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Local athletes ready to grapple

Top four place winners will advance to Northeast Regional tournaments.

The snow has been cleaned up and it’s time for the District 2 tournaments to begin.

There are still a few questions to be answered, like how long the first day of action will last. But one thing is certain – the grapplers have their one-pound allowance and are ready to wrestle.

The action begins at 3:30 p.m. today at Hazleton Area (Class 3A) and Scranton Prep (2A) with the first round. In a perfect scenario, the tournaments will conclude with just the finals to be held Sunday starting at 3:30 p.m. But that is still unsettled.

The top-four place winners in all 14 weight classes in each tournament will advance to next weekend’s Northeast Regional tournaments. The 3A regional will be held at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, while the 2A event will take place at Williamsport High School.

In the 3A district event, Pittston Area will be looking to dethrone defending champs Hazleton Area and Abington Heights.

If there is a team that can pull off the feat it is the Patriots, who have the depth in the tournament with three No. 1 seeds, two No. 2 seeds and three No. 4 seeds.

Pittston Area, which is looking for its first District 2 Class 3A team title since 1998, lost to Hazleton Area twice this season, once in the finals of the district duals, but beat Abington.

In notable tournaments this season, the Patriots finished second in the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Tournament and sixth at the Keystone State Games Invitational.

“I’m just hoping my kids wrestle well and do their best,” Pittston Area coach Matt Giampietro said. “Things can get funny some times in the district tournament. You just hope things start off right for you and kids get confident. We need to start off well and if we do that we can pick up some momentum so that can help us to get us where we need to be.”

Cody Roccograndi (125 pounds), Chris Gugliotti (130) and unbeaten Robbie Robinson (152) are top seeds for Pittston Area. Michael Domarasky (103) and Kris Gratalo (160) are seeded second for the Patriots, while Matt McAndrew (112), Nikko Ardo (145) and Jason Laboranti (189) are fourth in their respective weight classes.

The Cougars are represented with four top seeds in Mark Uliano (119), Pat LaBuz (145), Jared Kay (160) and defending PIAA state champion Nate Eachus (189). The District 2 Class 3A duals champs also have a three seed in Stan Boris (135) and fourth seed in Richie Biesadesky.

Crestwood’s quest

It seems to be a yearly tradition this time of year for Crestwood to thrive.

Last year, the Comets crowned four District 2 Class 3A champs. Three of those wrestlers are back this year. Senior Josh Roosa (140) – unbeaten at 31-0 – and junior Jake O’Hara (135) are top seeds. Hunter McGraw, a 112-pound sophomore, only wrestled in eight matches this season and is the sixth seed. Last year, McGraw won the 103 bracket. O’Hara was tops at 125 and Roosa was at 135.

Top heavy

While every weight class will be great to watch, the upper weight classes in the 3A event are expected to be the most entertaining highlighted by Eachus and Delaware Valley’s Joe Kennedy at 189. Kennedy (34-1) has Eachus’ number this season, handing the all-state football player two of his four losses this season.

The 171-pound bracket is stacked with top-seeded Craig Kittrick (22-5) from Coughlin. He will get stiff competition from Abington Heights’ Vinny Armetta (29-4), Honesdale’s Jake Arnone (28-1), Tunkhannock’s Dustin Faux (26-5) and Hazleton Area’s Dave Oberrender (24-10).

And don’t forget about the 285-pound bracket with unbeaten Evan Craig from Abington Heights, defending district and regional champ Tyler Cowman (25-4) from Wyoming Valley West and Coughlin senior Pete Chiappini, who sports a 22-5 record.

Berwick looks to repeat

The Class 2A event appears to be Berwick’s to lose. The Bulldogs, who made history earlier this month by becoming the first District 2 team to advance to the second day of the PIAA Duals Championships, have seven No. 1 seeds heading into the tournament paced by state runner-up at 189 from a year ago Aaron Karns, who fashions a 29-3 record.

Nick Venditti (160) won the district and regional titles last year, is 35-3 this season and is also a top seed.

Other top seeds for the Bulldogs are Chris Bujno (103), Dom Yantorn (112), Steve Prebola (125), Lou Ney (135) and Ryan Sitler (285). Ney, Venditti and Karns all have more than 100 career wins for Berwick.

But if the team is going to break out the throwback robes again this year and send seven into the finals for the second consecutive year, it will have to get a huge win from Sitler.

The normal 215-pounder bumped up for the tournament, and if all goes as planned in the first two rounds, he will be facing Wyoming Area’s Ted Lasher in the semifinals in what could be the best match of the entire tournament.

Lasher, the defending district champ, sat out the first part of the season with an injury and only wrestled in eight bouts compared to Sitler’s 40. Sitler was runner-up at 215 in the district last year. Both wrestlers were also football players for their respective schools. Sitler was one of the premier tight ends in the WVC as well as a defensive end, while Lasher, also a tight end, was an all-state linebacker for the Warriors.

This match should be as good as advertised.

Around the 2A tourney

In other parts of the 2A tournament, Lake-Lehman is a team to keep an eye on when it comes to team points. The Black Knights have top seeds with Shane Stark (145) and Chad Brudnicki (171). They also have a few No. 2 seeds with Chris Barbacci (130), Jordan Jiunta (135) and Wally Simko (215). The team has the depth to pull off a few huge wins and give the Bulldogs a run.

While Dallas, Hanover Area, Nanticoke or Wyoming Area might not have enough firepower to make a run at the team title, all four squads have solid lineups and will make things interesting.

The Mounts are led by 112-pounder P.J. Precone (24-5) and 119-pounder John Young (16-8). Senior Joe Hayes, a 152-pounder has a 23-7 record and can also make some noise.

Hanover Area has a No. 2 seed with 140-pounder Nick Kuhl (25-3) and solid performers in 125-pound sophomore Matt Mullery (16-9) and 171-pound senior Kyle Stair (26-3).

Nanticoke doesn’t have any No. 1 or No. 2 seeds but also has depth led by Brandon Jimmerson (119, 20-5), Aaron Mulhern (135, 15-8), Dan Paveletz (171, 14-3) and Jeremy Mitkowski (189, 18-7).

In addition to Lasher, the Warriors have a regional qualifier in 152-pound junior Mike Schutz (18-10). They also have strong supporting cast members in Matt Manganiello (119, 23-4), Tyler Palmentera (125, 16-9) and Brent Platukus (140, 12-4).

If things pan out well for the Warriors, they can be second to Berwick in sending the most participants to the next tournament.

Up next

District 2 Wrestling


Class 2A at Scranton Prep

Class 3A at Hazleton Area


Weigh-ins, 2 p.m.

Wrestling begins at 3:30 p.m.


Weigh-ins, 2 p.m.

Wrestling begins at 3:30 p.m.

Admission: $5 adults, $3 students

“I’m just hoping my kids wrestle well and do their best. Things can get funny some times in the district tournament. You just hope things start off right for you and kids get confident.”

Matt Giampietro
Pittston Area coach
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