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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    2021 Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic Preview

    Wyatt Henson (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

    While the eyes of the wrestling world will be focused on the Olympic Trials on Friday and Saturday, it isn't the only prominent event going down this weekend. One of the longest-running events on the high school calendar, the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, will go down Friday evening. For the 47th time, a team of national all-stars will descend upon Pittsburgh to take on a group of elite seniors from Pennsylvania. Only Pennsylvania is capable of forming a squad that could compete with such highly-touted opponents every year.

    Team Pennsylvania will be looking to break an eight-match losing streak to Team USA on Saturday. That dual meet from 2011, contained three-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner Alex Dieringer (WI), along with 2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke (WI), and 2016 national champion Nico Megaludis (PA). The Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic archives read like a "Who's Who" of elite wrestlers. Exactly half of the 2021 NCAA finalists competed in the PWC, including four champions (David Carr, Shane Griffith, Carter Starocci, and Gable Steveson).

    Here are the twelve matches taking place in the main event and predictions for each bout. Additionally, there is an undercard that pits an all-star team from Maryland against a team full of WPIAL wrestlers. There is also one bout between the number one and number two girls in the nation at 127 lbs when top-ranked Adrienna Turner (Davis, CA) meets Montana Delawder (Gettysburg, PA).

    120 - Brett Ungar (Notre Dame-Green Pond) vs. Richie Figueroa (Selma, CA)

    The 120 lb match is one of the most intriguing of the entire event as Brett Ungar comes into Pittsburgh with a ton of momentum after unseating two-time AA champion Gary Steen (Reynolds) in the state semifinals and pinning super-freshman Mason Gibson (Bishop McCort) to claim his title. For his efforts, Ungar was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the AA tournament, as he handed Gibson the first loss of his high school career. The Cornell recruit, Ungar, is a four-time state medalist and a two-time champion. His first title came in 2018-19 while competing for Hunterdon Central in New Jersey. Ungar's opponent is three-time California state champion, Richie Figueroa. While Figueroa is one of the top seniors in the nation (#5 in the most recent recruiting rankings), he and his fellow California natives have not been able to compete with the frequency of the rest of the nation. If the 2018 Cadet World silver medalist is anything but 100%, Ungar will present a tough matchup and is capable of pulling the upset.

    Pick: Ungar

    126 - Joey Fischer (South Park) vs. Drake Ayala (Fort Dodge, IA)

    Long regarded as one of the top lightweights in the state, Joey Fischer finally broken through and won his first Pennsylvania state title this season. Fischer was previously a runner-up in 2020 and a fourth-place finisher in 2019. The state crown wasn't the only "first" accomplished by Fischer this season; he also was victorious at the Powerade by downing Ohio state champion Dustin Norris (LaSalle, OH) and 2020 PA AAA champion Ethan Berginc (Hempfield Area). Fischer was also a Junior national freestyle champion in Fargo back in 2018. A year later, his opponent, Drake Ayala, brought home a stop sign from Junior freestyle, as well. Ayala also has one from his Cadet days, too. This season, Ayala pulled a real-life "Visionquest" and moved up to 132 lbs to chase down a previous loss to Ryder Block (Waverly-Shell Rock, IA). That, combined with a total of three state titles and four finals appearances, has secured his spot in Iowa high school lore. Ayala, ranked fourth in the Class of 2021, is the highest-rated high schoolers to come out of Iowa since 2012 (John Meeks) and has chosen to stay in-state to wrestle for the Hawkeyes. Also staying close to home is Fischer, who will represent Clarion.

    Pick: Ayala

    132 - Dylan Chappell (Seneca Valley) vs. Chance Lamer (Crescent Valley, OR)

    For the third consecutive year, Dylan Chappell's season ended as a runner-up in the AAA state finals. Still, Chappell has proven to be one of the elite wrestlers in the nation with three top-three finishes at the Powerade. He was a finalist at the event as a sophomore and a senior. Outside of Pennsylvania, Chappell's best credential is a seventh-place finish at the 2018 Super 32. Three-time Oregon state champion Chance Lamer also has placed at the Super 32, as he made the finals at 132 lbs in October. Lamer's list of national and international achievements is quite impressive. He wrestled for a bronze medal at the 2018 Cadet World Championships, which was a year after he made the Fargo Cadet finals in both styles. Lamer came away with the Greco title and was a runner-up in freestyle. Chance is Big Ten-bound as he signed with the University of Michigan in the fall, while Chappell will stay in PA and wrestle for Bucknell.

