By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
HERSHEY -- Mifflinburg junior Cole Walter will begin his quest for a third PIAA Class AA medal Thursday morning when he takes his 40-2 season record into the 152-pound preliminary round versus Taylor Cahill, 39-4, of Berlin-Brothers Valley.
Walter placed third as a freshman, and managed a seventh-place finish last season while bothered by a severe breathing problem.
The tournament runs Thursday through Saturday at the Giant Center.
Southern Columbia sophomore Blake Marks, 32-5, a state qualifier as a freshman, who lost to Walter in the finals the last three weekends, is on the opposite side of the bracket and will open with South Fayette senior Grant Fetchet, 40-4.
If Marks wins his opener, he will meet the winner of a preliminary between Tri-Valley junior Anthony Snyder, 33-11, and No. 1-ranked (by Off the Mat) Brock Zacherl, 35-3, a Brookville senior.
Milton senior Ryan Preisch, 37-2, gets his quest for a second state medal started against Jefferson-Morgan senior Ryan Zalar, 34-8, in the 160-pound prelims. Preisch was third last season and is a three-time state qualifier.
On the opposite side of the bracket is Lewisburg junior Max Reed, 32-10, who meets Cambria Heights junior Levi Niebauer, 32-3, in the opener.
Another returning state medalist, Line Mountain junior Cameron Newman, who picked up his 100th career win in Saturday night's regional final at 113, will start things off against Jonathan Gabriel, a sophomore from Bedford, who is 26-5.
Also in the field at 113, and in the opposite bracket, are Upper Dauphin junior Coy Campbell and Lewisburg sophomore Jordan Gessner.
Campbell, 29-5, opens with Brookville sophomore Taylor Ortz, 34-3. Gessner, 33-9, takes on Austin McDermitt, a Burgettstown junior, 38-3.
Southern Columbia cousins Todd and Kent Lane will be in action at 120 and 138, respectively. Todd, a freshman at 120, 34-4, meets Mount Union senior Sage Moist, 36-5. Kent, a 25-1 junior and a sixth-place finisher last season and three-time qualifier, takes on senior Richie McGinnis of Chartiers-Houston, 35-12.