All three of the Centre County coaches at the PIAA Class 3A wrestling tournament stressed how important it is to get the first win.
For Bald Eagle Area’s Seth Koleno and Gage McClenahan, Bellefonte’s Brock Port and State College’s Cole Urbas, they’ve got that victory under their belts as they reached the quarterfinals on Thursday night.
“It’s really important,” Eagles coach Ron Guenot said. “It’s such a roller coaster ride. The first match is always the toughest one. If you lose, you got to get back up, get your head right and come back tomorrow.”
State College’s Ian Barr (160 pounds) got his first win, but it didn’t come until the first round of the consolation bracket.
BEA’s Garrett Rigg (126) and the Little Lions’ Pete Haffner (220) are alive in the consolation bracket and looking for their first victory.
“It’s huge,” Little Lions coach Ryan Cummins said of getting that first victory out of the way. “It’s a really long road back if you lose that first one. It’s tough, but hopefully our guys have it in them, and I think they do.”
Koleno earned the first win of the day for the county in the first round of the 138-pound weight class.
The junior, who placed seventh last year, tallied a takedown with 40 seconds left in the second period. It gave him a 7-3 lead to open the third period. He tacked on one more takedown late in the third for a 9-3 win over Council Rock South’s Cary Palmer.
McClenahan and Port made it back-to-back victories at 145 pounds.
McClenahan used a takedown with four seconds left in the first period to tie the match. After a scoreless second period, the freshman showed some grit and tallied another late takedown to win 4-2 over Big Spring’s Tucker Brough.
“They both wrestled smart and solid matches,” Guenot said of his quarterfinalists. “We talked about being faced with adversity down here. You’re going to get taken down and you got to come back from that, that’s what they both did.”
Port took an unconventional path to the quarterfinals. The senior, who’s making his fourth state appearance, didn’t score a point in the first period.
He tallied an escape for the lone point in the second period. In the final period, Port tilted Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Carty for two near-fall points. He rolled back, let go of the grip, locked it back up and tilted Carty again for three more near-fall points. Port won 6-0.
“Brock had to do what he needed to do,” Red Raiders coach Mike Maney said. “As the rounds go on, we are going to stress more about getting those points early and often. We feel confident that he can compete with anyone, but he has to compete to get those takedowns. They are going to be important starting tomorrow and going forward.”
Urbas was dominant in his 8-1 first-round victory over Freedom’s Ryan Deloach.
After tallying just an escape over the first two periods, the sophomore scored five unanswered near-fall points for a 6-0 lead. He gave up an escape but finished the match on top with a takedown.
“He went out and commanded the match,” Cummins said. “He worked hard on his feet. Once he got on top, he really took control and won the match there.”
Barr, who dropped his preliminary match 10-2, responded in the consolation first round. West Chester Rustin’s Collin Hurley shot in on Barr’s legs, but the junior threw him to his back.
Barr couldn’t pick up the pin, but his takedown and three near-fall points was what he needed for a 5-0 victory.
Rigg and Haffner each suffered first-round losses.
Rigg fell to West Chester Rustin’s Brett Kaliner, 5-1, and Haffner dropped a high-scoring bout with Upper Perkiomen’s Michael Modugno 12-10. They open Friday in the second round of the consolations.
Bellefonte’s Cole Stewart went 0-2 at 106 pounds. He fell to Cocalico’s Josiah Gehr, 8-1, in the first round. In his consolation first-round match, the sophomore dropped a 6-0 bout to Cumberland Valley’s Patrick DeMark.
“The first whistle you got to be ready to go,” Maney said of the first win. “You see it every year. You talk about and prepare for it but until you get here and experience it, it’s a whole another thing. The first win is important to get some momentum going. It’s something you stress, and some guys can do it and some guys aren’t able to zone some things out.”