Jake Taylor did something on Friday that he couldn’t do last season.
And although he propelled himself into the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships on Friday inside the Giant Center for the first time in his career, Taylor isn’t completely satisfied yet.
Give the Bald Eagle Area senior 182-pounder another day and two more matches, then check back with him. A state championship is still within his sights.
“I think he’s excited to wrestle in the semis,” BEA coach Steve Millward said. “Obviously, his goal is much greater than that, but it’ll be a nice experience for him.”
Taylor — who will be joined by 220-pound senior teammate Nate Sharkey, who is still alive in his consolation bracket — will meet Easton senior Tyler Greene Saturday morning in the first session. Greene is 37-5 on the season and knocked off North Penn’s Alex Price 10-2 and Dallastown’s Cooper Deller 9-4 to set up the showdown with Taylor in the semis.
Meanwhile, Taylor outmuscled Gordon Bolig of Owen J. Roberts 3-2 during Friday’s quarterfinal round.
“I feel pretty good,” Taylor said. “I feel like I could have scored a few more points in that last match, but everything feels good going into tomorrow.”
After Taylor hammered Cedar Cliff’s Josh Colello in the first round on Thursday, pinning the Colt freshman in 3:38, he said he wanted to be more aggressive and score more points as the tournament wore on.
He found that tough to do against a stingy Bolig.
“He sort of kept his legs away, kept his hips away,” Taylor said. “So I felt like I moved around pretty well and got into good position, I just wasn’t getting to the legs.”
Taylor was able to get a takedown in the first period, but Bolig defended the BEA senior’s shots well afterward. Taylor added an escape in the second period then nearly rode Bolig out to end the match. Bolig escaped with 28 seconds left to cut Taylor’s lead to 3-2, but wasn’t able to score as time ran out.
“He controlled what was happening throughout the match,” Millward said. “We certainly didn’t want it to be a one-point match going into the last 30 seconds because anything can happen when you’re on your feet, but I think he’s pretty confident right now in all positions.”
Sharkey, meanwhile, is confident in his ability to win close bouts. So far, all three of the BEA senior’s PIAA bouts have been decided by two points or less. In the quarterfinals, Sharkey faced off with Freedom’s Evan Kauffman and continued that trend.
At first, Sharkey was credited with the opening takedown, but the officials waved it off after Kauffman locked in a whizzer as the two tumbled to the mat. Kauffman took the lead with a second-period reversal and Sharkey managed a third-period escape, but it was too late and he dropped into the consolation bracket with the 2-1 loss.
Sharkey didn’t criticize the officials who reversed their decision on his first takedown, only calling it a “close call.”
He would benefit from a referee’s ruling and an overly-jittery opponent in his next bout, where Sharkey extended his tournament life with a thrilling 3-2 win over Montour’s Cole Macek in the second round of consolations.
Each wrestler had an escape heading into sudden victory, but Macek already had two cautions tallied against him. Neither wrestler could finish a shot in sudden victory, as Macek escaped in the first tiebreaker period to take a 2-1 lead. In the second tiebreaker, Macek jumped the whistle again and gave up the tying point to Sharkey, who escaped quickly afterward to take his first lead of the match, 3-2.
He immediately began to celebrate but the bout wasn’t over. With less than 15 seconds left, BEA assistants frantically reminded Sharkey he still had to finish the match. Just as Macek shot in, Sharkey regained his focus and fended him off to hold onto the win.
“The longer matches go, I think the better it is for Nate. His conditioning right now is as high as it’s been all year. He’s just wrestling tough,” Millward said. “If he can stay composed and not get emotional about things out there when it’s a tight match, I think that works to his advantage.”
Although he got caught up in the moment and lost focus for a split second after getting the final escape against Macek, Sharkey was able to chuckle after that bout. He wore a steely-eyed gaze after losing to Kauffman and didn’t display much emotion, knowing that he had to quickly regroup as he would have to wrestle Macek about an hour later.
“These close matches, you just have to look at it like anything can happen,” Sharkey said. “You’ve just got to keep fighting. You never know what’s going to happen in those six minutes.”