    Pick: Lamer

    138 - Brock McMillen (Glendale) vs. Carter Young (Stillwater, OK)

    A pair of three-time state champions and four-time finalists will clash at 138 lbs as Brock McMillen meets Carter Young. McMillen was a state runner-up as a freshman before reeling off three straight AA titles. Over the past two seasons, McMillen had to contend with a familiar face in the state finals, Ian Oswalt (Burrell). The Pitt recruit, McMillen, not only defeated Oswalt in the championship bout, he went 5-0 against him during that span. All three of Oswalt's 2021 losses came to McMillen. Like his counterpart, Young was a state runner-up as a freshman, then three-peated. Young was a double Cadet finalist in Fargo in 2017 (winning Greco) and got onto the Junior podium in freestyle during his most recent appearance. Carter will leave Oklahoma for Northwestern in the fall.

    Pick: Young

    145 - Wyatt Henson (Waynesburg) vs. Caleb Rathjen (Ankeny, IA)

    The eyes of the Iowa Hawkeye fanbase will be trained squarely on this tilt at 145 lbs, as both competitors are head to Iowa City. Wyatt Henson has developed into one of the top seniors in the nation and is the son of world champion and Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson. Sammie also appeared in this event in 1989. The younger Henson has won three state championships, one in Missouri and two in Pennsylvania. Henson has placed third in Fargo at both the Cadet and Junior freestyle tournaments. Before claiming his second Pennsylvania title in 2021, Wyatt won his first Powerade championship. In his previous trips to the tournament, he was third and eighth. Caleb Rathjen is a four-time Iowa state finalist, with wins coming in his sophomore and junior seasons. Like Henson, Rathjen had gotten onto the podium twice in Fargo, both as a Cadet. He was a runner-up in 2018 and a seventh-place finisher in 2017. Caleb wrestled in the high school postseason at 152 lbs this season, but will be at 145 for this showdown.

    Pick: Henson

    152 - Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (Seneca Valley) vs. Victor Voinovich (Brecksville, OH)

    One of the most anticipated bouts of the day will occur at 152 lbs when top-ranked Victor Voinovich makes the trip to neighboring Pennsylvania to tangle with Alejandro Herrera-Rondon. Matscouts has Voinovich ranked number one in the nation and Herrera-Rondon number three. Voinovich seized control of that top-billing at Who's #1 with a 4-3 win over Jagger Condomitti (Northampton, PA). He also grabbed his second Ohio state crown in three tries. After his sophomore year of high school, Voinovich made the Junior freestyle finals in Fargo, then proceeded to do the same at the Walsh Ironman. Herrera-Rondon captured his third PA AAA title in 2021 after jumping three weights following a fourth-place finish as a junior. It was the second year in which Herrera-Rondon had such a weight jump. During the regular season, Alejandro made his third Powerade final and won his second title in an extremely deep field. This could be a preview of the next couple of years as both wrestlers will be on opposite sides of the Bedlam rivalry. Herrera-Rondon has signed with Oklahoma, while Voinovich inked with rival Oklahoma State.

    Pick: Voinovich

    160 - AJ Corrado (Burrell) vs. Enrique Munguia (Elyria, OH)

    The second of three local members of the Pennsylvania All-Star team with opponents from Ohio is AJ Corrado. AJ is another wrestler that got onto the state podium in his first three years, but had to wait till his senior season to get to the top step. Corrado was a runner-up as a junior and took fifth and seventh as a sophomore and freshman, respectively. While Corrado is active outside of Pennsylvania, his best national-level finish was when he was seventh at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals in 2019. Enrique Munguia is probably one of the least talked about top-five wrestlers in the nation. He checks in at number four in MatScout's latest offering. Munguia picked up a slew of impressive wins on his way to a third-place finish at the 2020 Super 32. As a junior, Munguia finished fifth in both the Ironman and the Beast of the East. The coaching staff at Kent State wisely picked up Munguia before he could leave the state. Corrado is Ivy League-bound, as he'll head to Brown.

