Six NTL wrestlers advance in states, four innto quarters
HERSHEY - A Panther, a Warrior and two Rams will be wrestling in the PIAA Class AA wrestling quarterfinals today.
Ben Minnich (170 pounds) made history by winning North Penn's first state match when he beat Bedford's Caleb Grimes with a decisive 12-0 major decision.
Wyalusing cousins Collin Edsell (120) and Dylan Otis (220) moved onto the quarterfinals behind two decisions.
Edsell defeated Smethport's Trent Neely 4-0 while Otis beat Westmont-Hilltop's Don Shevestull 3-1.
In a thriller to the end Williamson's Billy Barnes (145) used a buzzer beating takedown to beat Blairsville's Noah Tarr 7-6.
Fellow Warrior Logan Everett (126) is still alive in the consolations. He fell to Boiling Springs' Kyle Shoop 11-5 in the preliminaries but came back to beat Wyomissing's Jaquan Gordon in the first round consolations 5-0 to stay alive.
Canton's Garrett Wesneski is also still alive in the wrestlebacks.
He lost to Lancaster Catholic's Stephen Loiseau 3-1 in the preliminaries but controlled Tri Valley's Lyle Troutman to a 7-2 win in the first round of consolations.
Troy's Ethan Calkins (113) and Williamson's Trevor McWhorter (132) both went 0-2 on the day.
Calkins lost his first match to Claysburg-Kimmel's Josh Brown 7-1, then was beat by Wyomissing's Alec Torres by technical fall 18-2 in the consolations.
McWhorter lost both of his matches by a combined three points, the first of which was in overtime.
He fell to Annville-Cleona's Jeffrey Inman 4-2 by sudden victory in the preliminaries, then lost to Bethlehem Catholic's Lee Todora 2-1 in the consolations.
In his record-making win Minnich dominated from whistle to buzzer for his Hershey premiere.
"I like to pound them right up front," he said about his strategy. "Take away his confidence and I control the match."
Right off the bat he scored a takedown and three back points to go up 5-0 in the first period.
That early lead was a big confidence booster for the senior.
"That's a big lead to give up," Minnich remarked. "That felt nice."
In the second period he pushed the action, starting on bottom and scoring an escape. He followed that with a takedown and forced a stall call on Grimes to go up 9-0.
In the third period he could score three more points, one a stall call and two with a takedown to win 12-0
"It's real nice to pick up a first round win at states," Minnich remarked. "I'm glad I could do so with such a big deficit. Hopefully that will give me the momentum in the next round."
He will take on Bermudan Springs' Tristan Sponseller, who was a 17-7 winner over Franklin's Chris Matthews.
He is the first state match winner for the young North Penn program and will be wrestling to become the Panther's first state medalist today.
"I feel like that's always in the back of my mind," Minnich explained. "But when I go out to wrestle all I think about is me and the match. It's pressure before and after but during the match it's just a match."
Edsell was stellar defensively in his preliminary win but didn't plan it that way.
"I like to be more offensive," he remarked. "Lately I haven't been forcing the offense. I kind of need to get back to the offensive side."
In the first period it was Neely who struck first, or at least it seemed that way, using a single leg to nearly cradle Edsell up but the freshman was able to get out of bounds.
"I just knew I had to defend it off," Edsell said. "Not give up any points here. Basically defend it off like I've been practicing."
The first period ended scoreless.
In the second Neely started on top and was able to lock Edsell up in a cradle. Halfway through the turn, though, the young Ram was able to confound the senior.
"My dad always tells me not to get caught in a cradle," Edsell said. "He had me pretty tough there. I was just trying to maybe get a stalemate out of it but then he rolled me back and I hipped up out of it and got a reversal out of it."
After getting out Edsell immediately scored the reversal to take a 2-0 lead.
In the final period Neely once again got a single leg on Edsell but failed to convert. Edsell was able to his defense into offense with a takedown of his own to pick up the 4-0 win.
