The newest two year cycle from the PIAA has brought about several notable changes in schools with strong wrestling traditions – both moving up and coming down. A total of ten schools are moving from Class AA to AAA during the two year cycle starting this season and ending in 2020.
Belmont Charter, only in it’s third year of wrestling, jumps up to Class AAA for the first time – as does Greater Nanticoke. District 2 schools Berwick and Honesdale are both back in Class AAA after two seasons in Class AA. Valley View (District 2) and Greater Johnstown (District 6) return to AAA after four years away.
After spending the last 43 years in Class AA, District 6 program Juniata, with 26 State Medalists including two State Champions, will now compete in Class AAA. Returning for Juniata this season is Tyler Wileman who last season took 4th in the Class AA State Tournament at 152 lbs. Likewise District 7 program South Fayette makes the leap to Class AAA for the first time ever. The Lions have collected 16 PIAA State Medals, including three State Championships, in just the last seven years.
The most significant move, due to a wrestler named Edmond Ruth, is Susquehanna Township who after two years competing in Class AA, returns to Class AAA. The last time Susquehanna Township competed in Class AAA was Edmond Ruth’s freshman season in 2016 where he finished 8th in the PIAA State Tournament at 145 lbs. It was also the last time Ruth was defeated. He would go on to win 72 straight matches between his sophomore and junior years claiming PIAA gold twice along the way. For Ruth, his career will come full circle if he can capture his third straight PIAA State Championship and his first in 3A.
District 10 school, and former Class AAA program, Oil City joined District 9’s Cranberry Area in a co-op that makes Cranberry a Class AAA team now.
Schools Now in Class AAA
Belmont Charter – District 1
Berwick – District 2
Cranberry Area – District 9
Greater Johnstown – District 6
Greater Nanticoke – District 2
Honesdale – District 2
Juniata – District 6
South Fayette – District 7
Susquehanna Township – District 3
Valley View – District 2
Notable Wrestlers Now in Class AAA
There is a lot more excitement in the movement to the Class AA field for the next two seasons with a total of 13 teams now competing in 2A. The teams themselves are exciting and many have a long history of success in Class AAA.
After spending two seasons competing in AAA, Allentown Central Catholic in District 11 will return to AA and bring with them sophomore David Kreider who last season went (31-8) at 106 pounds and was a North East Regional qualifier. A brand-new program in District 11, headed up by former PIAA State Champion and 2-time NCAA Division II Champion Ziad Haddad (Bethlehem Catholic/Kutztown), is the Executive Education Academy. Although they will need to do some serious program building to be competitive in District 11, don’t count out a name like Zaid Haddad to get the job done.
Arguably the biggest addition to Class AA is historic program Bald Eagle Area from District 6. The Eagles have historically competed as a Class AAA team despite being the size of a Class AA school. That hasn’t stopped them from competing at a high level in the State. Just last season Bald Eagle Area saw two wrestlers advance into the PIAA State Championship finals. One of those wrestlers, Gage McClanahan, will return in 2019 and quickly be in the conversation for a PIAA State title. The Eagles have a streak of 38 years, dating back to 1981, with at least one wrestler qualifying for the PIAA State Tournament. In their history Bald Eagle Area has claimed 9 State Champions and a total of 73 State Medalists. Bald Eagle is not the only District 6 team on the move as the Philipsburg-Osceola Mountaineers, owners of 34 total PIAA State Medalists including six State Champions, will be competing in Class AA for the first time. Despite a long history of success, the Mountaineers, coached by former Clearfield and Penn State grappler Brad Pataky, have not had a State Medalist since 2008 and their last State Champion was in 2000.
District 7 program Blackhawk competed in Class AA during the 2005 and 2006 seasons and will return in 2019. Fellow District 7 program Highlands has bounced between Class AA and AAA over the last decade, spending the last two years in Class AAA. They return to Class AA looking for success that hasn’t been there in the last several years. The last time they had a PIAA State Qualifier was 2014 when teammates Allan Cratsenberg and Nolan Wise each made a trip to Hershey in Class AA. The third WPIAL program on the move in 2019 is Hopewell. The Vikings have spent their program history in Class AAA where they have had eight PIAA State Medalists but no State Champions. That could change in 2019 as they return 2018 PIAA 5th place medalist Jacob Ealy who recently won The Surge Championship. He is joined by Connor Forrest who was a Class AAA State Qualifier at 220 lbs.
District 3 will see two schools moving to Class AA with East Pennsboro and West Perry. East Pennsboro has spent considerable time in both Class AA and AAA over the last 43 years. This will the be the first time East Pennsboro competes in Class AA since 2008. They return PIAA Class AAA State Qualifier Adam Jacob who is a junior this season. Joining East Pennsboro is West Perry who, for the first time in program history, will compete in Class AA. The last State Qualifier the Mustangs had was in 2009.
Another successful program, this one from District 10, will be going to Class AA with the General McLane Lancers moving in for at least the next two years. Throughout program history they have earned 27 PIAA State Medalists including three State Champions. The Lancers have competed in Class AA previously during the 1970’s and 1980’s intermittently but often elected to compete up in 3A. In 2019 General McLane will return two PIAA State Qualifiers in the lightweights with senior Andrew Brest and sophomore Matt Leehan.
District 2 will add another team to Class AA when Tunkhannock makes the move in 2019. The Tigers last competed in Class AA back in the 1970’s but it has been 19 years since they had a State Medalist when Chris Thacther took 5th at 103 lbs. in 1989. They will have a legitimate shot at breaking the dry spell with senior Tommy Traver who comes in with an (119-9) career record having qualified for the PIAA State Tournament in 2017. They will also return junior David Evans who in 2018 was a PIAA State Qualifier at 106 lbs. A program that has spent majority of their time in Class AA will return in 2019 with District 1’s Octorara. The last time they were in Class AA was back in 2010 and, during their history, the Braves have had 19 State Medalists including Mike Letts who won back-to-back State Championships in 2005 and 2006. In 2019 Octorara will return PIAA State Qualifier Seth Hoopes.
Schools Now in Class AA
Allentown Central Catholic – District 11
Bald Eagle Area – District 6
Blackhawk – District 7
East Pennsboro – District 3
Executive Education Academy – District 11
General McLane – District 10
Highlands – District 7
Hopewell – District 7
Octorara – District 1
Phillipsburg Osceola – District 6
Pope John Paul II – District 1
Tunkhannock – District 2
West Perry – District 3
Notable Wrestlers Now in Class AA