A Look At Top Contenders In Piaa Wrestling Meet

Posted: March 17, 1988

Take a look at the District 1 wrestlers most likely to contend for gold medals at the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships, which run today through Saturday at HersheyPark Arena, and a distinct pattern emerges: Matt Finnacchio of North Penn. Dan Finnacchio of North Penn. Chris Kwortnik of North Penn.

Fact is, the Finnacchio brothers and Kwortnik could be Southeastern Pennsylvania's top three wrestlers, although cases also can be made for Souderton's Mike Salone and Quakertown's John Murray.

Even though no other North Penn grapplers will compete in Chocolatetown, the Knights figure to finish near the top in the battle for the team title. Last season, North Penn tied for team honors with North Allegheny, which is the clear favorite this time around.

Here is a preview of what to expect in Hershey. Top contenders, their schools and their records - along with District 1 qualifiers - are listed for each weight.

98 pounds: Brad Silimperi (Nazareth) 31-0, Mark Smith (Dover) 28-1, Jeff Cervone (Meadeville) 31-2, Pete Rinella (Lock Haven) 27-3-1, Tim Queen (McGuffy) 24-3.

District 1: Kurt Davidheiser (Boyertown) 31-2, Jim Barrett (William Tennent) 29-0-1, Jason Marks (Upper Perkiomen) 30-5.

Silimperi, who placed second last year, is the favorite. Smith was a quarterfinalist last season. Queen, Barrett's first-round opponent, and Rinella are making return visits to the state meet. Davidheiser cannot be overlooked. Pick: Silimperi.

105: Ty Moore (North Allegheny) 32-0, Pat Tocci (Liberty) 29-3, Crock Herman (Jersey Shore) 26-1-1, Mark Eckenrode (Dover) 29-2, Rob Weiss (McDowell) 30-2.

District 1: Chad Clemens (Souderton) 32-1, Chris Carr (Upper Darby) 30-1, Brian Crognale (William Tennent) 21-4.

Moore, the defending 98-pound champ, is a sophomore with a 66-0 career record. Tocci was third at 98 last year but lost to Herman this year in the Northeast Regional. Eckenrode is gifted, but on the small side. All three District 1 qualifiers bear watching. Pick: Moore.

112: Mike Norton (North Allegheny) 30-2, Dana Pinson (Canon McMillan) 32-2, Brad Herb (Shikellamy) 25-5, Mike Haas (Cedar Cliff) 27-5, Dave Foley (Freedom) 27-4.

District 1: Matt Finnacchio (North Penn) 33-0, Mike Rugg (Quakertown) 28-6, Kyle Rigg (Norristown) 33-3.

Norton, third at 105 last year, was relegated to third place in the Southwest Regional and will meet Finnacchio in an opening-round battle of gold medal hopefuls. Herb will face Haas in another outstanding first-round matchup. Pinson, who upset Norton in the Southwest Regional, could be a

sleeper. After a slow start, Foley, the defending 105-pound champion, is surging. He transferred from Bethlehem Catholic at the beginning of the school year. Pick: Foley.

119: Chris Derr (Shikellamy) 28-2, Joey Wildasin (South Western) 30-0, Tom Barley (Penn Manor) 29-2, Ed Youwakim (Northampton) 19-3.

District 1: Dan Finnacchio (North Penn) 30-2, Chris Winchester (Neshaminy) 23-2, Tom Sirianni (Wissahickon) 32-2.

Derr's only two losses were to 126-pound co-favorite Doug Taylor. Wildasin, a sophomore whose only career setback was to Finnacchio in last year's 112- pound final, was planning to drop to 112 until he heard Finnacchio would be at 119. Finnacchio, who has yet to be tested in the postseason, figures to meet Derr in the quarters. Pick: Wildasin.

126: Doug Taylor (Bald Eagle Area) 30-0-1, Mike Yuiska (Shaler) 31-1, Buddy Maxwell (Dieruff) 27-2, Mike Froelich (Pleasant Valley) 25-3, Bob Williams (Susquenita) 24-4, John Harmon (Dallastown) 26-0.

District 1: Jeff Moretti (Pennsbury) 22-1, Frank Link (Chichester) 30-3, Tim Alderfer (Souderton) 31-4.

Yuiska, who meets Alderfer in round one, finished third at 126 last year after being disqualified for administering an illegal slam in the semis. Not coincidentally, this year's only loss came on an illegal slam. Taylor, who reached the quarters at 126 a year ago, figures to face Yuiska in a quarterfinal showdown that could determine the state champion. Maxwell, who also reached the quarters last year, lost to Froelich in the District 11 meet but gained revenge in the Northeast Regional. Williams was fifth at 119 in 1987. Harmon's record speaks for itself. Pick: Yuiska.

132: Tom Best (Williamsport) 27-0, Jason Shea (Huntingdon) 29-0, Bryan Midkiff (Meadville) 31-2-1, Jim Herriott (Canon McMillan) 30-2-1, Moss Grays (Easton) 30-4.

District 1: Brian Campbell (Pottstown) 26-2, John Dziewa (Pennsbury) 29-2, Sam Matenga (Chichester) 32-2.