"I knew once I got on top it pretty much sealed the deal there," he said. "I knew there wasn't much time left, I just had to stay tight and finish off."
This win puts the freshman one more step toward his goal.
"It feels like my hard work is starting to pay off," Edsell explained.
Twice Otis nearly got a takedown against Shovestull, then finally scored the two late in the first period.
"I knew I would get him eventually," Otis said. "Just wear him down, keep hitting my moves. He would eventually wear down and I would get my takedown."
In the second he began on bottom and used that to his advantage as he scored an escape. Late in the period Shovestull shot but Otis defended it off to keep his opponent scoreless.
In the third period Otis controlled the action on top. While he wasn't able to get the points he kept Shovestull from getting an escape until only seconds remained in the bout.
"It's a great feeling," Otis said but added. "It's another round you have to wrestle."
Otis wrestled his match on a Wyalusing mat but it wasn't quite like home for the Ram.
"It's just another mat in the arena," he said. "States in the arena is where it's at, doesn't matter what mat you're on."
Several Wyalusing fans had shirts with the slogan: 'Cousins by blood, wrestler's by choice.' After today's bouts people may begin to suspect that wrestling is in their blood, too.
"It's a great feeling," Otis said about the two of them being in the quarters. "We both work hard. It's just another step forward, we've got to take one more tomorrow."
Edsell will face Ligonier Valley's Joshua Patrick, a 13-3 winner over Schuykill Valley's Josh Giorgo.
Otis takes on Cochranton's Cam Cyphert, who pinned Schuykill Valley's Tanner Dean in 1:06.
It was shaping up to be a bad day for Williamson when Barnes took the mat. They were in danger of having no wrestlers in the quarters as Everett and McWhorter had already lost their preliminary matches.
Tarr went up early with a first period takedown but Barnes scored a reversal to knot the score up 2-2. Tarr would take a lead off an escape, going up 3-2 after the first period.
"I came out a little slow, a slow rusty," Barnes said about his first period.
Barnes started on top in the second and worked to turn Tarr but to no avail. Tarr turned the tables with a reversal late in the period but Barnes immediately followed with an escape to make it a 5-3 deficit.
Despite being down the sophomore didn't panic.
"I didn't feel like I was being dominated at all," Barnes said. "I just gave up some easy points and I knew I had to get them back."
In the third period Barnes scored an escape off the bat to cut it to 5-4. He continued to push the pace on Tarr but the senior was able to defend him off.
"I knew I had him on the ropes," Barnes explained. "I knew he was pretty tired. I knew that I worked harder in the room so I just had to keep pushing and I knew he would brake."
Late in the period both were called for a caution, make it 6-5 but keeping Barnes still one point away.
It was beginning to look like Williamson wouldn't get any into the quarterfinals when Barnes got to the legs of Tarr and scored a takedown with one second left to get the 7-6 win. Tarr was disqualified after the bout.
Going into today Barnes was going to focus on the basics.
"Stay in good position, not giving up easy points," he said. "Just the stuff that wins matches."
Barnes faces Reynolds' Levi Stoyer, a 1-0 winner over Pine Grove's Eli Brill.
Early on it looked like Everett was going to the quarterfinals.
He scored first on Shoop with a takedown in the first period. Shoop scored an escape to cut it to 2-1 but Everett nearly struck again with another shot that looked like a takedown but the clock ran out before he could finish.
In the second period Everett continued to push the action working Shoop over for his second takedown to go up 4-1. Shoop escaped to cut it to 4-2 heading into the final period.
That's when the rails fell off for Everett. Shoop was on top and took control, turning Everett three straight times for nine points to put the match out of reach.
Everett scored a late escape to make it an 11-5 final.
"The first match I didn't do things I really wanted," he explained. "I just couldn't get out on bottom. It's been a problem for me my whole career."
Everett wanted to get to his feet as quick as possible if Shoop took top.
"I gave up my wrists and I just couldn't get it back," he explained.
