By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT — The number of state qualifiers is lower than in recent seasons, but the Valley is sending quality, if not quantity, to this week’s PIAA wrestling championships.
Five of the 10 Valley wrestlers to earn state berths in Saturday’s Northeast Regional Class AA tournament are headed to Hershey as champions. One of two in the Class AAA Northwest Regional in Altoona on Saturday is also en route to the state tournament as a champ.
Among the champions was Line Mountain junior 113-pounder Cameron Newman, whose 4-2 victory at 113 pounds over Montgomery’s Kyle Drick was the 100th of the Eagle’s career.
Other Valley champions were Southern Columbia cousins Todd and Kent Lane, at 120 and 138 pounds, respectively; Mifflinburg’s Cole Walter, with a third finals victory in as many weeks over Southern’s Blake Marks at 152; and Milton’s Ryan Preisch, who also claimed his third straight title win over Benton’s Jeric Kasunic.
Another Valley finalist, Midd-West’s Alex Lieberman at 170, chose to forfeit the championship to Montoursville’s Garrett Hoffman.
The top three place-winners in each weight class advance to the state tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday.
The other Valley state qualifiers, all third-place finishers, are Lewisburg’s Ryan Gessner (113), Warrior Run’s Zack LeBarron (120); and Lewisburg’s Max Reed (160).
In the Northwest Regional, Shikellamy’s Dwayne Pepper won at 220 pounds, beating Ian Mallory of General McLane 9-4. Selinsgrove’s Andrew Boob finished third at 220 and is also off to Hershey.
Although the score didn’t indicate so, Mifflinburg’s Walter seemed to put more distance between him and Southern’s Marks with his 9-3 win.
Walter, now 40-2 on the season, was trying to achieve a goal that his coaches presented to him before the final, to win by technical fall.
But Walter, who pushed the pace from start to finish, was pleased to move on to Hershey as a sectional, district and regional champion.
Walter, a junior, finished third in the state as a freshman and seventh last year when he was battling a breathing problem.
“(My coaches) told me you want to start off strong here, really push it and I knew this would be the first tournament that would set me up better for my first couple matches (in Hershey) so that’s what I had to do,” Walter said.