HERSHEY — “It was a good day.”
The quote from Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor that he used to describe the first day for his squad at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships was appropriate for the almost all the local wrestlers in Hershey.
Of the nine wrestlers that went to state, eight are still alive including five in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Chestnut Ridge’s Kai Burkett (106 pounds), Nathan Holderbaum (113), and Jared McGill (170) were three of the quarterfinalist and are joined by 132-pounders Garret Cornell of Everett and Kaden Cassidy of Bedford.
Northern Bedford’s Austin Mowry (160) lost his preliminary bout, but he bounced back in a consolation preliminary with a victory to stay in the tournament. Tussey Mountain’s Damon Lemin (195) and Chestnut Ridge’s Duane Knisely (220) rebounded from first round defeats with consolation preliminaries victory as well. Knisely beat Everett’s Shane Clark in that consolation bout to knock the Warrior senior out of the tournament.
Cornell and Holderbaum had to do it the hard way by first winning a preliminary bout and then facing a regional champion to make it to the quarterfinals.
Holderbaum had Line Mountain’s Mason Leshock in his preliminary bout. With the scored tied at 2-2 after one period, Holderbaum got a reveral and Leshock earned an escape. The Lion junior got a firm hold on the lead as he came out of a funk situation in neutral position and put Leshock on his back with a five-point move.
In the third period, Holderbaum ran an arm bar and put Leshock on his back for a fall in 4:53.
He met East Pennsboro’s Adam Jacobs in the first round, and Jacobs took Holderbaum down for the only points of the first period. Jacobs picked bottom to start the second period, but Holderbaum hit a cradle off the whistle and pinned Jacobs in 2:10.
An excited Holderbaum was still in disbelief after the bout.
“This is better than I could have dreamed of,” he said with a big grin on his face.
Holderbaum will face Bald Eagle Area’s Cooper Gilham in Friday’s quarterfinal.
The other Chestnut Ridge quarterfinalists had one-sided matches in their first round matchups.
Kai Burkett took on Lewisburg’s Kaiden Wagner, a freshman, in the match. He took down Wagner right away, and he used his tilt for a 5-0 lead after one period. He reversed Wagner for a 7-0 lead in the second period. After putting Wagner on his back with another tilt, Burkett switched to an armbar and pinned the Green Dragon in 3:37.
While that bout was going on, Burkett’s quarterfinal opponent was being determined on the next mat. Pope John Paul II’s Matt Vulakh, who placed eighth in the state in AAA last year, upset defending AA state champion Gary Steen of Reynolds, 5-2.
McGill dominated Reynolds’ Cole Toy in the 170-pound first-round bout. He had a takedown and two sets of back points for an 8-0 lead after one period, and he added an escape and a takedown for an 11-0 lead. He added a reversal and put Toy on his back again. McGill didn’t get the fall, but he did record the technical fall, 16-0 in 4:38.
McGill, who was third in the state last year, will have Notre Dame Green Pond’s Isaiah DeJesus in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“The boys are wrestling hard,” Lazor added. “We went for stuff, and we got some pins.”
Cornell had to think he was looking in the mirror for his preliminary bout against Redbank Valley’s Ethan Wiant. The two wore identical patterned uniforms in red, gray, and white, while the two were nearly identical in size in hair color.
While the referees were worried what troubles the similar uniforms would cause, Cornell made short work by hooking a standing cradle in the first period and pinned Wiant in 33 seconds.
Cornell faced Sullivan County’s Nathan Higley, the Northeast Regional champion, in the first-round bout. Cornell grabbed a 6-0 lead in the first period with a penalty point, a takedown, and three back points on a cradle.
Higley got two takedowns in the third period, but the Warrior senior and defending third-place finisher at states held on for the 7-5 victory.
“I did what I had to, and now I just want to go out and have fun,” Cornell said of his wins on Thursday. “It feels good. I’ve got one match to win to guarantee a state medal.”
Cornell will have St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Zack Witmer, who was third in the Southwest Regional Tournament, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Cassidy had very little trouble with Quaker Valley’s Conner Redinger in his first-round match. The Bedford junior, who placed third in the state two years ago when he attended Bishop McCort, had two takedowns and two tilts for backpoints for a 10-2 lead after the first period.
Cassidy got two back points on another tilt before Redinger reversed him in the second period. Redinger took neutral in the third period, but Cassidy got the takedown. Redinger got a reversal to set the final at 13-6.
