LEHMAN TWP. — Admittedly, Dustin Jones came out for wrestling because he wanted to help Lake-Lehman reach new heights.
The junior heavyweight, though, had a personal itch to scratch after missing time last season with an injury.
I felt like I could help out the team. I was going to focus on football, but I really wanted to help out the guys, he said. Last year, not being able to compete, was tough. It was like I was getting kicked out of the sport without doing anything wrong.
So far, so good for Jones on the opening day of the District 2 Class 2A tournament.
Jones gave up an early takedown to Scranton Prep's Nick Stahl but immediately reversed the Cavalier and recorded the first-period fall.
Jones is one of 10 Black Knights to advance to this morning's semifinals, matched by Western Wayne, which also sent 10 into the next round.
Seeded No. 3 entering the tournament, Jones had racked up an impressive 13-3 record. No doubt, his resume was pretty accomplished – which included a highly-successful freshman season that culminated with a victory at the Pennsylvania state junior tournament.
But the injury bug bit Jones last year.
You think to yourself, you are going to be fine. But when you see everyone out there, it starts to hit you pretty hard, Jones said. It was disappointing that I couldn't participate.
It won't be easy for the junior, who was also a 1,000-yard rusher on the gridiron. Standing in the way is No. 2 seed Justin Barber in the semifinals. The Lackawanna Trail senior took care of Hanover Area's James Theiman in less than one minute in his quarterfinal. Also alive in the top half of the bracket is GAR's Elijah Gresham, a 20-match winner in 2012-13.
We are excited to have Dustin here. He's a quality athlete that brings stability to those upper weights, Lehman coach Tom Williams said. He's a pleasure to have around. He works so hard. When he came out, he committed himself to being here. I think he has some goals in the sport of wrestling that he has set for himself. I think he really wants to get to Williamsport, then roll the dice and see if he can get to Hershey.
While Jones took care of his opponent in one period, teammate Derek Dragon found himself in a heart-pounding opening-round match with Wyoming Area's Nick O'Brien, who entered with a 4-2 record and was seeded last in the 170-pound bracket.
I wanted to stay calm, and make sure I didn't force anything, Dragon said. I was confident in what I could do. I just wanted to win. I knew it would be tough. There was no doubt in my mind. I knew he was a good wrestler. I just had to do what I had to do.
O'Brien capitalized early, using a single-to-double-leg takedown at the edge of the mat for the 2-1 lead after one. He then caught the top-seeded Dragon in a four-point, second-period move for a 6-3 advantage.
But Dragon never lost his composure, choosing down to start the third and hitting a switch on O'Brien – sending his shoulders to the mat. The Lehman grappler then used his body positioning to stick O'Brien for the third-period fall.
For two schools, it could be a special Saturday in Lehman Township.
Both Wyoming Area and GAR are looking to crown multiple district champs for the first time since the 1990s.
The Warriors have five in the semifinals, which include Andy Schutz and Nick Heck. Schutz is looking to become a four-time district champ, while Heck only has one loss.
It's a stepping stone for us, Warriors coach Steve Mytych said. The goal when you start the season is to have 14 champs. Is that realistic? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. But that's the goal when you start the year. It would be awesome for the program to have multiple champs and put Wyoming Area on the map.
GAR has four in the semis, including A.J. Luton (113), Jamaar Taylor (160), Zac Faust (220) and Elijah Greshman (285)
The guys are wrestling tough, GAR head coach Rick Simon said. It was nice to get the No. 1 seed in some of these weights. But you have to wrestle hard. Seeds don't matter. It's what you see in the paper Sunday that matters. These kids deserve it. They are working hard, constantly improving and getting better.
This is the postseason. This is where it all matters.