HERSHEY — Time was running out on Corey Hazel.
The Penns Valley junior trailed North Schuylkill’s Auston Hummel by one point as the final seconds of his PIAA Class AA quarterfinal match ticked away. And then, just as it ended, Hazel came through with a takedown for two points to stun Hummel for an 8-7 win.
“It was just all chips in at that point,” Hazel said. “It was everything I had.”
Hazel gave a fist pump and moved one win away from the 170-pound state championship match.
Hazel ran into undefeated Evan Delong of Kane in the semifinals, where he lost 9-3, before falling 8-3 in the fourth-round consolation match to Nick Mort of Fairfield at the Giant Center on Friday night. Hazel will finish fifth on the medals podium on Saturday, due to an injury forfeit by Montoursville’s Garrett Hoffman.
Hazel (36-5) became the first Penns Valley wrestler to earn a medal in the PIAA tournament since Craig Herrold finished fourth at 145 pounds in 2002.
“I feel like maybe the curse is broke here because of the old medals,” Rams coach Joel Brinker said. “We came to this arena, and we’ve been striking out so he got our monkey off our back here at the Giant Center and we hope to get a few more medals in the future.”
The Penns Valley standout was the top performer in the PIAA tournament from Centre County. Teammate Curtis Decker, a sophomore, was eliminated 14-3 by Redbank Valley senior Willis Gruver in a second-round consolation match at 120 pounds. It was Decker’s third loss to Gruver this season. Decker finished the season 35-9.
In Class AAA, Philipsburg-Osceola senior Chris Thompson saw his season come to an end on a forfeit due to an injury suffered in his 113-pound quarterfinal loss to Derek Gulotta of Owen J. Roberts. P-O coach Tim McCamley said Thompson injured his chest and ribcage when he was pinned by Gulotta at 3:47.
McCamley said Thompson (30-9) was struggling to breathe coming off the mat, and he couldn’t recover in time to take on Upper Perkiomen’s Dustin Steffenino. The forfeit was a tough way for Thompson to see his career come to an end.
“He was on a roll,” McCamley said. “He was wrestling very aggressive. He was sitting in a very good position to place.”
State College senior Mike Kauffman was also eliminated in Class AAA in his 138-pound second-round consolation match. Kauffman (28-6) couldn’t get going in a 5-0 loss to Demetri D’Orsaneo of Owen J. Roberts.
“I wrestled as hard as I could but no matter what I did, it didn’t seem to work out,” Kauffman said. “It was very frustrating after to know I came so close.”
Hazel came close to the state championship match, but his last-second, comeback victory in the quarterfinals turned out to be the highlight of his day.
He trailed Hummel 2-0 after the first period and remained down 4-3 heading into the final period. Hazel pulled even at 5-5 with 1:33 left in the period, but Hummel quickly retook the lead at 7-5.
After cutting the deficit to one point in the final minute, Hazel still desperately needed to score to advance to the semifinals. And somehow, he recorded the takedown before the final buzzer.
“It’s just amazing,” Brinker said. “It’s just thrilling and exciting the whole way. There’s a lot of close points the whole match and then to win it — I looked at the clock with 15 seconds to go — and Corey’s gonna wrestle until the last whistle.
“And he did and he got the takedown with a second or two on the clock.”
Delong (35-0) controlled the semifinal match against Hazel.
The Kane wrestler jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first period. He picked up two takedowns in the final period to finish his 9-3 win.
Hazel landed in the fourth-round consolation round with a trip to the third-place match on the line. It was a rematch of his first-round match against Mort, which Hazel won 10-5.
Mort took a 3-1 lead with 1:30 left in the final period, but Hazel answered to tie it immediately. The score remained 3-3 with less than a minute to go when Hazel allowed Mort to get free to trail 4-3.
The Penns Valley wrestler was looking for a takedown in the final minute to clinch the win. But unlike in his first match of the day, Hazel couldn’t take the lead.
Mort picked up four points in the final seconds to close his 8-3 win. And Brinker found out just after the match that Hazel clinched fifth place due to the forfeit.
“In the grand scheme of it all, we’re pretty happy and impressed with it,” Brinker said. “He had an awesome season. I’m sure he wanted to place higher, if not win it. But there’s no shame in walking out of here in the state of Pennsylvania with any medal. So when the hurt goes away, I’m sure he’s gonna be happy.”
And Hazel is already thinking about doing just that by improving on this performance next year.
“It feels pretty good,” Hazel said. “I was shooting for obviously better than that, but I didn’t get it.
“But I’m coming back next year. I’m going to train harder than ever and come back next year and do all I can do.”