HERSHEY – It seemed like a long time ago that Vito Pasone entered the Wyoming Valley Conference with so much promise.
Four years ago, he started his road to prominence with a District 2 gold medal as a freshman.
After a few setbacks like going 0-2 in his first state tournament as a freshman and missing the tournament as a sophomore, he's finally had some fortunate things go his way.
Now a senior, he has a chance to end his career in one of the best ways possible -- a state title.
The Meyers star advanced to the finals of the PIAA Class 2A Championships on Friday night defeating Bedford's Ryan Easter, 3-0 in the state semifinal.
"It's unbelievable right now," Pasone said. "My goal is to win states. I'm one step closer and hopefully things will work out for me."
Pasone is the first 2A finalist for the Wyoming Valley Conference since Berwick's Nick Venditti advanced in 2008. He's the second consecutive state finalist for the finalist joining Coughlin's Josh Popple, who reached a Class 3A final last year. And he's the first Mohawk to get to the final bout of the season since Joe Rovelli won it all in 2004.
Pasone, who has a record of 36-4 and broke Rovelli's school record of career wins (he currently has 145 wins), will face Trinity junior Ryan Diehl for the gold medal at 2 p.m. today at Hershey's Giant Center.
Diehl, a West Virginia state champ from last year, knocked off defending state champion, Jason Nolf from Kittaning in the semis.
Pasone isn't going to change anything for the biggest match of his career.
"I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing the last couple weeks," he said. "Just hang it all out there because I don't want to look back on my career, especially my senior year and have regrets and so far I haven't.
"I feel like since I'm in the final I can definitely go with that competition."
Pasone jetted out to a 2-0 lead just 3 seconds into the match when he got a quick takedown. For the rest of the 1:57 in the first period, Easter attempted to get up several times, but the Mohawk kept tossing him to the mat.
The same thing happened in the second period when Pasone deferred to the third period and the Bedford sophomore chose bottom position. That's nearly 4 minutes Pasone kept Easter on the mat. He almost worked a tilt at one point, but they rolled out of bounds.
"I stalled as much as I could without giving up any points and I was hoping he would make a mistake where I could capitalize and get some back points," Pasone added.
The third period began with Pasone choosing bottom. And almost as fast as the initial takedown occurred, he scored his third point getting out from bottom as soon as the period started.
From there, Easter and Pasone countered each other's shots, enabling the Mohawk to hang on for the victory.
"My coaches have been instilling in me that I can fight anybody off and score at any point," Pasone noted. "At that point I was just trying to not do something stupid and get caught."
Lake-Lehman's Austin Harry will wrestle for seventh-place this afternoon against Charleroi's Aaron Toth.
Harry, a 126-pound sophomore, lost his quarterfinal bout Friday morning, but rebounded to win his second round consolation match in the afternoon to secure a medal by knocking off Zane Heller from Bethlehem Catholic, 5-2. He then lost his third round consolation 3-1 to Schuylkill Valley's Arty Walsh to end up in the seventh-place bout.
"It's a great feeling (to clinch a medal). You work so hard every single day 24/7 and the ultimate goal is to get on that podium," Harry said. "Obviously, you want to get as high as you can, so you got to keep taking it one match at a time."
Pasone advanced to the semis with a victory over Ligonier Valley's Joshua Patrick. It marked the second straight season that Pasone defeated Patrick in the tournament. This time, it made Pasone at least a sixth-place medalist, which improves on last year's seventh-place showing.
In the bout, Pasone pulled off the win late by grabbing a reversal with just 20 seconds remaining.
Harry lost to Nick Zanetta from Keystone Oaks in the quarters. In the setback, Harry got a late takedown trimmed his deficit to 5-4. He had to let Zanetta up and move to score to 6-4 to try for another two points. But he ran out of time before he could even the match.
"Zanetta's tough and I gave up two early takedowns, which kind of messed my game plan up to get that first two and it didn't happen," Harry added. "So I had to keep wrestling and, unfortunately, it didn't work out my way."
Wyoming Area 132-pounder Andy Schutz saw his season conclude earlier than he would have wanted. The junior dropped a pair of bouts Friday morning and was eliminated from medal contention. In his quarterfinal match, he was pinned by Biglerville's Laike Gardner and then lost via fall in the second round of consolations to Curwensville's Jake Keller.
Schutz still performed well in what many consider to be one of the toughest brackets in the 2A tourney by getting a major decision in the first round and is one of just 12 wrestlers in his weight to win a match in the event.
His season ends with a stellar 31-5 record, a third District 2 title and a third-place finish at the Northeast Regional Tournament. He currently sits with 97 career wins for the up-and-coming Warriors program and will look to improve on this year's showing next season.
Harry, who has a rivalry with Schutz, having wrestled each other seven times in the last two seasons, was in the same situation last year and knows how it feels to lose twice in the same day after getting the first win.
"It's one of the worst feelings in the world because you're so close to getting that medal," Harry said.