With the 2021-2022 wrestling season just underway, now seems as good a time as any to try and get a sense of those grapplers who will make their presence known in the small school division District 9.
What names will the fans be hearing over the course of the next several months? Who might need reckoned with when the postseason rolls around? Who could possibly find themselves staking a claim to a podium spot in Hershey come March 2022? There are guides that can be used for assistance, in this case, the preseason state and NW Region (District 9/10) rankings released last week just prior to the first day of competition by PA Power Wrestling (PAPW).
Any effort such as this is, by its very nature, an inexact science; some wrestlers will be changing weight classes, some may opt-out for various reasons, some may not compete due to injury. Please keep that in mind while considering what follows. (All records are from the truncated 2021 season).
Clarion freshman Logan Powell begins the season ranked 23rd in the state and fifth in the NW Region. Brookville’s Owen Fleming, another freshman, is ranked sixth regionally.
Weston Pisarchick (13-3) had an outstanding freshman season in 2021, winning the 106-pound district title. PAPW ranks the Rover sophomore ninth in the state and second in the region. Three other sophomore grapplers are regionally ranked; Jared Popson (13-10) of Brookville is fifth, Redbank Valley’s Daniel Evans (9-3) sixth, and Sheffield’s Chase Kyler (18-8). Popson finished fourth in the district at 113 pounds last spring, Evans third at 106 pounds, and Kyler fourth at 106 pounds.
Junior Cole Bish (11-5) of Redbank Valley checks in at 24th in the state and fifth regionally. He took third in districts at 113 pounds in February 2021. Logan Oakes (11-7), a Brookville senior, is ranked eighth in the NW Region.
Three 126-pounders have a state ranking; Jake Carfley (8-3) of Curwensville is 16th (second regionally), Brookville’s Cole Householder 17th (third regionally), and Ethan Illerbrun (7-3) of Kane 19th (fourth regionally). Carfley, a senior, won districts at 113-pounds last season. He was also a regional qualifier in 2020. A freshman, PAPW projects Householder as a regional qualifier come the 2022 postseason. Illerbrun, a sophomore, was district runner-up to Carfley at 113 pounds last spring.
Four district wrestlers earned state rankings; Brookville junior Brayden Kunselman is 10th, senior Ridge Cook (14-3) of Redbank Valley 14th, Johnsonburg junior Wyatt Shaffer (10-3) 20th, and senior Alex Bechakas (6-2) of Kane 25th. Kunselman did not wrestle last season due to injury, but was a regional qualifier as a 120-pound freshman after taking third at districts. Cook is a three-time regional qualifier, placing third in the district at 120 pounds in 2021. Shaffer was district runner-up as a freshman, while Bechakas qualified for regionals his sophomore season. Brockway freshman Parker Pisarchick is ranked eighth in the PAPW regional poll.
Brookville’s Owen Reinsel (29-5) is the district’s only returning 2A state placer, having stood on the fourth step of the 120-pound podium at the end of last season in Hershey. Ranked first in the state and region, the Raiders’ senior is a three-time district champion, three-time regional runner-up, and three-time state qualifier (also fourth as a sophomore). Mark Palmer (12-6), a Brockway senior, is ranked eighth statewide and second regionally. He is a three-time regional qualifier, doing so last season at 126 pounds. As a freshman Palmer qualified for states. Chase Weimer (13-3) of Port Allegany qualified for regionals in the 2021 postseason after earning district runner-up honors at 120 pounds. PAPW has the senior ranked 13th in the state and fifth in the region.
Kane’s Harley Morris (6-3) is the only district wrestler to be ranked at the state (21st) or regional (sixth) level by PAPW. The senior is a three-time regional qualifier, last season at 138 pounds after placing second at the district tournament. He was also a district runner-up at the end of his freshman campaign.
Sophomore Logan Augenbaugh (6-6) of Curwensville and Dylan Bash (8-7), a Brockway sophomore, both garnered state rankings to start this season, 24th and 25th, respectively. Augenbaugh, ranked fourth in the NW, finished last season as a regional qualifier at 145 pounds, while Bash, ranked fifth regionally, was fourth in the district at 138 pounds. Kane’s Reece Bechakas (3-4), a sophomore, is ranked sixth in the NW Region, with Aiden Bittler (1-1), a Johnsonburg sophomore, eighth.
Two district 160-pounders enter the season carrying state rankings; Johnsonburg’s Kaden Dennis (14-3) is 24th and Luke Ely (9-4) of Kane 25th. Dennis, a junior, is a two-time district runner-up and regional qualifier, doing so in the 2021 postseason at 152 pounds. He is ranked third in the region. Ely is, in addition to Reinsel, the only other returning 2A state qualifier, doing so at 152 pounds. Ranked fourth in the NW, Ely was also a regional qualifier as a freshman. Brookville senior Josh Popson (8-13) is ranked eighth in the NW. A regional qualifier as a sophomore, Popson wrestled 145/138 last season.
At 172 pounds it’s all, according to PAPW, Aiden Zimmerman (33-9). The Johnsonburg junior, ranked eighth in the state and second regionally, did not wrestler last season. He was 33-9 during his freshman year, winning districts and taking second at regionals to qualify for states.
No District 9 2A wrestlers appeared in the PAPW preseason state or regional rankings.
A pair of junior grapplers have state rankings; Brookville’s Jackson Zimmerman (18-8) coming in at 18th (fifth regionally) and Seth Stewart of Brockway (13-6) at 19th (sixth regionally). Last season Zimmerman was a regional qualifier at 172 pounds and Stewart at 189 pounds.
This appears to be one of the stronger weights amongst the smaller schools, with five wrestlers entering the season holding a state ranking. Senior Bryce Rafferty (19-7) of Brookville is ranked seventh in the state and second in the NW Region. He was district champ in 2021 at 215 pounds. Brayden Crocker, a Cranberry junior, has not seen the mat since the end of his freshman year. But what a freshman year it was. He compiled a 30-4 record, won districts, and was runner-up at regionals, earning a berth at states as a 195-pounder. Coming in at 17th statewide and fourth regionally is Port Allegany freshman Carson Neely. Gavin Thompson of Brockway is ranked 18th in Pennsylvania and fifth in the NW. He did not wrestle last season, but went 26-13 and qualified for regionals at this weight in 2020. Kane’s Shawn Nystrom (4-2), a senior, is 21st statewide and seventh regionally. He was a regional qualifier in 2019.