Seth Koleno’s mom Danielle didn’t want to jinx him so she wouldn’t let his dad Troy buy tickets to the PIAA Class AAA Championships until the freshman punched his ticket to the Giant Center.
When they did finally get their tickets, low and behold they were in the first row behind Mat No. 2, where coincidentally their son was making his PIAA debut.
“That was pretty cool,” Koleno said.
He gave them plenty to cheer about, overcoming a case of the nerves to advance to the 126-pound quarterfinals with a 6-2 triumph against Exeter Township’s James Harkness.
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Koleno will be joined in the quarterfinals by Bellefonte’s Brock Port, who needed every second to pull out a 5-4 ultimate tiebreaker triumph against Bethlehem Catholic’s Joey Gould.
Three other Centre County wrestlers didn’t find success in the first round.
District 6 and Northwest Regional heavyweight champ Josh Fye suffered a tough 2-1 upset loss at 285. Bellefonte’s Trevor Corl (145) lost by a late fall and State College’s Cory Dreibelbis (195) was pinned late in the first period.
Fye later rebounded with a second-period pin in the consolations.
Koleno got off to a shaky start, giving up the first takedown to Harkness, who had advanced with a 3-2 preliminary round win.
“When I walked into the arena, I got a little nervous I have to say,” said Koleno. “When I walked onto the mat, I was just real tired because the nerves got to me.”
Koleno got a quick escape. The period ended with him trailing 2-1, but with his confidence back.
“I had to overcome my nerves to start by being able to work,” he said. “Once I got that escape, I was in the match. It was 2-1 and I had chances to score.”
The District 6 and Northwest Regional champion took control in the second period. He escaped quickly, then took Harkness down with 1:20 left in the period. He then titled Harkness for two nearfall points and led 6-2.
Koleno managed to ride out Harkness for the final period, though some of his moves gave coach Steve Millward a scare.
“I still didn’t like when he put himself in some of those positions there in the third period,” Millward said. “He felt like he wasn’t in danger. I’m fine with that, but when I’m out there I’m thinking, ‘That kid’s about to come around on you there.’”
“I had a little trouble,” Koleno admitted. “I felt like I could control him overall. I had to make sure I kept my hips behind him because he was doing some pretty good moves on bottom.”
Koleno gave a little fist pump at the end to celebrate as his family cheered from the front row.
“It’s a new experience for him in this tournament,” Millward said. “What I was hoping that he would go out and wrestle, have fun and score some points. He keeps a pretty level head on himself when he’s out there on the mat.”
Koleno (31-4) next faces Boyertown’s Lucas Miller (40-10), who won 4-3 in the first round.
“I have to get past the nerves and be quick and get shots off,” Koleno said.
Port, who went 0-2 as a freshman last March, got his first PIAA win, but it wasn’t easy.
He got off to an early lead with a single leg takedown, but Gould’s reversal made it 2-2 after one period. Port started on bottom in the second and reversed Gould to go up 4-2. Gould would get an escape in the second and the third to send the match to sudden-death overtime.
Neither could score in the one minute OT or two 30-second tiebreakers. Port chose top and rode out Gould for the win.
“He rode me for a good while and I only got out once,” Port said of his decision to take the top. “I was in the bottom position three times. I feel like my top work is better than my bottom work right now. It was a tough one.”
“I told him, ‘Sometimes the first one down here is the toughest,’” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “He went 0-2 last year and that first win is going to help him confidence-wise.”
Port, the District 6 champ and regional runner-up, admitted he didn’t wrestle his best.
“I didn’t feel the greatest, but you’ve got to push through those things,” he said.
“As far as his wrestling, he could certainly wrestle better,” Maney said. “He got a takedown and kind of got a little sloppy. Certainly, he can wrestle better.”
Port (31-2) next faces Waynesburg’s AC Headlee (42-1) who won by fall.
“I need to push the pace and do everything right,” Port said. “... I’ve got to take it up a step from last year.”
Fye was upset by Montour’s Zach Jablonski, where his only score was an escape after Jablonski reversed him in the final period. After getting free, Fye could not score in the final 51 seconds.
He came back and dominated the consolation bout, scoring a pair of takedowns before pinning Norristown’s Shaheed Hill in 3:34.
“That’s what we were hoping to see this weekend,” Millward said of Fye’s pin. “That first round was a little wake-up to him.”
“My first match was not even acceptable,” said Fye. “I’m just going to put it behind me and go out there work, listen to the coaches and keep pushing.”
After going 0-2 last season, Fye was happy to get a win.
“All this work work is starting to pay off,” he said. “Now I have to come back and get two more (Friday). My goal is to come back and get third.”
Fye (31-2) next faces Neshaminy’s Bruce Graeber (36-3).
Corl was involved in a tough match with Chase Gallik of Wallenpaupack. Leading 3-1 in the third, Gallik scored the fall with 13 seconds left.
Corl (31-4) faces Central Bucks West’s Riley Barth (34-1), who was upset in the first round.
Freedom’s John Callahan’s got an earlier takedown against Dreibelbis, but the State College junior got an escape. Callahan then took Dreibelbis down again and had him titled for a good chunk of the final period before getting the pin with four seconds left.
Dreibelbis (22-15) faces Bethlehem Catholic’s Brandon Blobe (23-9) on Friday.