Best is a two-time finalist and the defending champ at 126. Shea, a headlock specialist, was fourth at 126. Midkiff could be the best of the lot on his feet. Herriott dominated the Southwest Regional. Grays was soundly beaten by Best in the Northeast Regional. Matenga could be District 1's best bet. Pick: Best.

138: John Dasta (Penn Hills) 29-0, Rich Catalano (North Allegheny) 28-2, Tom Oronato (McDowell) 28-1-1, Mark Amato (Wyoming Area) 33-3, Chad Pines (Cedar Cliff) 31-0.

District 1: Russ Stankina (Methacton) 30-3-1, Greg Stefanowski (Neshaminy) 27-2-1, Steve DeRafelo (Great Valley) 25-6.

The early line favors Dasta in the tournament's most star-studded weight class. Although he has never been a finalist, Dasta is a three-time place winner who finished fourth at 132 in '87. Oronato, third at 138 at year ago, has split two decisions with Catalano. Amato was fifth at 138. Catalano's only two losses were to Oronato and Dasta. Pines, the South-Central Regional champ, challenges Amato in a grade A first-round pairing. The District 1 grapplers are strictly longshots. Pick: Oronato.

145: Mike Swift (McDowell) 30-2, Marty Rusnak (Altoona) 30-1-1, Ken Herceg (Nazareth) 32-0, Dave Gump (Canon McMillan) 23-4-1, Jim Brasco (Hempfield) 32-3.

District 1: Mike Salone (Souderton) 33-0, Steve Borrelli (Springfield) 25-3, Curt Stanley (Pennsbury) 27-4-1.

Swift finished third at 145 last year. Undaunted, Rusnak, whose father is the Altoona coach, struck gold in the Northwest Regional, primarily on the strength of a semifinal win over Swift. Gump was fourth at 138 in 1987. Word out of the Lehigh Valley is that Herceg cannot be stopped. Brasco is the state's most accomplished freshman. Salone, a bona fide contender, tests Brasco in the opening round. Pick: Swift.

155: Ray Brinzer (North Allegheny) 31-0, Dave Hart (Juniata) 28-0, Brian Warner (Titusville) 31-1, Mark Brouse (Shikellamy) 25-7.

District 1: Tyrone Howard (Bensalem) 32-0, Dave Hurd (Unionville) 31-4, Matt Hurley (West Chester East) 34-2.

Brinzer, who placed fifth at 155 last year as a freshman, looks as if he should be the captain of his school's chess team, but on the mat he has the disposition of a tiger with a thorn in one of its paws. Hart, the Class AA (small school) champion last year, is working on his second straight unbeaten season. Warner is especially tough on the mat. Despite his unblemished record, Howard has been unimpressive throughout the post-season. Hurley looms as a dark horse. Pick: Hart.

167: Kevin Smith (Northampton) 31-1, Bob Whalen (Cedar Cliff) 27-0, Rob Holmberg (Mount Pleasant) 30-3-1, Matt Martin (Dallastown) 23-3, Tony Iasiello (Bethlehem Catholic) 28-5-1.

District 1: Chris Kwortnik (North Penn) 33-0, Tony Rolli (Upper Merion) 27-3, Keith Morris (Pennsbury) 28-5.

With the possible exception of TyMoore at 105, Kwortnik, the defending champ at 167, is the tournament's most prohibitive favorite. Smith's only loss was to Kwortnik, but Smith was pushed to the limit by Iasiello in the Northeast Regional final before winning, 5-4. Iasiello's father - and namesake - coaches one of the state's longest-running success stories at Bethlehem Catholic. Whalen originally planned to drop to 145, but when he realized he could not, he chose to compete at 167. Rumor has it that his decision was based on Hart's presence at 155 in the South-Central Regional. Rolli could be a surprise place winner. Pick: Kwortnik.

185: Matt White (North Allegheny) 30-1, Kevin Pollard (Meadville) 30-3, Nate McKnight (New Castle) 20-3, John Renner (Nazareth) 22-8, Lance Morabita (Liberty) 31-1.

District 1: John Hangey (Quakertown) 31-2, Roman Hale (West Chester East) 33-2, Reggi Stancil (Harry S. Truman) 28-7.

The two favorites - White and Morabita - each lost for the first time in the regional finals. White was upset by McKnight in the southwest, while Morabita was stunned by Renner in the Northeast. Pollard dominated the Northwest Regional. Hangey and Hale could be factors. Pick: Pollard.

HEAVYWEIGHT: Dale Searer (Lewistown) 22-1-1, Melvin Crosby (Erie Academy) 28-0, Brian Piotrowski (North Allegheny) 21-1, Matt Krieder (Palmyra) 26-2, Skip Pighetti (Bald Eagle Area) 30-3-2, Tim Samec (West Hazleton) 24-2-1.

District 1: John Murray (Quakertown) 33-0, Cary Palmer (Bensalem) 29-3-1, John Meenan (Central Bucks West) 16-5.

The first round features a pair of interesting matchups, as the 200-pound Krieder, who was sixth last year, faces the 275-pound Piotrowski and Searer meets Crosby in a battle of upper-body specialists. Doug Rosenberry, who placed fourth in '87, failed to survive the Northwest Regional. One of his losses came in a war with Crosby. Samec reached the quarters last season. A lot of people like Murray's chances of returning to Quakertown with a medal. Pick: Piotrowski.

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