WILKES-BARRE — All season long, Crestwood coach J.J. Konigus gets his wrestlers the best matches he can during any tournament or dual meet.
So with his star 132-pounder Dan Ritz in the toughest bracket this weekend at the District 2 Class 3A Tournament, the junior is well-prepared.
The Comet looked in top shape on Friday during the first day of the event at the Kingston Armory. Ritz dominated his only opponent, Tunkhannock’s Bill Manley, with a fall in 5:02 of their quarterfinal bout to advance to today’s semifinals, which begin at 10 a.m.
Manley entered the match coming off a pin of his own and with 15 wins in his last 16 matches. Ritz held a 14-1 lead before notching the fall with his favorite move, a half nelson.
This is where Ritz is hoping all those tough matches this season pays off.
“We don’t care about records. Once you get here, everybody’s zero-zero. It doesn’t matter,” Ritz said about his 22-11 record. “(Wrestling tough matches) definitely helps me. (Konigus) puts me against the better competition and its something to help me out in the postseason.”
It doesn’t get any easier this morning for Ritz, a district runner-up last year who was one win away from the state qualifying match. He faces top-seeded Travis Roper of Wyoming Valley West, a state qualifier last season. The two met earlier this season in a match won by Roper, 4-2.
“We both know what we do well and what we don’t do well,” Ritz said. “So we’re both obviously going to try to work off that. Whoever wants it more is going to win. ”
Also in the bracket, Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer, the No. 2 seed and a returning state medalist, will face Wallenpaupack’s Chase Gallik. It will be a rematch of the finals of last weekend’s Lackawanna League Tournament final, which was won by Gallik with a pin in overtime.
“I knew it was going to be tough coming in. I was deciding to go 32 or 38. I decided on 32 and I feel like I could win this whole thing,” Ritz said. “If I wrestle my best, I could.”
The biggest upset on Day 1 of the 3A tournament came from Hazleton Area freshman Chris Lasecki. The 106-pounder entered the event as the No. 7 seed and took care of second-seeded Tom Bachman from Tunkhannock via 10-1 major decision. He said he wasn’t worried about his seed entering the match.
“It’s a pretty big win for me. I’m a freshman in the district tournament and I get to the semis,” he said.
Up next for Lasecki is a rematch with Stefhen Caple from West Scranton in the semis. Caple, the third-seed, topped Lasecki 7-5 earlier this month in the District 2 Duals Tournament, which was also held at the armory.
The young Cougar is entering this match with confidence.
“Last match, I didn’t wrestle as aggressive as I should and I lost,” Lasecki said. “If I wrestle technical and aggressive, I should be able to beat him.”
Wyoming Valley West, which won the district duals title earlier this month, leads the race for team points with 99.5, leading Delaware Valley (77), Pittston Area (72.5) and West Scranton (71.5).
The Spartans lead the field with eight wrestlers advancing to the semifinals and all 13 wrestlers will be wrestling today. In addition to Roper, James Wright (106), Alex Tirko (113), Nathan Cheek (145), Cody Cordes (160), Jamaar Taylor (182), Ian Moran (220) and Matt Dubaskas (285) represent WVW in the semifinals.
Dubaskas knocked off third-seeded Jakob Rowe from Valley View in the quarters, while Tirko pulled off an upset as well, beating Pittston Area’s Zack Meckes, a No. 4 seed and Class 2A runner-up last season.
“Tirko, we felt confident that if he got down to 113 he could make some noise and he’s doing that,” Spartans coach Drew Feldman said. “Dubaskas, that was just a great match. He lost to him last year at districts and has done a great job for us and hopefully we can get him to regionals.”
Scranton and Delaware Valley each have seven semifinalists, while West Scranton has five. The next Wyoming Valley Conference teams are Pittston Area and Tunkhannock with four apiece.
“We want to place everybody and get everybody to regionals,” Feldman said. “(We’re looking for) dominance. We’re not going to be happy if we have eight semifinalists and we only have one championship.”