By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
The tournament semifinals are slated for 6:30 p.m. today, followed by 3rd- and 4th-round consolations. The championship and consolation finals will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, run concurrently on four mats.
Moving on the the championship quarters with wins Thursday were:
Breese; Seth Hogue (113), Michael Bartolo (126) and Cole Rickert (220), all of Reynolds, and Faris Messai (113) of Jamestown.
Bouncing back after losses for wins in the consolations were: Gage Bayless (106), Mike Millero (170) and Gene Ringer (285), all of Reynolds. Those wrestlers won’t know their next opponents until the quarterfinal losers drop down into the consys.
Eliminated by two straight losses were: Michael Lineman (106), Greenville; Levi Stoyer (145) and Austin Moffett (182), both of Reynolds, and Mohamed Messai (182), Jamestown.
The losses for Stoyer marked an end to an outstanding career for the Raider, who had placed 7th the previous year at state. Moffett, who finished 4th at regions, gained entry into the tournament when region runner-up Zach Bruce of Cranberry pulled out because of a leg injury suffered in the region finals.
Breese wrestled in the final match of the 1st round and it seemed to go on forever. Breese downed Devin Reed of Everett, 9-5, in the session’s final bout. He weathered an injury timeout in which his left shoulder was examined, and spent nearly 15 minutes on a chair at the edge of the mat afterward recovering and listening to tips from his coaches.
“I was ready for that to be over,” Breese told The Associated Press. “It’s just good to get the first match out of the way and get the feel for the year and how it’s going to turn out. All the pressure’s on my shoulders coming into this tournament — as returning state champ — and I just want to get all the kinks and stuff out right now.”
Breese worked Reed for a pair of 1st-period takedowns and a 4-1 lead before Reed worked a wrist roll for a 2nd-period reversal. Breese countered with the exact same move and added a nearfall to break it open.
“He was trying to stop my underhooks; that worked for him I guess,” Breese told The AP. “I just need to keep my goal in mind — be a state champion — and that just drives me.”
Following is a look at weight classes involving locals on opening day:
106—The tourney got off to a slow start for the local contingent. Bayless bowed to Angel Barberio of Muncy, 6-2, while Lineman lost to Alan Diltz of Benton, 12-2. In the consolations that followed, Bayless defeated William Girard of Williams Valley, 8-6, to move on, while Lineman was eliminated by Bentworth’s Hunter Neely, 6-0.
113—Things got better at 113. Sophomores Faris Messai defeated Panther Valley’s Lenny Ogozalek, 6-4, while Hogue was impressive in a 5-2 victory over Palisades’ Jacob Wasser, a 4th-place finisher at 106 last year.
This morning, Messai (30-5) will face Bedford’s Jonathan Gabrial (27-5), while Hogue (35-9) meets Southmoreland’s Southwest Region champ Austin Griffiths (35-3), who finished was 5th at 106 last season. If Messai and Hogue both win, they would clash in the semifinals. Messai has won 2 earlier meetings on the tourney trail against Hogue.
126—Bartolo (33-9) went 2-and-out last year, but got off to a great start in 2014, winning by tech fall, 17-2 in 5:18, over Wyoming Area’s Charles Johnson.
Today Bartolo faces one of the tourney favorites, undefeated John Demaske (41-0) of Jefferson-Morgan.
145—Senior Stoyer dropped a heartbreaking overtime decision, 9-8, to Huntingdon freshman Jacob Oliver. Stoyer (30-5) — who won section, district and region titles this year — then lost to Hunter Harner of Tri-Valley in the consys, 3-1.
“The effort was there, but the complete match wasn’t,” said Reynolds Coach Casey Taylor about Stoyer. “We had high hopes for him, but down here it’s always tough. We’re going to miss him; it’s always hard to say goodbye to our seniors.”
170—Millero put in a lot of extra time, wrestling 2 overtime bouts. In the opener, Millero (41-9) lost to Jefferson-Morgan’s Bill Bowlen, 8-6, in OT; in the consys, he won in OT, 7-5, against Jason Lynch of Saucon Valley.
182—Seniors Mohamed Messai and Moffett both were ousted by 2 straight losses. Messai (32-10) fell to Cody Miller of Hamburg Area, 13-1, then lost to Connor Buttrey of Chestnut Ridge, 5-3, in overtime. Moffett (19-10) bowed to Beth-Catholic’s Jose Ortiz, 15-5, and Colton Dull of Bermudian Springs by fall in 1:14.
220—Fantastic freshman Rickert (31-7) won his opener over South Allegheny’s Seth Hitchens by a 5-2 decision.
This morning he was paired against West Branch junior Reynolds Maines (36-1).
285—Senior Breese (33-0) meets up with Boiling Springs’ Noah Davis (36-11) this morning. Ironically, Boiling Springs is coached by Lakeview’s former 3-time state champ Rod Wright.
Sophomore Ringer dropped his opener, losing a 3-2 Ultimate Tie Breaker to Southmoreland’s Jake Beistel. In the consys, Ringer took on Saul Wilkins of Wilkes-Barre Garfield and Ringer won by UTB, 3-2.
Notes: Other District 10 wrestlers to win preliminary-round matches were: Jarrett Carter (113); George McGuire, 138; Brad Malinowski (152), Fort LeBoeuf; Tyler Vath (132) and Dylan Reynolds (182), Saegertown; Robert Boozer (152), Cochranton; Ryan Morris (195), Corry. .... PCN will air exclusive live coverage of the PIAA AA Championships Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m. followed by the AAA finals at 6:30 p.m. Coverage can also be viewed online and on-the-go during the network airing by subscribing to PCN Select at pcntv.com/pcn-plus/subscribe-to-premium-content Re-airs have been scheduled for Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 a.m. ... To learn more about wrestlers advancing through the championship brackets, visit www.piaa.org . ... Also, WMVL (Cool 101.7 FM) of Meadville will broadcast sessions of the tournament.