“It feels good,” said Cassidy of his return to states after missing last year. “It was my first match here in two years. I’m ready.”
Cassidy will get Northwestern’s John Wheeler, who was the Northwest Regional runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
Knisely, Lemin, and Mowry all lost their first matches of the tournament, but they all bounced back with victories.
Knisely was taken down in the first period in his first-round bout with Southern Columbia’s Preston Zachman. That was the only scoring the bout as Zachman rode out Knisely for the remainder of the first period and the entire second period, while Knisely rode out Zachman in the third period.
Knisely met a familiar foe in Everett’s Shane Clark in the consolation preliminary bout at 220. Clark had lost a 2-1 decision in his preliminary bout against Bishop McDevitt’s Tyrone Fowler. Fowler had a second-period reversal and Clark had an escape for all the scoring.
The Chestnut Ridge junior broke a scoreless tie in the bout against Clark with a reversal in the second period for a 2-0 lead. He added three more backpoints in the third period for the 5-0 win.
Knisely will have Hopewell’s Connor Forrest in the consolation first round. Knisely beat Forrest, 4-3, at the regional tournament.
Clark was eliminated from the tournament.
Austin Mowry lost his preliminary bout with Muncy’s Ethan Gush. Gush used a cradle for a five-point move in the first period to take the lead. However, Mowry quickly got an escape and added a takedown to trail 5-3 after one period.
Mowry got an escape to cut the deficit to one in the second period, but Gush stayed off his back in the third period despite Mowry’s attempts and came away with 5-4 win.
In the consolation preliminary against Line Mountain’s Jacob Freese, Mowry struck first with a second-period escape, but Freese got to the leg of Mowry and tripped him for a takedown for a 2-1 lead.
Things weren’t looking good for the Northern Bedford senior after Freese got a reversal to start the third period, but Mowry grabbed the head of Freese and headlocked him to his back, recording a fall in 4:02 to stay in the tournament.
“It was there,” Mowry said. “I knew that I just needed to score some points.”
Mowry will have Toy of Reynolds in his next consolation bout.
Lemin had a tough first-round match with Bishop McDevitt’s Lawrence Richardson. Richardson got the opening takedown and rode out Lemin for a 2-0 lead after one period. The McDevitt wrestler got an escape to start the second period, but Lemin got a takedown to get back in the match.
Richardson answered by reversing Lemin to his back for four points and a 7-2 lead. Lemin added a third-period escape to set the final at 7-3.
In his consolation preliminary, Lemin had Upper Dauphin’s Ben Cope. Lemin had a first-period takedown and added two backpoints in the second period for a 4-0 lead. The Titan senior picked top for the third period, and he added two more backpoints. After Cope got a reversal, Lemin put the match away with an escape and a takedown for a 9-2 victory.
“It was my first match at states and I was nervous,” Lemin said of his loss to Richardson. “I was over it in my second match. I’m feeling confident.”
The quarterfinals and second round of consolations will begin on Friday at 9 a.m. with the third round of consolation to start approximately at 11:45 a.m. A win in the quarterfinals assures the wrestler of a state medal.
The evening session will start at 7:30 p.m. with the semifinals and fourth round of consolations followed by the fifth round of consolations.
TOURNAMENT NOTES: The other four District 5 wrestlers are still alive in the tournament. Meyersdale’s Jalan Stephens (285) and Berlin’s Tristan Pugh (145) are in the quarterfinals, while North Star’s Alec Supanick (152) and Hunter Tremain (195) are alive in the consolations. Tremain was winning his first-round bout, 11-0, but he was pinned by Saucon Valley’s Dane Csencsits in the second period. … There are 43 wrestlers from teams at the Thomas Tournament at state tournament, 18 of which are in the quarterfinals including at least one in 11 of the 14 weights. … The Southwest Regional has 37 quarterfinalists including at least one at each weight and four at 113, 132, and 170. … Some of the area quarterfinalist are Pugh, Stephens, Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington (113) and Eric Gibson (138), Glendale’s Brock McMillen (120), West Branch’s Tyler Denochick (126) and Derek Yingling (182), Westmont Hilltop’s Hudson Holbay (152), Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown (170), Mount Union’s Jake Ryan (285), and Southern Huntingdon’s Kole Winfield (285).