By Frank Foreman
Ehrin Lee’s smile following his quarterfinal win Friday at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships told the whole story.
Lee has had his eyes on the state championships all season long, and just getting there wasn’t enough. The Titusville 160-pounder has wrestled like one of the best grapplers in the state during the tournament thus far, and his 3-2 overtime win over Northampton’s Bobby Fehr proved that if nothing else, he’s one of the four best wrestlers in his weight class.
A nail biter throughout, Lee escaped for a point in the third overtime, and held off a flurry by Fehr in the final seconds to earn a trip to the semifinals today.
It was a win that lee so desperately deserved.
“I’m going to live off that rush for a bit,” Lee said. “(Fehr) was ranked ahead of me, so it feels pretty good knocking him off.”
Knocking off Fehr was easier said than done, as the Northampton senior didn’t allow for much offense from Lee. After a scoreless first period, Lee scored a point on an escape to take a 1-0 lead. In the third period, Fehr was on bottom when he reversed Lee for two points, followed by another escape from Lee to even the bout.
The first overtime period went scoreless, as did the second when Lee rode Fehr out. Less than 10 seconds into the third overtime, Lee escaped, and avoided any chance of a Fehr comeback to snag the win.
“Ehrin has a good head for the sport,” Titusville head coach Mo Burns said. “We put a game plan together and knew (Fehr) would come straight at us. We had to weather the storm, and we did.”
As for reaching the championship semifinals, Lee has been waiting a long time for this moment. Friday’s win may be the momentum jolt that gets Lee to the finals.
“It’s definitely a big momentum boost,” Lee said. “Hopefully it carries into the semifinals. It gives me high hopes to make the finals now.”
Wheeling comes through in the clutch
It was looking rather bleak for General McLane 113-pound wrestler Joe Wheeling to make it to the semifinals, considering he was trailing 4-0 entering the final frame during his quarterfinal bout.
But counting Wheeling out of any match is a mistake, and the Lancer senior showed a ton of heart Friday, working his way back into the bout, forcing overtime, and earning a 6-4 decision over North Allegheny’s Luke Landefeld.
Wheeling found himself in trouble early, giving up a takedown and a pair of back points to Landefeld in the first period.
A scoreless second frame gave way to an exciting third, where Wheeling, who started in the down position, scored a reverse and a pair of back points of his own to even the bout a 4-4.
In overtime, Wheeling scored the winning takedown, punching his ticket to the semifinals.
“You can’t get worried, or else you get frustrated,” Wheeling said. “You have to keep working and continue to work for positioning.”
As for GM head coach Ryan Cook, there was never a moment of panic, even when his 113-pounder fell behind 4-0.
Perhaps a little concern is more accurate.
“I wouldn’t say panic, because it all happened in the first period,” Cook said. “Worried? Yeah.”
Now Wheeling gets one step closer to realizing his dream of a state title. And in the process, he took care of that other thing that has been hanging over him for quite some time.
“It feels good to get that monkey off my back,” Wheeling said about finally medaling at states. “Now I can go out and just wrestle.”
Wheeling’s success stems from talent and work ethic. Nobody knows that better than Cook.
“That match is a tribute to Joe’s training,” Cook said. “He works so hard. From training, diet and in the room, he does it right. It’s nice to have a person who does everything right get the right result.”
Wheeling wasn’t the only Lancer still wrestling Friday, as teammate Chris Laird was in action in the second round of the 195-pound consolation bracket. Unfortunately for Laird, he didn’t have the same success as Wheeling, losing to DuBois’ Tom Sleigh in a 5-0 decision.