Last updated: March 09. 2014 11:56PM - 4572 Views
By Dave Rosengrant drosengrant@civitasmedia.com



Nathan Cheek of Wyoming Valley West works to escape from Jarod Verkleeren of Belle Vernon Area during Class 3A action at the PIAA Wrestling Championships in Hershey Friday. Cheek won that match and went on to take eighth place.
Nathan Cheek of Wyoming Valley West works to escape from Jarod Verkleeren of Belle Vernon Area during Class 3A action at the PIAA Wrestling Championships in Hershey Friday. Cheek won that match and went on to take eighth place.
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It’s been known to be called the most excruciating round in all of high school wrestling, the fourth round of consolations, which comes after competitors have lost a semifinal match earlier in the day.


Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry admitted it was difficult coming back after he dropped his semifinal round match Friday night. But he couldn’t think about that loss too long. The senior rebounded to win his next two matches and finish third in the state at 132 pounds in Class 2A.


“When I lost to (Hanover’s eventual state champion Ian) Brown (in the semis) … I was right back here getting ready for my next match and lost hours of sleep (Friday) night thinking about that match,” Harry said. “Every time I closed my eyes that match replayed in my head going through things I could’ve done differently. But after that match I knew I had to get refocused for my next match.”


Dallas’ Ryan Monk wasn’t as fortunate Saturday in the Class 3A 285-pound tournament.


The junior lost a tough match in his semifinal Saturday morning, then lost his next two matches of the tournament and finished in sixth place.


“You’re down and you realize that you just lost the semifinal and then you gotta come back and wrestle,” Dallas coach Mike Richards said. “The semifinal is obviously a big letdown for him. You get to that consolation round, they’re all good kids. He didn’t disappoint me at all.


“The goal at the beginning of the season was to get a medal at states and that’s exactly what he did. I am not disappointed at all.”


It was unfortunate circumstances for Monk, but still an impressive season as he won his first District 2 and Northeast Regional golds. And with just three underclassmen wrestling in his bracket this season, the hopes are high for next season that Monk will improve on his showing over the weekend. Only one of those underclassmen finished ahead of Monk in this year’s 285-pound bracket - Pottsgrove runner-up Pat Finn, a junior who beat Monk in the semis.


“Next year, we’re expecting the same thing,” Richards added. “Our goal next year, I told him ‘Sixth this year, next year at least one better.’ That’s our goal.”


An underclassmen show


Of the nine Wyoming Valley Conference state qualifiers this season, only three are seniors. That leaves plenty of room for progression for the other six — juniors Monk, Wyoming Valley West’s Cody Cordes, GAR’s Saul Wilkins and Lake-Lehman’s Derek Dragon; sophomore Charlie Johnson from Wyoming Area and Hazleton Area freshman Jimmy Hoffman.


Of the underclassmen’s 13 combined losses, 10 of those came to state placewinners, including two to eventual champions and one to a runner-up.


That’s nothing to be ashamed of for those six grapplers.


Drought continues


District 2 left Hershey without a gold medalist for the fourth consecutive season, since Abington Heights’ Evan Craig and Lackawanna Trail’s Eric Laytos claimed titles in the 2010 season. The four-year drought for the district is the longest since 2003 when Nanticoke’s Jason Mitkowski ended a four-year absence with a 2A gold.


The Wyoming Valley Conference’s run without a gold medalist was bumped up to seven seasons since Hazleton Area’s Nate Eachus and Lake-Lehman’s Scott Davis were crowned champs in 2007. It’s the longest such streak for the conference since the 1990s, when current Pittston Area coach James Woodall snapped a string of seven straight seasons without a state winner in 1999.


Streak continues


On the bright side, the Wyoming Valley Conference ran its streak of sending a wrestler to the state semifinals to 13 straight seasons when Harry and Monk each reached the semis. The streak started in 2002 when current Wyoming Valley West coach Drew Feldman reached the 275-pound semis in Class 3A.


A historic feat


Kennard Dale senior Chance Marsteller (170) won his fourth state title, capping arguably the finest career in Pennsylvania history. Marsteller (166-0) became the state’s fourth unbeaten champion and first in Class 3A. He was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.


Solanco’s Thomas Haines (285) also became the 12th Pennsylvania wrestler to win four state titles.


Both wrestlers were lauded heavily two times by the huge crowd at the Giant Center by getting standing ovations after winning and then again moments later when they were welcomed into the four-time club by four-time champion Jerry Maurey, who was the second wrestler to accomplish the feat when he did so for Waynesburg.


“It was different. It’s pretty heartwarming. I got some butterflies in my stomach,” Marsteller said of his reaction to the standing ovation. “I might have teared up a little bit.”


Inside the numbers


199: The state record for career wins, which was set by Zack Kemmerer from Upper Perkiomen in 2007.


169: Wins by Craig, the District 2 record.


162: Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer ends his career with that many wins, good for third on the District 2 all-time list.


157: Career wins Austin Harry ends with.


120: Number of wins Valley West’s Nathan Cheek ends his career with. Cheek also grabbed an eighth-place medal.


108: Cheek’s teammate, Cody Cordes enters his senior season with this many wins.


101: Monk’s career wins after his junior season.


100: How many years the PIAA was celebrating over the weekend. Everyone at the Giant Center was reminded of the anniversary every time a wrestler hit the 100-win milestone.


86: The career number of wins Dallas’ Connor Martinez concludes with. A good number since he only wrestled three years of varsity. He also ended with an eighth-place medal in the Class 3A tournament.


84: Career wins for Dragon after his junior season.


57: State record for wins in a season set by Erie Tech’s Solomon Carr in 1983.


50: The D2 record for wins in a season set by Craig in 2010.


48: Career wins for Wyoming Area’s state-qualifying sophomore Charlie Johnson.


40: Hoffman concludes his freshman season with that many wins, a great start to his career.


31: Number of Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers who have advanced to the state semis over the last 13 seasons.


30: Wilkins’ number of wins in his first season participating in the sport.


 
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