By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
HERSHEY — Austin Matthews didn’t need to stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier to say the words. His wide smile said it all:
The Reynolds High wrestling star erased two years of disappointment in the PIAA State Class AA Championship finals by winning the 152-pound crown Saturday at Hershey Giant Center.
In fact, it was a perfect day for all six Mercer County matmen who competed for medals on Saturday. Lakeview junior Sam Breese duplicated Matthews’ state title, while all four locals in consolation matches also won.
Sharon’s Michael Bonner (138) and Jarray Norris (126) finished 3rd and 5th respectively, while Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamar Henry (182) also both won to finish 7th.
“It’ an amazing feeling,” said Matthews after a tense 4-2 win over Kyle Bova of Coudersport. “A lot of pressure has been lifted. I’m just glad to be going around hugging everyone. I’m happy to be Coach (Casey) Taylor’s first champ. I wish I could have been a three-timer like him, but he showed me how to do it.”
Breese, who edged Nicholas Budd of Port Allegany, 3-1 with a takedown with 2 seconds remaining, almost duplicated the words of the Raider ace when he said, “It feels amazing. I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m not thinking about next year yet. I’m just going to be happy with this for a while. Then I’ll try to come back and repeat.”
Matthews, a son of Curt and Amy Matthews, finished his career with 4 medals - 8th, 2nd, 2nd and finally the gold. Against Bova, who finished 39-2 with both losses to Matthews, the Raider star nailed an early takedown and made it stand up for the victory.
“He deserved it so much,” said an emotional second-year head coach Taylor shortly after the match. “He worked so hard. He came early everyday to work with Levi Stoyer. He’s just a great kid. I’m glad he was able to add his named to the list of Reynolds’ state champions.
“Good thing he won, I don’t know what I’d have told him if he didn’t,” said Taylor with a laugh. “You tell kids that hard work pays off and Austin is an example of that.
“I knew this match would be a lot different than the last time they met (an 18-6 Matthews win in the region finals). They came in with a different game plan and so did we. Austin wrestled a smart match and got the win he deserved.”
The state title capped one of the best careers in history for local wrestlers. The Clarion-bound standout won 4 titles each at sections, districts and regions. He finished this season with a record of 49-1 and a career mark of 183-17. The win total is second to only the 196 posted by Mason Beckman in the storied Reynolds history books.
Lakeview junior Breese, a son of Sam Breese and Candy Burnett, put his name in the Sailors history books by becoming only the second state champ in school history. Rod Wright won three times from 1985-87. And Breese has shot at two.
His finals match with Budd was a thriller. He escaped in the second period and Budd did the same in the third. Then with the clock ticking down, Budd took a leg shot and Breese countered and spun behind for a takedown and the victory.
“He controlled the pace and controlled the position all match,” said a happy Sailors coach Tom Tingley. “We worked hard on offense and he wrestled a good smart match. Sam had the advantage if the match went to ultimate tiebreaker. The other kid knew what he had to do so you give him credit for that.”
“He’s better than most heavyweights on his feet,” said Breese of Budd. “He took about three good shots that I was able to counter.
The win lifted Breese’s season record to 37-4 and his career mark to 90-26. He placed first at sections and regions, while taking third at districts.
Following is a look at the consolation rounds involving locals:
3rd place consys
Sharon senior Bonner faced rival Brock Zacherl of Brookville in a rematch of the Northwest Region final, where Zacherl won in overtime after a controversial stalling call against Bonner tied up the regulation match with 3 seconds to go. This time, there were no stalling calls, just an exciting hard-fought battle. Bonner had a pair of takedowns to make the difference in a 5-3 victory.
“I said, if he couldn’t be in the finals, I wanted to seem him wrestle (Zacherl),” said Sharon Coach Dave Ciafre. “He made up for what happened last week. He wrestled a great tournament.”
Bonner finished his career with a senior record of 37-4, winning section and district crowns.
5th place consys
Tiger senior Norris took on sophomore Kent Lane of Southern Columbia. Norris trailed 2-1 after the opening period, but notched an escape and takedown in the second to go on top 4-2. In the third period, Lane reciprocated with an escape and takedown, but Norris broke free for a point to tie the count at 5 and force overtime . In OT, Norris countered a leg shot and stepped over for takedown and back points in a 10-5 victory.
“He stepped it up there,” said a happy Coach Ciafre. “Part of that (big smile on Norris’s face coming off the mat) was by taking fifth, he beat (his dad/assistant coach) Larry who was sixth. Jarray was down here three times and Larry twice. It’s a friendly rivalry, but nobody was happier about Jarray taking fifth than his dad.”
“I’m going to miss those two guys, I’ve had them both since they were in 9th grade. For four years they did everything I asked of them. They are two great kids. I told them both before those matches today that they have the rare opportunity to win their last high school match. Most other kids end up losing their final matches. I think they are both going to Clarion so it will be nice to have them wrestling only an hour away.”
Norris finished his senior year with a 39-4 record, winning District 10 and Northwest Region crowns.
7th place consys
Reynolds junior Stoyer left Hershey with a win by defeating Briton Shelton of Bermudian Springs, 5-1. Stoyer had an escape and takedown in the second period, then added a late takedown with seconds remaining in the match. He finished his season with a 42-8 record, winning section, district and region championships.
“Levi had a tremendous year,” said Coach Taylor. “Early in the season he wasn’t so sure of himself. But he developed into a leader and a very good wrestler. He worked with Austin everyday, which made him better, but he also helped Austin get where he’s at today. And Levi will be back next year.”
Raider senior Henry finished out his career in style with a 8-6 win over Garett Wesneski of Canton. Henry copped a reverse and nearfall for a 5-0 lead in the second period and was never threatened the rest of the way as he easily staved off takedown attempts near the end of the bout.
“It was a nice way for Jamar to finish his career,” said Taylor. “He has done a great job for us. His win made the day perfect for us and Raider Nation.”
Henry finished the season with a 38-12 record. He was a section champ, while finishing runner-up at districts and regions.