By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
HERSHEY – Slow start, fast finish. That was the way it went Thursday morning for the Mercer County contingent at the PIAA State AA Wrestling Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Reynolds High lightweight youngsters Seth Hogue (106) and Michael Bartolo (113) both lost in their first appearances at state. But after that the 8-man group got on a roll and today will send 5 locals into the morning’s quarterfinals, which start at 9 a.m.
Advancing in the winners’ bracket with victories were: Sharon’s Jarray Norris (126) and Michael Bonner (138); Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Austin Matthews (152), and Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285).
Still alive in the consolations are Hogue and teammate Jamar Henry (182). Bartolo was eliminated with 2 losses.
Matthews is the only returning place-winner out of the countians, having ended 8th, 2nd and 2nd he last 3 years. However, they are all shooting for a place on the medals stand in a long day of mat action today. The semifinals are slated for 6:30 this evening, followed by 2 rounds of consolations to set the medals’ matches for Saturday.
The Raiders had some slim hopes for team honors coming in, but in reality the battle is probably for 2nd place. Defending state champ Bethlehem Catholic brought 12 wrestlers into the tournament and is expected to run away with the team title again. Reynolds finished 2nd to Beth-Catholic here last year and again in the PIAA State Team Duals a month ago.
Following is a look at how our locals are faring thus far:
126 — Senior Norris (36-2) put on a dominating display in his opening match against Meyersdale’s Collin Day. Norris, making his 3rd state appearance, led 4-2 after a period, then added a reverse, takedown and near-fall for an 11-3 margin after 2. The Northwest Region champ easily staved off any comeback rally for a 13-7 triumph. Norris will face Zeke Moisey (23-2) of Bethlehem Catholic this morning. Moisey was last year’s 120 runner-up.
138 — Senior Bonner nailed a takedown and backpoints early against Wyomissing Area’s Nick Heck and cruised to his 1st state win. The District 10 champion (34-3) once again put on a takedown display, notching 6 en route to an 18-6 rout of Heck, who had lost only 2 other matches all season. This morning Bonner will take on Juniata’s Southwest Region champ Sean Heggs (38-4), who was pinned by Matthews in the semifinals at 138 last year.
“It’s nice to get out of here early and not have to be around for the consolation round,” said Sharon coach Dave Ciafre regarding a pair of wins by his standout seniors. “It’s nice to win the first one and get that monkey off your back. It was a good round for both of them. They both seemed real relaxed and wrestled their matches. They both were confident on their feet and chose to wrestle that way, We would like to have seen them wrestle down on the mat a little more, but down here you kind of let the kids have more say in what the want to do.”
145 — Stoyer, a junior, didn’t put on a scoring binge like the two Sharon matmen before him, but at state, winning by 1 point is as good as 15. So Stoyer won 1-0. The only point in the match came late in the 2nd frame, when the Northwest Region champ broke free for an escape. Stoyer (40-6) then rode out the final period.
“Levi wrestled a very controlled match against a very tough kid,” said Taylor. “I was worried about that kid.”
In the quarters, Stoyer will tangle with Williamson sophomore Billy Barnes (36-2), the Northeast Region runner-up. If Stoyer gets that far, he will probably face an old nemesis of Reynolds — 2-time state champ Michael Racciato, in the semis. Racciato beat the Matthews brothers – Adam and Austin – in the state finals the last 2 years. He also decisioned Stoyer early in the year.
152 — Three-time state place winner Matthews began his march toward a gold medal with an easy 15-0 tech fall in 3:06. However, Matthews (46-1) suffered a 1st-period bloody nose and there were a few stops in the bout to halt the bleeding. “Austin wrestled an Austin Matthews-kind-of-match,” said Taylor. “He has three more matches to reach his goal.”
Matthews, who lost in the state title bout the last 2 years, this morning will face Blairsville’s Andrew Doak, a sophomore with a 37-2 record.
285 — A junior, Breese lost his first match at state last year, but that was then; this is now. The Northwest Region champ had no trouble in his opening match this year as Breese breezed by Southmoreland sophomore Jacob Beistel, 9-2. Breese dominated on his feet.
“He did a nice job and got that first one out of the way,” said a happy Lakeview coach Tom Tingley. “He was in control the whole way, We have a tough quarterfinals match, but that’s (todayO. It’s good to get through that first one.”
This morning, Breese (34-4) will face Central Columbia’s Alex Shiber (40-3).
106 — Freshman Hogue was pinned in his opening bout by Lewisburg frosh Brian Friery. Hogue fell behind 3-2 in the 1st period, but turned Friery for back points and a 4-3 lead after 2 periods. In the 3rd period, however, Friery turned Hogue with a bar-arm and notched the fall in 4:38.
“He was wrestling well, but he just got trapped and turned over,” said Taylor.
In the consolations, Hogue faced Jefferson-Morgan’s Brandon Howard. Hogue trailed 2-0, but reversed to tie the count. He went up 5-2 after 2 periods and held on for a 6-4 victory.
“He’s a crafty, little guy,” said Taylor of his undersized lightweight. “That was a big, experienced kid he beat there.”
Hogue will wrestle the loser of this morning’s quarterfinal bout between Saegertown’s Devin Brown and Bishop McDevitt’s Tyshawn White.
182 — Henry, a senior, was tied 5-5 in the 3rd period, when he had his arm trapped on a takedown by Valley’s Terrell Fields and went to his back en route to a 10-5 defeat. He reinjured his shoulder on the move.
In the 1st-round consolations against Penns Valley’s Mike Rogers, Henry won a hard-fought 6-4 decision. The match was tied at 4 early in the final frame, but Henry nailed a takedown with about 20 seconds left and rode out for the win.
“I’m really happy with Jamar’s mental toughness to come back,” said Taylor. “It’s his first time here, so to come back and win after hurting a shoulder in the first match was big.”
Henry will meet the loser of Saegertown’s Dylan Reynolds and Benton’s Logan Womelsdorf today.
Eliminated by 2 losses
113 — Bartolo, a sophomore, got off to a slow start in his first match against Bishop McDevitt’s David Pipa. After giving up a penalty point for scissors on the head while blocking a leg shot in the 1st period, Bartolo fell behind 3-0 after an escape and another penalty point. In the 3rd period, the Raider had a pair of escapes, but allowed 2 takedowns and dropped a 7-2 decision.
“He just didn’t wrestle his kind of match,” said Taylor. “He didn’t wrestle like he did a regions. He got frustrated early.”
Dropping into the consys, Bartolo met Beth-Catholic’s Stephen Maloney. The Raider couldn’t get anything going and was blanked, 11-0. Bartolo, who had beaten Maloney earlier in the state Duals, was a District 10 champion and finished the year with a 29-10 record.
Notes: Several other District 10 wrestlers also advanced into today’s quarterfinals with wins Thursday, including: Saegertown’s Devin Brown (106), Tyler Vath (120) and Dylan Reynolds (182); Conneaut Area’s Kyle Lukowich (126); Fort LeBoeuf’s Taylor Fox (160) and Evan Daley (220); Union City’s Tim Vargo (170); Cochranton’s Cam Cyphert (220), and Youngsville’s Jaykup Durlin (220). ... Two D-10 referees are working the state tourney. Ned Bailey worked the AA tourney in the morning, while Chris Straub worked AAA later in the day. Straub will be working the AAA finals on Saturday.