The Morning Call (Sunday)

Four commit to Division I programs

PIAA girls/ boys tentative schedules released

- By Tom Housenick

Four area standout wrestlers recently announced their commitment­s to Division I programs.

Quakertown’s Collin Gaj, a 2023 PIAA Class 3A champion, announced his commitment last weekend to Virginia Tech. The junior is 94-7 in his first two seasons with 54 pins and a pair of sectional and Southeast Regional championsh­ips. He was a PIAA fourth-place finisher as a freshman.

Notre Dame-Green Pond senior Ayden Smith, a returning PIAA Class 2A champion, is headed to Cornell. He joins former Crusader state champion Brett Ungar and former Bethlehem Catholic state 3A champion Cole Handlovic on coach Mike Grey’s Big Red roster. The threetime District 11 and two-time Southeast Regional champion is 103-16 in his career.

Fellow senior Joey LaPenna, a three-time district and regional medalist, is headed to Virginia Military Institute. The threetime PIAA qualifier missed more than a month last season with an injury. He has 62 career wins.

Nazareth junior Tahir Parkins committed earlier this week to Rutgers. He returned from a knee injury at last season’s Beast of the East to finish fourth in the state at 127 pounds as a sophomore. Parkins, 61-10 in his career, will join former Notre Dame-GP 2A state champion Brandan Chletsos on coach Scott Goodale’s Scarlet Knights roster.

Another mat return: The second Mat Return adult folkstyle wrestling tournament is at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21, at Executive Education Academy Charter School.

There were more than 200 participan­ts at the spring event. The Mat Return Fall Classic features five divisions:18 and older, 30 and older, 45 and older, 18 and older women, 18 and older novice.

Weight classes are: 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180, 195, 220, 250, unlimited for all men’s divisions; 101, 109, 116, 123, 130, 136, 143, 155, 170 and unlimited for girls.

Bout lengths are three 90-second periods, 60-second sudden victory, two 30-second tie-breakers and a 30-second rideout.

National Federation of High School rules will be used plus college out-of-bounds.

Pre-registrati­on fee is $45, $60 for day-of walk-ins. Optional second-division entries are $15.

A snack stand with hot food, snacks and drinks will be open throughout the tournament. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for students.

For more informatio­n, call tournament director John Bolich at 215-589-5080 or email at MatReturnW­restling@gmail. com.

Mat Return Wrestling also conducts practices and clinics for men and women from newcomers to All-Americans at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Executive Education.

Clinicians have included three-time national champion Reece Humphrey, current Easton girls coach and former Lehigh standout Jordan Kutler, PIAA four-time champion and NCAA champion John Hughes and Andre Petroski, current UFC fighter and former wrestler at North Carolina, Bloomsburg and Kutztown.

Palisades’ Savannah Witt, Southern Lehigh’s Mai Graham, Pleasant Valley’s Morgan Hyland and Bangor’s Morgan Edwards had successful results at Girl Power 2023 earlier this month at Lock Haven.

Witt, a returning state runner-up, beat Mariana Bracetti’s Julissa Ortiz 12-2 in 4:02 at 122 pounds before losing to returning state champion Sierra Chiesa of Northweste­rn (District 10) 11-0 in 2:14. Chiesa made PIAA boys tournament history in March by becoming the first girl to qualify for then win two matches in Hershey.

Graham pinned Bishop McCort’s Lane Fordyce in 2:38 at 114 pounds. Graham is a 15-yearold freshman from Center Valley who is a member of the Steel Valley Wrestling Club.

Girl power:

Hyland pinned South Western’s Natalie Handy in 59 seconds at 100. The freshman was a member of Team PA’s U14 championsh­ip team earlier this year at USA Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Okla. She was 8-0 there at 79 pounds.

Edwards pinned Erie Cathedral Prep’s Charlotte Gilfoil in 3:49 at 138. Edwards competed in the Bangor youth program before enrolling at Blair Academy (N.J.), where she was a national prep champion last season at 126 pounds.

PIAA girls/boys tournament schedule:

The 2024 PIAA Boys and Girls Wrestling Championsh­ips have a tentative schedule at Hershey’s Giant Center. The tournament­s will be held simultaneo­usly.

Day 1 on Thursday, March 7 will feature three rounds of wrestling for Classes 2A and 3A boys and two rounds for the girls.

All boys and girls will have five rounds of competitio­n on March 8, starting with 2A boys quarterfin­als at 8 a.m. and concluding with 3A boys fourth-round consolatio­ns at 8:30 p.m.

March 9’s slate begins at 9 a.m. with the final round of consolatio­ns at 9 a.m. before the medal rounds. The 2A and 3A boys and girls finals will be run together at 4 p.m. along with the third-place matches for all three classes.

The boys state tournament previously was three days with the 2A and 3A finals held at different times with four mats used for the 1st-, 3rd-, 5th- and 7th-place matches in each class.

Another powerful Powerade lineup:

Notre Dame-GP is the only area team headed to the 57th annual Powerade tournament Dec. 29-30, at Canon-McMillan High School.

National prep powers Wyoming Seminary and Malvern Prep plus Delbarton (N.J.), St. Joseph Regional (N.J.), Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) are among the 65-team field.

In-state PIAA teams include Waynesburg, Bishop McCort, Berks Catholic, Bishop McDevitt, Muncy, Reynolds, Burrell, Central Mountain and host Canon-McMillan.

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