    Pick: Munguia

    170 - Luca Augustine (Waynesburg) vs. Dillon Walker (LaSalle, OH)

    Our final bout in the run of Western PA versus Ohio stars sees Luca Augustine takes on Dillon Walker. The resurgence of the Pitt wrestling program has seen head coach Keith Gavin and staff retain more local talent than in previous years and Augustine is the second PA All-Star who is a future Panther. Augustine emerged victorious in an absolutely brutal 172 lb AAA weight class that included former state champ Trey Kibe (Mifflin County) and Super 32 placer Sammy Starr (Kiski Area). The two-time state placewinner, Augustine, was third at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals before placing top-five at the Ironman, Beast, and Powerade as a junior. We mentioned Starr as a Super 32 placewinner; Walker finished three slots ahead of Starr at the 2020 tournament when he was fifth. That's the same placement for Dillon at the 2021 Ohio DI State Championships. Walker suffered a pair of losses to his first-round opponent on his way to taking fifth in a loaded weight. He finished as a two-time state qualifier for Legacy Christian Academy and LaSalle. Walker will be PA-bound for college as he has verballed to DII Mercyhurst.

    Pick: Augustine

    182 - Cael Crebs (Montoursville) vs. Peyton Craft (Blair Academy, NJ)

    182 lbs also has the chance to be a match that we see down the road in college as both competitors are slated to enroll at EIWA schools. Cael Crebs is headed to the Naval Academy and Peyton Craft has chosen Cornell. Crebs capped his high school career off with a AA state championship at 189 lbs. He finished as a two-time state medalist (3rd in 2020) and a three-time qualifier. During his senior season, Crebs was third at the Powerade despite suffering a loss in the Round of 16. Crebs also has a third-place finish on his resume at NHSCA Freshman Nationals in 2018, way down at 132 lbs. Craft was a three-time National Prep placewinner for Blair Academy. He made the finals in each of his last two appearances. Wrestling a schedule like Blair faces, Craft has had plenty of experience at the national level. He won NHSCA's as a freshman and sophomore, and was top-three at the Ironman and Beast during his junior campaign.

    Pick: Craft

    195 - Drew Clearie (Nazareth) vs. Jaxon Smith (Woodland Cartersville, GA)

    Longtime power Nazareth is represented at 195 lbs by three-time state medalist Drew Clearie. Drew was third at the AAA state tournament in each of the last two seasons after placing sixth as a sophomore. Clearie was also fourth at the 2019 Beast of the East. He will join PWC teammate AJ Corrado as future Brown Bears and wrestle for head coach Todd Beckerman. His opponent is Jaxon Smith, one of the faces of the movement of Georgia from being an also-ran to a national power. Smith is a three-time Georgia state champion who could not compete as a freshman due to injuries. He has been extremely active in national competitions. In 2018, Smith was a Cadet freestyle All-American in Fargo. The following year he was third at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals and took fourth at the Super 32. Smith is part of a large, talented contingent that signed with the University of Maryland in the falls.

    Pick: Smith

    220 - Jacob Lucas (Cumberland Valley) vs. Emmanuel Skillings (Broken Arrow, OK)

    More Pennsylvania talent headed to the Naval Academy, this time, it's two-time state medalist Jacob Lucas. Jacob closed his high school career out atop the AAA state podium with his first state title. His win in Hershey helped Lucas to a #19 national ranking by MatScouts. To get the championship, Lucas had to go through Josh Harkless (Wilson), an opponent who defeated him the previous week at the West Sub Regional. Two-time Oklahoma champion Emmanuel Skillings will be Lucas' opponent. Skillings was fourth at the 2019 Ironman and went undefeated over the summer at the Grand River Rumble. He is currently one of the top unsigned seniors in the nation, so there should be plenty of collegiate coaches looking for a talented big man tuned in for this bout.

    Pick: Lucas

    285 - Nate Schon (Selinsgrove) vs. Kyonte Hamilton (Georgetown Prep, MD)

    We'll close out with a battle between two of the top-six big men in all of the land. Top-ranked Kyonte Hamilton has yet to compete officially in 2020-21, but he has been quite active outside of scholastic competition. The two-sport (football) Rutgers recruit was a National Prep champion in 2020 after he was third at the Ironman and the victor at the Beast. This fall, Hamilton was third in a Super 32 weight class that contained the top-three heavyweights in the nation (at the time). Schon finished as a two-time state champion and three-time finalist in the AAA division. This year Schon rebounded from a runner-up finish at the West Sub Regional tournament a week before the state tournament. Schon will leave the state for college as he has signed with Kevin Dresser's Iowa State Cyclones.

    Pick: Hamilton

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