SOL Wrestling: 2023 PIAA Duals Recap - What did we learn?

What We Learned?
by Glenn Kaiser

Hershey, PA-The three-day, grueling 2023 PIAA (AAA) Team Championship bracket is complete, and we learned a lot about Pennridge and Council Rock South and what the challenges SOL wrestlers will face in March during the individual postseason.  One thing is clear, Pennsylvania wrestling has the best of the best in individual and team talent.  District One’s Faith Christian Academy won the 2023 (AA) Team title with a bunch of talented young grapplers that hail from our region since the school is located in Quakertown.  Faith was dominate in their conquering of the AA title, especially after they downed their biggest threat, Notre Dame-Green Pond. in the quarterfinals 28-26.  They cruised from there, as they went on to beat Fort Leboeuf 54-12 in the championship final.

On the AAA side, Bethlehem Catholic continued its dominance, winning the title over their local rival Nazareth Area 35-23.  BECA won last year’s AAA team title over Nazareth by the score of 34-22.  BECA or Nazareth have combined for seven PIAA (AAA) Team titles since 2016 with BECA winning five and Nazareth two.  The District 11 dominance here is duly noted.  Additionally, it should be noted that private schools seem to be at an advantage in these team tournaments, as they are able to put out outstanding talent on the mat in just about every weight-class. 

The knowledge and experience gained at the state duals is priceless.  Getting matches against top-ranked individuals prior to the real season starting can go a long way for those that pursue a spot on the podium come March. 

But let’s get back to the locals here in the SOL. Pennridge’s roster is stacked with young guns and will be loaded again next year in these state team duals, and, of course, Council Rock South is a stalwart in this event and almost never miss the opportunity.  I stopped counting after 10 straight appearances in the state bracket (excluding the 2021 Covid year when they placed third in the D1 duals).  Pennridge was certainly not a deer in head lights with its first D1 team championship in Hershey. In fact, they continued with their fun/business-like approach to the sport.  They experienced some misfortune with Martinelli’s slam in their first-round match with Hempfield Area, which they lost 34-32, but they were resilient, responding with two consecutive wins before bowing out to the bronze medalist team Central Dauphin 30-21. 

Pennridge continues to win duals with bonus points, grit and determination.  This young group is technically sound and likes to mix it up.  Their lineup is strong down low and up top, with no glaring holes, which makes the difference in dual meets.  Potential state qualifiers for the Rams include:  Colby Martinelli (107) at 25-5, Cole Coffin (114) 31-4, a surging Quinn McBride (121) 13-4, Sam Kuhns (139) 26-8, Talan Hogan (172) 28-8, Ryan Rowe (189) 22-10 and Riley Cullen (215 or 285) 24-10.  Ryan Gallagher is 8-4 wrestling back at 160-pounds and is a tough out for anyone.  If the Rams can mount a charge in the postseason, starting Feb. 25 at the PIAA D1 AAA Section-East tourney hosted by Quakertown, they can make some noise in the state team standings March 9-11 in Chocolate Town, USA. 

CR South and Quakertown will also be on hand with the top-four individuals from each weight class advancing to the 2-day Southeast Regional Tournament.  Between these three wrestling programs, it will be tough sledding for others to get out to wrestle at Souderton on March 3 & 4, 2023.  CRS will have a trio of lightweights in Connor Lenahan (107) at 35-8, Luke Reitter (114) 19-2 and super-frosh Pat Woloshyn (121) 22-13, middle-weight Ben Brillhart (133) 28-9, along with Gavin Cole (152) 28-13 and Bekhruz Sadriddinov (160) 34-7 all looking for Hershey hardware.  Quakertown counters with top guns Mason Ziegler (121) 33-4 and undefeated 36-0 Collin Gaj at 145-pounds, Isaac Williams (114) 26-11, Zach Borzio (152) 31-8 and big-man Calvin Lachman (215) at 32-4 all looking for state qualifier/medalist status in the postseason.  The Panthers’ Gavin Carroll is 13-1 since his return to the mats in a rugged 139-pound weight-class.  His only loss is to Hatboro-Horsham’s Chris Staub (26-6).  H-H and other SOL teams will wrestle at Interboro in the D1-Section South, and Souderton heads up to the D1-Section North hosted by Perkiomen Valley.

Both CR South and Pennridge finished with 2-2 records, and both were eliminated by CD in the AAA 20-team state bracket.  Pennridge’s Riley Cullen (215 & 285) and Quinn McBride (121 &127), along with CR South’s Luke Reitter (114) all went 4-0 in the state duals.  McBride is 13-4 since returning to the mat for the Rams, and Reitter is 19-2 since his return to the Golden Hawks lineup.  Reitter placed eighth in 2022 at 106-pounds.  Pennridge and CRS both won SOL titles on the team portion side, and CRS clinched the Patriot Division with their first-place finish at the individual conference championships.  Pennridge will look to do the same, to clinch the division title this coming Wednesday at the Colonial Individual Championships, hosted by North Penn.

Quakertown will certainly close out the Liberty as they host the individuals on Wednesday and finished 5-0 in league action.  Cheltenham (5-0 SOL) is the frontrunner in the Freedom and will be tested by Upper Moreland (4-1) at their conference individual championships Wednesday at William Tennent, along with other top-contending individuals. 

The upcoming SOL individual tournaments, combined with the individual PIAA qualifying events will be exciting for all, as SOL wrestlers begin the long road to Hershey as they attempt to up the SOL and D1 medal count from last year. 

Although CRS and Pennridge did not face off again in the dual championships, here are the latest SOL Team Rankings (after state duals):

SOL Team Rankings (2/12/23):
#1-Pennridge 22-5 overall/5-0 SOL Colonial
#2-CR South 14-5/5-0 SOL Patriot
#3-Quakertown 15-8/5-0 SOL Liberty

#4-Pennsbury 13-7/4-1 SOL Patriot
#5T-CB South 10-7/3-2 SOL Colonial
#5T-Upper Dublin 21-2/4-1 SOL Liberty
HM-Neshaminy 13-8/3-2 SOL Patriot & Souderton 10-11/3-2 SOL Colonial

#3T-Souderton & CB East 8-13/3-2

#1-Cheltenham 10-5/5-0
#2-Upper Moreland 22-5/4-1
#3-William Tennent 9-10/3-2

#2-Upper Dublin
#3-Abington 9-8/3-2