch of Milton, 3rd at 152, in the finals. Preisch lost to Matthews in the semis last season.
170 — Reynolds junior Mike Millero (40-8) could make a run at a medal in a weight that holds only one returning place-winner — unbeaten Evan Delong of Kane who placed 2nd at 160 last year. Millero meets Jefferson-Morgan sophomore Bill Bowlen (39-4) in his first match.
182 — Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai surprised a lot of people when he beat Greenville’s Justin Reynolds in the consolations at regions and he hopes to keep that momentum going in Hershey. In his first bout he’ll take on Bethlehem Catholic’s Jose Ortiz (35-6). Saegertown’s region champ Dylan Reynolds (37-4) is probably headed for a semis meeting with Lancaster Catholic’s Stephen Loiseau (42-0).
195 — No countians qualified here, but one of the favorites to win it all is Bermudian Springs senior Tristan Sponseller (39-0), who placed 2nd at 170 in 2013. Northwest Region champ Ryan Morris should earn a place after qualifying last year for state.
220 — Reynolds freshman Cole Rickert (30-7) has had an amazing season for a 14-year-old in a higher weight class. Rickert, the region champ, faces South Allegheny junior Seth Hitchens (36-9) in his state opener. Undefeated Jake Temple (39-0) of Avella is on the other side of the bracket.
285 — Lakeview’s Sam Breese (32-0) starts his drive for a second state crown against Everett junior Devin Reed (26-8). Reynolds’ Gene Ringer (36-12) is on the other side of the bracket and faces Jake Beistel (35-4) of Southmoreland in a meeting of sophomores. Beistel lost to Breese, 9-2, in the opening round last year.