HERSHEY — Last March, Philipsburg-Osceola’s Chris Thompson sat in a wheelchair in the upper levels of the Giant Center watching the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championship.
This year the view is a little closer.
The Philipsburg-Osceola 113-pounder is the lone Centre County wrestler to have a chance to bring home gold.
Thompson knocked off Kennard-Dale’s Michael Bracey 6-3 to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
He won’t have much company on Day 2. State College’s Mike Kauffman was the lone survivor among the five County wrestlers to drop into the consolation round.
Thompson, who suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee last season, is enjoying this trip to Hershey better than a year ago.
“This is my first time making it here,” he said. “My sophomore year, I didn’t even make it to regionals. Coming back and making it to states and winning my first match, it feels awesome.”
Thompson had six solid months of rehab after his surgery to return to form.
“It was painful,” Thompson said. “I really couldn’t do anything about it. I probably had a slight tear in my meniscus ever since I was younger because it would always catch and cause problems throughout my wrestling career. It finally went last year.”
Thompson (30-7) is healthy now, though he quickly fell behind to Bracey (30-8). Bracey got an early takedown, but Thompson reversed him as the match was tied at 2-2 after the first period.
Starting down in the second period, Thompson reversed Bracey again to take a 4-2 lead.
“I tried my stand-up and he brought me right back down,” Thompson said. “I knew I could change him over real quick and get a quick two. It was pretty easy.”
Leading 4-3 entering the third period, Thompson iced the match with two late back points.
“He wrestled very well,” P-O coach Tim McCamley said. “He was a little slow getting going in the first period but after that he was ready to wrestle. He was very aggressive and he’s very focused on what he wants to do right now.
“This is what he’s been wrestling all of his life for and I’m glad he’s getting an opportunity to do it.”
“It means a lot,” who wrestled before his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and his grandfather. “I’m making my family proud. I just want to place and be real cool.”
Thompson meets Owen J. Roberts’ Derek Gulotta, a 5-0 winner, in the quarterfinals. Gulotta, the Southeast Regional champ, is 34-5.
Kauffman (28-5) bounced back after getting thumped 15-5 in his opening 138-pound match by Manheim Township’s Cortlandt Schuyler. Kauffman was taken down six times by Schuyler.
That didn’t deter Kauffman before Round 2.
“From the start of the season, I’ve been working hard,” said the Little Lion senior, who was 0-2 as a sophomore in the PIAAs. “Last year since my knee hurt me, this year I wanted to bounce back. I’ve been focusing on being here and getting to the podium. That’s all I thought about before the match.”
He was back to his usual aggressive self against Evan Wilson of Central Bucks East. After a scoreless first period, Kauffman used an escape and a takedown to take a 3-0 lead.
The score was 3-1 heading into the third period. Kauffman rode Wilson for most of the period before he was hit with a stall point late. Needing an escape to tie, Wilson couldn’t break away from Kauffman.
“I’ve been working on practice the whole week of trying to ride people,” Kauffman said. “Apparently it worked. I rode the guy for over two minutes.”
“It’s tough to bounce back like that,” State College coach Ryan Cummins said. “He got beat pretty good there. It says a lot about his character that he could turn around and wrestle like he did.”
Cummins said he expected Kauffman to be a ball of energy instead of wallowing in the first-round defeat.
“That’s him, he’s done that all year,” Cummins said. “He’s so explosive. He’s one of the most explosive kids I’ve seen. He’s always got a good shot.”
The afternoon was tough for a pair of Bellefonte wrestlers.
Freshman Brock Port fell 4-3 in the opening round to Spring Grove’s Zack Clingan (39-3) at 120. He trailed 4-1 before getting a late takedown. He was eliminated with a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker loss to Hazelton’s Jimmy Hoffman (40-7). Port was unable to escape from the bottom position in the final 30-second overtime period.
“In Port’s case, maybe he was a little nervous in the first match,” said Bellefonte coach Mike Maney, a 1999 PIAA champ. “He didn’t wrestle like himself and he held back. Down here you can’t do that. … The good thing for him is he has three years hopefully to get back here and he’ll learn from this and make the needed adjustments for next year.”
Trevor Corl led 3-1 entering the final period against Manheim Township’s Matthew Grossman at 132 in the opening round. But a third-period escape and quick takedown triggered Grossman. With the match tied at 4-4, Grossman (35-3) got a behind Corl and pulled him to the mat with just seconds remaining to win 6-4.
“One thing we’ve been trying to work on him is you’ve got to stay offensive,” Maney said of his junior. “When you shut down and get on the defensive, it leads to bad things. You let guys back into the match. You’ve got to keep the foot on the gas. Unfortunately for that first match, he shut down a little bit and let that kid get some momentum and win it at the end.”
Corl (32-5) suffered an early takedown and fell 4-1 to Boyertown’s Eddie Kriczky (45-7) in the consolations.
“Certainly making it here is nothing to be disappointed about,” Maney said of his two wrestlers. “There’s a lot to be proud of. I’m sure they’re going to be a little bit disappointed with the results, but they should be proud of what they accomplished this year and continue to work for next year.”
The final two county wrestlers suffered the same fate.
At 182, Philipsburg-Osceola’s Bub Lumadue was pinned twice. Lumadue (28-10) fell in1:10 in the opening round to Mount Lebanon’s Kellen Stout (34-3) and lost in 2:33 to Nazareth’s Nicolino Sevi (40-4).
“Just making it here was really impressive for Bub,” McCamley said of his senior. “He’s had a great career. Obviously, he’s one of the most exciting wrestlers we’ve had in a long, long time.”
Bald Eagle Area heavyweight Josh Fye (26-10) also suffered two losses by fall. The sophomore led 3-1 against Brandon Lance (35-5) of Nazareth but fell with eight seconds left in the second period.
“He went out with all of the confidence we expected him to, but you’ve got to do that for six minutes,” BEA coach Steve Millward said. “He shut it down a little bit and here you obviously can’t do that.”
He trailed 2-0 in the second before falling with 20 seconds left to Downingtown East’s Sean Snodgrass (40-5).
“It was a good experience for him to be here,” Millward said. “I know he wants to get back here next year. I think he sees if he wants to compete at this level he knows what he has to do.”