Going into the second day of the Southwest Regional Class AA Wrestling Tournament, Penns Valley has five alive.
All five of the Rams entered in the tournament won a match and advanced to Saturday’s action at Canon-McMillan High School.
Curtis Decker and Corey Hazel did even better, with each winning a pair of matches to reach the semifinal round. More importantly, they guaranteed themselves a spot in the state tournament in Hershey.
“That’s nice,” Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said. “I’m happy for them. It’s nice to know they punched their tickets, but there’s still a lot of wrestling to go and they can’t rest on their laurels.”
The newly expanded state tournament means that the top six wrestlers in each weight class advance to Hershey.
Decker scored a 9-4 victory over McGuffey’s Aaron Harris in the first round, then beat District 7 runner-up Justo Hernandez of South Allegheny 4-3 in the quarterfinal round.
“Not the greatest,” Brinker said of Decker’s performance. “He knows he can wrestle better. He got sloppy on top. He has to improve. He has a tough customer tomorrow.”
Decker will face top-seeded Jon Gabriel of Bedford in the semifinals.
Hazel, the top seed at 182 pounds, had a first-round bye and then beat Bethlehem-Center’s Nico Brown 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Brown scored the opening takedown when Hazel tried a throw, but the Penns Valley senior battled back for the victory.
“He’s going to wrestle,” Brinker said of Hazel’s go-for-broke attitude. “He’s not going to hold back. He’s going to throw what’s there, and we encourage it. It’s nice to see he goes for things. He wrestled through it and came back. He’s a tough kid. We knew it was going to be a tough match. We’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
Hazel will face South Fayette’s Brett Beltz, the District 7 runner-up, in the semifinal round, which begins at 11:30 a.m.
Andrew Hurd won his first-round match, beating McGuffey’s Dillon Richey 4-2 in sudden victory, before getting pinned by top-seeded Jake Wentzel of South Park in the quarterfinal round.
Darren Yearick lost by fall to Southmoreland’s Tyler Griffiths in the opening round but rebounded with a 1-0 victory over Mount Union’s Josh Boozel in the 106-pound consolations.
Jared Hurd dropped an 11-2 major decision to Freedom’s Kody Komara at 132, but advanced to Saturday’s action with a 1-0 victory over Drake Dorian of Westmont Hilltop.
“That’s very good,” Brinker said of having all five wrestlers alive in the tournament. “We’re happy and very pleased. Everybody got a win so far, but we don’t want to stop there. Obviously, try to win as many as you can, get the experience that goes with the regional tournament and try to get to Hershey.”