In the second match Everett started quick again, taking a 5-0 lead over Gordon thanks to a takedown and back points combination.
"That's my game plan every match," he said. "Get a lead, work hard and keep it."
The rest of the match Everett spent on his feet and kept Gordon from scoring in the final four minutes to advance.
The senior was disappointed about being in the wrestlebacks after the first day, but was relieved to still be alive.
"I've got to come back, get a good win (today) and go from there," the returning state medalist remarked.
It was a mixed morning for Wesneski in his first state tournament going 1-1.
In the first match Loiseau struck with a takedown and rode Wesneski through the rest of the first period. Loiseau made it 3-0 with an escape in the second period.
In the third period Wesneski was able to keep from being turned and got on the board late with an escape. Using that momentum he pushed to score but Loiseau was able to defend him off.
"First time down here first match I let the nerves get to me," Wesneski explained. "I didn't get the takedowns I needed and I lost a tight one. I just didn't open up."
In the consolation bout Wesneski was able to defend off a couple of Troutman's shots in the first period to keep it scoreless.
"I think I'm still letting them in too deep," he said. "I am getting into scrambles I don't want to be in. I will just work on better defense and me being offensive and pushing the pace."
In the second the junior got on the board by turning Troutman twice to take a 4-0 lead.
"I actually thought I had more points," admitted Wesneski. "He was kind of funky to wrestle."
Troutman did a good job keeping Wesneski's grip loose enough and wiggled away to keep the Warrior from getting the full three back points.
"I just had to wrestle smart and not do any dumb mistakes," the junior explained.
In the final period he scored an escape to go up 5-0 then added a takedown to take a 7-0 lead.
Troutman scored a late reversal but it was too little too late.
"It feels good," Wesneski said about still being alive for a medal. "For the next kid I needed to open up and I did. I got it done and I move on."
He plans on being mentally ready for whoever he will face today.
"I'm just going to keep a good mindset," Wesneski explains. "Make sure I get a good warm up in and I'll be ready to go."
Calkins and McWhorter had their Hershey trips end on Thursday.
During a scramble it looked like Calkins was going to get the takedown but it was Brown that came out on top.
Calkins scored an escape to cut it to 2-1 but a late Brown takedown gave him a 4-1 lead after the first period.
Brown opted for a neutral start in the second and used that to score another takedown, then rode Calkins the rest of the period to go up 6-1.
Calkins took the top in the third and nearly turned Brown but the senior was able to peel Calkins' arm off en route to an escape for a 7-1 win.
In the first round consolation Torres jumped out to a quick 8-0 in the first period off a takedown and six back points.
He continued to score in the second with an escape, takedown and three back points to go up 14-0.
Calkins got on the board with a reversal and came close to turning him when on top but couldn't secure the points.
In the third period Calkins had Torres in a headlock but lost it when he tried to throw him. Torres scored a takedown off the miss and got the final two back points for the 18-2 technical fall.
The Williamson junior lost two close bouts.
Inman scored the first takedown but McWhorter came back with an escape to stay within reach of the lead after the first period.
In the second period neither could score on the other as both wrestlers continued to probe and shoot.
In the final period McWhorter evened the score up on an escape in the third. Once again neither wrestler could score pushing the match into an extra period.
In the overtime it was Inman who found a way, finally getting to McWhorter's legs and scoring the taken for the sudden victory with three seconds left on the clock.
The consolation match was another close one for McWhorter.
After a scoreless first period McWhorter was on bottom in the second. Todora was able to ride McWhorter the whole period to keep it scoreless.
In the third Todora scored a reversal but preferred to keep it neutral, giving McWhorter an escape point.
The rest of the way McWhorter pushed the pace. With Todora already given a stall warning McWhorter tried to either get the takedown or stall point but couldn't get either.
The quarterfinals start at 9 a.m. today with the second round consolations to follow. The semi-finals and fourth round consolations begin at 6:30 p.m. tonight.