By Drew Karpen
March 8, 2013 7:00 a.m. HERSHEY —
Coming into the Class AAA PIAA wrestling championships at the Giant Center in Hershey on Thursday, the General McLane wrestling team was looking strong.
The Lancers entered the championship field with five participants. After a couple hours of competition that number dwindled. McLane found four of its five grapplers fighting for their season in the consolation round. However Mike Sutton and Ossie Bowers were able to salvage that by becoming the second and third Lancer to advance to today’s matches.
“It’s bittersweet,” General McLane head coach Ryan Cook. “This is the toughest tournament in the nation. All the kids have to believe that they are going to be here another day.”
The lone Lancer that advanced to the quarterfinals was junior Joe Wheeling at 106 pounds.
“Yeah he shook off a little first match jitters,” Cook said. “We know that Joe is going to come on in the end. He is just so well conditioned. He is going to slow kids down in the end.”
It wasn’t looking good for Wheeling at the start, as he fell behind 4-1 to Quakertown’s Collyn Dorney after the first period. That’s when Wheeling turned it on. At the beginning of the second period, Wheeling recorded an escape point. And with 46 seconds remaining in the period he tied it up with a takedown.
Wheeling continued to wear out his opponent, registering another takedown early in the third and then put it away with a two-point near fall for the 8-4 victory.
“It’s just good to get that first win and build my confidence,” Wheeling said. “I just kept wearing on him and it looked like he was getting tired. After the first period I could tell he was getting tired so I just wanted to keep the pressure on him.”
Wheeling will be back in action in the quarters today at 1:30 p.m. against Nazareth’s Tyrone Klump.
After losing his preliminary round match, Sutton knew he had to step it up. With his season on the line, Sutton gutted out a 3-2 decision over Rashon Lusane of Norristown in the first round of the consolations at 152 pounds.
“He was hard to take down,” Sutton said. ‘I was just able to get one at the end. I think this takes a load off my shoulders. Everyone expected me to be in the winner’s bracket. That is a lot of pressure.”
With the score tied at 1-1 entering the third, Sutton picked up two back points with 19 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Lusane would add an escape point but it was too little too late.
Also advancing to see another day was Bowers. The senior could arguably have had the toughest draw in the tournament at 160 pounds. In the preliminary round, Bowers was paired up with last year’s state champion at 152 pounds, Garrett Peppelman. Peppelman defeated Bowers by a 15-5 major decision.
“I wrestled him when I was younger,” Bowers said. “He is a really good wrestler and I did my best.”
Bowers put that behind him to win a thrilling 5-3 decision in overtime. With the score tied at 3-3, Bowers opponent, Ben Schweiger of North Allegheny, called an injury timeout. After the delay, Bowers wasted no time to record a two-point near fall with seconds remaining on the clock.
“I was a little nervous there,” Bowers said. “I got my two points at the end and was able to come away with the win.”
McLane did have two grapplers who were eliminated after the day’s competition.
Freshman Hunter Hendricks was the first Lancer to be eliminated, going two and out and at 113 pounds. Hendricks fell behind 8-2 after two periods in his opening round match against Chambersburg’s Tanner Shoap. Shoap ended up winning the bout 8-3. Hendricks came back in the first round of consolations but was unable to stay alive in the championships, losing a 12-7 decision to Gateway’s A.J. Wilkins.
Also getting eliminated was Chris Laird at 182 pounds. Laird lost a 15-4 major decision in the preliminary round over Dallastown’s Cooper Deller before being eliminated on a 5-0 decision to North Penn’s Alex Price.
Lee remains in the hunt
Titusville’s 160-pounder Ehrin Lee had a mixture of heartbreak and sweet redemption in his two bouts of the day. Lee opened his tournament with a 3-2 tiebreaker loss to Academy Park’s Abner Thompson.
“In a tournament like this you have to let it go,” Lee said about his opening round loss. “If you don’t then it will just eat you up.”
Lee had no problem putting it behind him in his first round consolation match. Lee led from the start to record a 10-3 decision over Lucas Markowitz of Delaware Valley.
“It’s huge,” Lee said. “But there is going to be more pressure tomorrow to win that first one to place.”