Opening day of the PIAA Class 2A wrestling tournament was not kind to Centre County.
The county had five wrestlers in the first round Thursday, but only one advanced to the quarterfinals: St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Caleb Dowling is still going for gold.
“I was kind of nervous coming in,” Dowling said. “I looked at all the seats, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually here now. It’s time to go.’ I just went out and wrestled like every other match.”
The Wolves also have Jacob Powers (120 pounds) alive in the consolation bracket.
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Penns Valley has Baylor Shunk (106), Darren Yearick (120) and Jared Hurd (145) still alive in the consolations.
Dowling tallied the first points of the match with a takedown of Lake-Lehman’s R.J. Driscoll. Driscoll escaped later in the period as Dowling led 2-1 to start the second period.
The freshman collected a reversal in the second period to go ahead 4-1. Driscoll got to within one with a reversal and stall point. However, Dowling hit a reversal and got two near-fall points at the buzzer for an 8-4 win.
“He’s a pretty special kid,” St. Joseph’s coach Pat Flynn said of Dowling. “He is mature beyond his years on the wrestling mat. His approach to everything is nice, plus he has some God-given tools. He broke his nose in the middle of a match around Christmastime and finished the match. His work ethic is really (good).”
Powers, who came in as the Southwest Regional champion, might have suffered the toughest loss of all.
The sophomore trailed 1-0 with 30 seconds to go in his match. He was deep in on a takedown attempt and needed to just pop his leg free for the two points.
But Northwestern’s John Wheeler kept a strong grip on the leg and rode out for the 1-0 win, sending Powers to the consolation first round.
St. Joseph’s Ethan Kauffman went 0-2 on the day and was eliminated. He suffered a 6-3 loss to Upper Dauphin’s Ethan Paul in the preliminary round and then fell 5-1 to Fort LeBoeuf’s Steven McGarvie in the consolation first round.
“When you are here at Hershey, all these guys are good,” Flynn said. “We can build on stuff. These guys work their tails off. Jake’s mindset is good right now. He has to make weight tomorrow and then wrestle his way back.”
The Rams got things underway well with Shunk and Hurd each picking up preliminary round wins.
Shunk dominated Warrior Run’s Noah Hunt with a 14-1 major decision. Hurd was equally impressive controlling Cranberry’s Josh Hancock in a 7-2 win.
The thrill of victory was short lived, however, and Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt was the dagger.
Shunk fell in the next round 8-7 to Nate Smith. Hurd got pinned by John Pipa in 2:47, and it looked as if Hurd injured his right shoulder in the loss.
Yearick suffered the same fate at last year’s tournament.
The senior got pinned in his first-round match by Saegertown’s Kenny Kiser in 2:14.
The match was tied 2-2 to start the third period. Yearick started on bottom looking for the escape and possibly a one-point victory. Kiser had other ideas — locking up a cradle and earning the fall.
He responded nicely with a pin of McGuffey’s Jett Pattison in 5:45 in the consolation first round.
“Shunk and Hurd getting their first wins in the pigtail round, they were good wins,” Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said. “Shunk was right there and in a position to win, he just came up short. Hurd has only been pinned five or six times in his career. Pipa just caught him out of position. You got to rebound. They knew these were going to be tough.”