Less than a week ago, Brad Emerick was hit with his first loss of the season, falling to 36-1 by taking second at the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament.
No one ever wants to lose a match, but the setback for the Coughlin senior was nothing but positives.
First, he lost by just one point to Nazareth’s Aaron Bradley, who is ranked second in the nation. It was also the first time all season that Emerick went a full six minutes in one of his matches. His previous bouts all ended via pin, with just two coming in the second period.
The loss for the 285-pounder also meant that’s less pressure as he enters the PIAA Championships at Giant Center in Hershey running today through Saturday.
“That was good. I thought I wrestled tough,” Emerick said. “I just need to score points when it’s there.
“The good thing is I got that tough match in. Now I know I’m in the mix. It’s a bad thing I’m not going in there undefeated but once you get to the state tournament, I feel like everybody is 0-0 and it all restarts.”
The Crusader is one of eight Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers with eyes on a gold medal. Wyoming Valley West’s Kyle Krasavage (126) and Travis Roper (132) and Crestwood’s Matt Hammerstone (145) join Emerick in the 3A event. In Class 2A, GAR’s A.J. Luton (113) and Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry (132) join Wyoming Area teammates Andy Schutz (126) and Nick Heck (138).
Emerick begins his quest to become the first state champion in school history. Just two years ago, former teammate Josh Popple became just the third wrestler ever for the Crusaders to reach the state finals.
In 2011, Popple entered that state tournament in a favorable half of the bracket reaching the state finals. Emerick begins in a similar situation. Not only is Bradley (33-1) on the other end of the bracket, but so is unbeaten Shane Kuhn (38-0) from Kiski Area. Kuhn, who beat Emerick in the fourth round of consolations last season by two points, placed fourth last season.
There’s just one other returning state qualifier that Emerick could face en route to reaching the championship match. That’s Central Tech senior Andrew Welton, who didn’t medal in 2012.
“It seems like I’m on a good side, but I just got to wrestle,” Emerick added. “Everybody’s going to be tough. I just got to wrestle up to my full potential.”
Before the regional final was held, experts were predicting that Emerick and Bradley would meet the next week for the state title. That led to the two not showing much of their arsenals in the regional final.
“I think we were both tentative. We’re both going to states no matter what,” said Emerick. “I think we were both defensive. Just waiting for someone else to make a mistake and capitalize on it.”
Even though Popple lost his state final bout and Emerick was in attendance to see it, he’s not worrying about what happened there or what others think about the school never having a state champ. He’s just concerned about himself
“I hope I get to that position,” Emerick said. “People could say as much as they can and stuff like that, but it’s all personal preference and how I want to do.”