Those of a certain age will remember the radio ad for a local raceway. It began with a horn crescendo and an announcer yelling, “Oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Saturday! Saturday!”
Feb. 20 is the first of four Saturdays — and one Sunday — comprising the pell-mell march down the road to Hershey, and to the PIAA wrestling championships.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the number of qualifiers for each of the tournaments that comprise the postseason has been capped at eight per tournament.
A new, COVID-driven wrinkle in Class 3A will be the inclusion of wrestling to a true second at the conclusion of the finals of sectionals. If the wrestler who battled through the consolation bracket to place third did not face the runner-up during the tournament, they have the opportunity to challenge for second, and the right to continue on to the next weekend.
For Lancaster-Lebanon League wrestlers, the journey begins this weekend with District Three section competitions at two sites in Class 3A and one in 2A.
The six 2A L-L League squads will be joined Saturday at Central Dauphin East by four from the Mid-Penn Conference and seven from Berks County. The top four place-winners will merge with the top four place-winners from the 2A site at Susquenita on Sunday — yes, Sunday — back at CD East, for the District Three Championships.
Why Sunday, you ask? Given the timeline this year, and the addition of a “super regional” weekend between regionals and states, in terms of the weekends needed to conduct section and district business in 2A, two became one.
Not so in 3A, where, because District Three is also its own self-contained region, time was less of a precious commodity.
Feb. 27 is regionals, with 3A at Spring Grove and 2A back at CD East. There, District Three wrestlers take on wrestlers from Districts 1, 11, and 12.
The following Saturday, March 6, is super regionals. In 2A, at Pottsville’s venerable Martz Hall, five wrestlers from the Southeast region will be joined by three from the Northeast to make up the East super regional. Four qualify for states, which begin at Hershey’s Giant Center on March 12.
In 3A, the West super regional site is still to be determined, although Altoona and Indiana University of Pennsylvania are currently the two front-runners. Three wrestlers each from the Southcentral and Southwest regionals and two from the Northwest make up the field from which the top four move on to states at the Giant Center on March 13.
Back to this weekend, where there are four 3A section tournaments being carried out in the district — at Governor Mifflin, Hempfield, Mechanicsburg and South Western high schools. From those sites, eight athletes will be selected per weight class — two from each site — for the District Three/Southcentral regional tournament.
Local interest in 3A centers on the gatherings at Mifflin and Hempfield. Seven L-L League schools, two from Lebanon County and five from the eastern half of Lancaster County, will be in action in Shillington. The remaining 10 L-L League 3A schools are at Hempfield, which is where we begin our glance.
While the Mid-Penn Conference sprawls across the geographic terrain of District Three, six schools are located on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River that bisects the district. Three of those schools, Central Dauphin, Hershey and Palmyra, will compete at the Hempfield sectional.
Of the eight returning champions from 2020, four hail from CD: Matt Repos, Josh Miller, Bryce Buckman and Nathaniel Mosey. The remaining four are Manheim Township’s Aliazer Alicea, Penn Manor teammates Dylan Coleman and Colt Barley and McCaskey’s Andrew Vogelbacher. Alicea and Repos find themselves in the same weight class, 126, with Repos seeded first, Alicea second.
Eight champions return at Mifflin as well, with three, Pat Borja, Nick Nettleton and Johnny Miller, from Exeter; Kelvin Rodriguez and Josh Harkless from Wilson; Canton Dolla from Daniel Boone; and the L-L League's Trenton Ruble (Conestoga Valley) and Jim Ellis (Ephrata).
Nine champions return to the 2A tournament at CD East, none from the L-L League.
Spectators will not be permitted at any of the sectional sites this weekend, nor at any of the ensuing district or regional tournaments.
There is some discussion of a limited number of spectators being permitted at Martz Hall and at the Giant Center. More information coming as it becomes available.
In the meantime, District Three has contracted with FloWrestling to provide live streaming of all six section tournaments, as well as the District 2A championships, the 3A Southcentral and 2A Southeast Regional championships.
Fans may follow the action by subscribing to FloWrestling’s service to view matches live, or they can follow the wrestling on the FloArena platform via the website for Triple J Boutmasters.
For more information, visit the District Three website — piaad3.org — and under the Boys Sports menu, click on wrestling, then on “PIAA District III Wrestling Livestreamed on FloWrestling — Updated Information.”
• Dave Byrne is an LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent who covers L-L wrestling. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @dbyrneman.