Centre County started with nine wrestlers entering the PIAA wrestling championships Thursday.
It ended with six athletes, and two of them are still in the title hunt.
Bellefonte’s Brock Port and Bald Eagle Area’s Josh Fye remain alive for a gold medal in Class AAA. Penns Valley’s Darren Yearick, the Eagles’ Seth Koleno, State College’s Adam Stover and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Dakota Weitoish are still in the mix.
After being run into the scorers’ table, Fye clinched a spot in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.
During the second period of his first-round match, Fye careened off the mat after trading blows with Avon Grove’s Vincent Walls. Papers flew askew while the scorers’ laptops bore the brunt of Fye’s 285 pounds. For a few moments, the clock stopped ticking.
Fye paced and drew some deep breaths. When the clock restarted, he returned to commanding the match.
Apart from the break, Fye’s 3-0 win contained little drama. BEA’s heavyweight controlled from the top while parrying Wall’s attempts to snatch a limb.
“Anytime you win that first round, it gives you some momentum,” BEA coach Steve Millward said. “I think the second day of the tournament is a little easier to come back to when you win a match.”
Fye will face Liberty’s Andrew Gunning in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“It’s just a matter of feeling good, coming in tomorrow and getting started in the morning,” Millward said. “Hopefully that’s what Josh is thinking right now.”
Port opened with Dieruff’s Ronald Nguyen in the first round of the 145-pound bracket. It took until the second period for Port and Nguyen to get going. Port escaped and picked up a takedown while Nguyen got a reversal to go to the third 3-2 in Port’s favor.
Port added two near-fall points and another takedown for the 7-2 win.
“For Brock, it wasn’t his best match but he controlled the match,” Red Raiders coach Mike Maney said. “Tomorrow we got to get that offense going a little earlier.”
It was Port’s only match of the day but it was a big one as he earned his 100th of his career. It’s a feat that only one other Bellefonte wrestler has achieved by his junior year — Port’s cousin Mitchell.
Port will face Council Rock South’s Lucas Maroccio in the quarterfinals.
“It adds onto the history and legacy that we want to continue to build upon at Bellefonte,” Maney said. “He was able to do it in his junior year, which is even more amazing of an accomplishment. He joins a pretty select group and should be proud of that accomplishment.”
Philipsburg-Osceola ended day one searching for points. Against the state’s best, they were hard to come by.
Tentative starts kept the Mounties from building momentum.
Weitoish survived his preliminary round to win 1-0 over Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards, but couldn’t pull the upset over District 3 champion Edmond Ruth in their first-round match, falling 2-1. Ruth, a freshman at Susquehanna Township, is the younger sibling of former Penn State standout and three-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth.
“He was awful tight,” P-O coach Tim McCamley said after Weitoish’s preliminary win. “He didn’t open up and then he wrestled awful close to the vest. He battled through though.”
But in the senior’s second match, Ruth stole the show. Even as a freshman, the Indians’ 145-pounder flashed the mental and physical gifts to outmaneuver his more seasoned opponent. The pair went to extra time after ending regulation tied 1-1.
“You can’t shake his confidence,” Indians’ assistant coach Mike Dugan said. “He’s grown a lot overall in the last couple of months and at districts everything started to gel together.”
At 126 pounds, P-O senior Bryce Bennett stayed ear-to-ear with Waynesburg’s Cole Rush early, but gave up a late takedown to end the first period. After Rush gained a leg and the lead, he stayed in command the rest of the way en route to a 5-0 victory.
“(Bennett) was sort of overpowered in that match,” McCamley said. “He was a little bit too stationary, a sitting target. He has to get more movement.”
Bennett fell 2-0 to Pennridge’s Kordell Rush in the first round of consolations to end his tournament.
Weitoish will face Franklin Regional’s Ryan Krause in the second round of consolations, which start at 9 a.m. Friday.
At 132 pounds, Koleno lost his first-round match 3-2 to Council Rock South’s Zack Trampe. The Eagles’ sophomore bounced back in consolations to take an 8-6 decision over Boyertown’s Garrett Mauger. He will face Parkland’s Jacob Lizak in the second consolation round.
“He’s pretty easygoing,” Millward said of his 132-pounder. “He can take that stuff in stride and move on to the next round. He wrestled a great bout, just didn’t score enough points. It’s hard to feel bad with the way that he wrestled. Overall, he had a nice first day in the tournament. I have good feelings leaving here tonight.”
Stover was the lone Little Lion in the tournament.
He squared off with Canon-McMillan’s Logan Marci in the first round at 113 pounds.
Marci looked like Jason Nolf putting on a takedown clinic. He tallied 10 takedowns in a 23-8 technical fall of Stover in 4:28. Stover responded nicely to the loss.
In the first round of the consolation bracket, he took Downingtown East’s James Strommer to sudden victory. Stover scored a takedown with 38 seconds remaining for the 5-3 win. He will face Aidan Burke of Council Rock North.
“He ran into that buzzsaw right away,” State College coach Ryan Cummins said. “For him to come back, that’s showing a lot of mental toughness. This is great experience for him.”
The Red Raiders’ Chase Gardner was able to compete.
It was uncertain whether he would compete after getting slammed in the Northwest Regional tournament last weekend. Gardner was cleared Thursday morning to compete.
“For Chase, it was a blessing for him to compete,” Maney said. “He struggled to get his offense going. Hopefully, he can take a learning experience from this. It’s quite a goal to get here.”
Gardner went 0-2 on the day at 152 pounds and was eliminated. He was pinned in his first match and lost 7-0 in the consolation round.
In Class AA, the Rams’ Yearick and Jared Hurd were making their first trips to the Giant Center as competitors.
Yearick was alone after day one.
“You never know how kids are going to react to the state tournament,” Rams coach Joel Brinker said. “You can prep all you want, but you just don’t know how they are going to respond being here.”
Hurd started the day for Penns Valley with a 145-pound preliminary match against Commodore Perry’s John Mott. Mott used a takedown and three near-fall points to hold a 5-0 lead after one period. Mott added another takedown in the second for the 7-0 lead to open the third period.
With 1:01 remaining in the match, Mott turned Hurd to his back and collected the pin.
Yearick’s day didn’t start any better at 113 pounds.
He opened with Williams Valley’s Willy Girard. Yearick lost 6-0 to Girard previously this year. Girard again came out on top with a pin in 1:51.
“Both of them were a little flat in the first round,” Brinker said. “It doesn’t take away from their year. You’re in the top 20 in the state getting here, that’s a heck of an accomplishment in itself.”
In the first round of the consolations, Yearick got Church Farm School’s Sebastian Corrales.
The pair had a scoreless first period. Yearick started the second in the bottom position. He got a sitting switch and earned the reversal points, which held up for a 2-0 win.
He will face Brockway’s Mitchell Overbeck on Friday morning.
“A win is a win for Darren,” Brinker said. “I’ll take 2-0 wins the rest of the tournament. I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty. We’re happy he is moving on tomorrow.”
Hurd didn’t have the same result in his consolation match with Lehighton’s Tegan Durishin.
Trailing 5-0, Hurd got an optional start from Durishin to start the third. Durishin went into takedown mode, tacking on three in the period for the 11-3 win.
“You got to look at the positives,” Brinker said. “Jared had a very successful season. We really congratulate Jared.”