HERSHEY — Heading into the second day of competition at this year’s PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships in Hershey, six Allegheny Mountain League standouts are still working toward securing a spot on the Giant Center podium.
Thursday’s opening session was a rough one for the eight-man AMWL contingent, with Kane senior Teddy Race and Johnsonburg freshman Aiden Zimmerman the only two to advance to this morning’s quarterfinals. Port Allegany’s Bryent and Braedon Johnson, Johnsonburg’s Cole Casilio, and Sheffield’s Ethan Finch each rebounded from opening-round setbacks to stay alive in the wrestlebacks, while the Wolves’ Cameron Whisner and the Rams’ Dalton Stahli lost twice to conclude their postseason runs.
Race, the Northwest Region 170-pound champion, needed to put in some extra work to secure his first-round win. Trailing Hamburg junior Brant Mason 6-4 in the final minute, he got the match-tying takedown with 0:29 remaining, then planted the Southeast No. 4 seed at the 7:12 mark in the first tiebreaker session of overtime.
”Teddy was maybe a little too nervous; he was trying to force some things and gave up a couple points. That match didn’t need to be that close,” Kane coach Mike Swartwood said. “Hopefully we get those first-match jitters out of the way.”
In another nailbiter, Zimmerman edged Southwest No. 3 seed Bryce Enders (Halifax), 2-1, on a last-second escape to secure his quarterfinal spot. Casilio dropped a 7-1 decision in his first match, then needed just 54 seconds to deck Ty Csencsits (Saucon Valley) in his consi opener.
Bryent Johnson led his opening match 3-1 in the third period, but a last-minute takedown turned into a five-point move for the Smethport senior’s opponent, Southeast Region runner-up and two-time state qualifier Connor Brown (Littlestown), with a 6-3 loss sending him into the consis.
There, Johnson made quick work of District 1/12 champion A.J. Stayton (Faith Christian) in the first round of wrestlebacks, getting one near-fall in the first period before turning another one into a pinning combination at 2:36 to move on.
“Bry’s (first) match is one that I know is really frustrating to him, knowing that he had the match won,” Port coach B.J. Greenman said. “Just got ourselves into a bad position, got cradled and lost it. It kind of stinks, but it’s good that he bounced back and got a pin. That’s huge to come back out and not be too upset about it that you can’t wrestle well the next match. We needed to just make it to the next day, reset our brains and figure it out from there.”
Younger brother Braedon fell in the first round to Tyler Cymmerman (Derry Area), the three-time District 7 champ and last year’s fourth-place finisher in the 126-pound bracket, then blanked Damian George (Mount Pleasant), 5-0, in his consi opener.
“I think that’s a winnable match, even though we got pinned. I mean, it is what it is. Once we gave up the 5 from feet to back, I think it kind of took the wind out of his sails, and then it was like, ‘Now I’ve got to make something big happen.’ And then you end up wrestling bad at that point,” Greenman said of the Smethport junior’s opening-round loss. “Up until that point he was right in the match. I think we were better on our feet, we were scoring in good positions, we just couldn’t capitalize on some of them. Some of the positions that Braedon’s been putting kids on their back all year, that kid was able to kind of squirm out on and we lost those positions.
“But that’s against a kid that’s ranked fourth or fifth in the state, so you can’t really be too upset about it,” he added. “His bracket, in my opinion, is probably one of the toughest ones here. You have two returning state champs (Ryan Crookham and Jackson Arrington), plus that kid (Cymmerman) placed, (Northwest champion) Connor Pierce placed. I think you have at least six or seven returning placers in the bracket, and you normally don’t see anywhere close to that. He’s up there with those kids, he’s right up there with anyone that’s going to be placing high. So now we’ve just got to win these next two and get to those (medal-round) matches.”
The Class AA quarterfinals begin this morning at 9 o’clock, followed by the second and third consolation rounds. The evening session starts with the semifinals at 7:30 p.m., with the final rounds of wrestlebacks closing out the night.
The Class AA tournament concludes on Saturday afternoon with the presentation of the PWCA Coach of the Year award at 1:40 p.m., followed by the Parade of Champions and placement matches.
“We’ve got to win one before we lose two. (Race) has to win one more match to get a medal, and that’s what we came down here to do. I’d love it to be first thing in the morning in the quarters, but we’ve got to find a win. A win guarantees us a spot on the podium, and every win from there is just gravy,” Swartwood said.
“I was hoping to come home with two medals. That’s not going to be the case, but we still have a chance to come home with one, and I’d like to think we’re still going to. I don’t want to go home early.”
Quarterfinals involving AMWL wrestlers:
152: NW-2 Aiden Zimmerman (Johnsonburg, fr, 33-7) vs. NE-1 Wesley Barnes (Southern Columbia, fr, 37-9)
170: NW-1 Teddy Race (Kane, sr, 33-2) vs. SW-2 Trent Schultheis (Freedom Area, jr, 37-4)
Consis involving AMWL wrestlers:
113: NW-3 Bryent Johnson (Port Allegany, sr, 25-5) vs. NE-4 Deegan Ross (Lackawanna Trail, fr, 39-11)
126: NW-3 Braedon Johnson (Port Allegany, jr, 27-6) vs. SE-4 David Kreidler (Allentown CC, jr, 31-7)
160: NW-2 Cole Casilio (Johnsonburg, jr, 37-5) vs. SW-5 Ethan Barr (McGuffey, jr, 45-8)
182: NW-3 Ethan Finch (Sheffield, jr, 31-10) vs. SW-6 Myles Baney (Huntingdon, jr, 31-11)