Same as usual in Hershey
As I checked into the Giant Center Thursday afternoon for the PIAA wrestling championships, one of the ushers that provided me with a wrist bracelet said, "Everything is the same as last year."
I thought to myself, "that's just great."
Thankfully, I only have to deal with the PIAA once a year during their mecca sporting events in Hershey. And to be fair to them, I'm sure their team of people try really hard to do a good job and generate as much revenue as possible, but when it comes to the details at large events like this, let's just say they sweep that under the rug.
Maybe it's the infamous fiasco a few years ago during the team wrestling championships where Giant Center security acted like riot police, forcing media off the floor as they were doing interviews because of a Hershey Bears hockey game, that leaves me with a scar. Or maybe it's just the PIAA runs a second class operation when it comes to dealing with the media.
Whitehall and Parkland do a better job accommodating to the media during football games to give you a point of reference.
The most glaring problem over the weekend was the lack of Wi-Fi access in the arena for the working press. This is 2014. We are well past the introductory phase of Internet connections. The PIAA had three access ports on their Wi-Fi for the media and none of them worked.
Thankfully, I had a backup iPad with a data plan to help through the hours on the mat, but it was a common complaint from many journalists about how we really couldn't do our jobs while in the arena without a mobile hotspot device.
Throw in wonderful prison food they feed us, which included a vegetable soup with hard vegetables and chili that made you envious of Wendy's. People will eat when they're hungry and I appreciate free food, but it's been the same menu for the past 14 YEARS!
Speaking of "same" the PIAA apparently doesn't know that there's new songs that are released every day, month and year since 1999, as Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400" is still the theme song that is played for wrestlers during warmups.
If you don't recognize the title for Zombie Nation's only hit of their life, then check it out on YouTube. It came out 15 years ago and the PIAA must have signed a 50-year contract with the group to headline their audio.
Maybe it's just me being a music lover, but there's something so lazy about the whole behind the scenes process the PIAA executes in such a main event that really explains a lot when it comes to bigger issues they have to deal with.
If you don't focus on the details, the big things start to fall apart too, but who am I to complain?
As far as the actual event itself, it had, like every other year, it's highs and lows.
Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller (170) and Solanco's Thomas Haines (HWT) became the 11th and 12th wrestlers in PIAA history to win four state championships, as they capped off the wrestling weekend with their feats in the 3A championships.
Marsteller, who has been dealing with a stress fracture in his back since the district championships, made it look like a man among boys on the mat. He plowed his way through the finals with a fall and two technical falls, including a semifinal win over Noah Wilps of Chartiers Valley by a 16-1 tech fall in 1:48. Marsteller appeared to take his foot off the pedal in the finals, winning by a 14-2 major decision over Kyle Coniker of Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Marsteller was definitely the rock star of the tournament, as he ended his high school wrestling career at 166-0, becoming the fourth wrestler in PIAA history to finish his career undefeated.
From a senior that went out with a bang to a local star that faded, Parkland's Ethan Lizak may have had the worst weekend in comparison. The two-time state champion lost in the semifinals to Pennridge's Scott Parker 7-2 and then lost to Nazareth's Tyrone Klump 7-3 in the third place consolation final to settle for fourth.
It was difficult to watch Lizak struggle with the emotions, as Klump scored the final takedown late in the third to solidify the win.
With seconds left and both wrestlers about to restart, Lizak just sat on bottom with his head down, motionless. The reality is fourth-place finish sunk in quickly, as he stumbled off the mat in tears.
Certainly a cruel way to end the most prolific wrestling career in Parkland history.
Easton will want to forget about this tournament as well, as the Red Rovers three participants didn't get past the first day, marking the first time since 1982 that no Easton wrestler advanced past day one's action.
Which leads to Pennsylvania's west side, as Franklin Regional and Greater Latrobe finished one and two respectively in the team standings in 3A. Parkland did an admirable job coming in fourth, with Nazareth (sixth) and Northampton (eighth) garnering top-10 marks.
But the question is when will District 11 get back on top of the state scene in 3A?
Bethlehem Catholic ran away with the team title in 2A and provided three state champions for the area after four D11 wrestlers lost in the 3A finals for us.
Jake Riegel (106), Luke Karam (113) and Zeke Moisey (126) each brought home titles, as the Hawks will have two returning state champions in Riegel (freshman) and Karam (sophomore) for years to come.
Former Becahi head coach Tony Iasiello was honored before Saturday's 2A finals, as he was named USA/PIAA Man of the Year for his years of dedication and service to the sport.