By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
TURBOTVILLE -- Veteran coach Wayne Smythe knew that his Warrior Run wrestling team might be tempted to look past its District 4 Duals opponent, North Penn, in the opening round of the tournament.
His Defenders, seeded No. 2 in the Class AA tourney, were clear favorites over the Panthers, the No. 15 seed with a 9-9 record, and Benton, a team that pounded Warrior Run, 53-21, in a pre-Christmas Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II showdown, was likely lurking as a quarterfinals opponent.
But, if Smythe's crew took even a brief look ahead before facing the outmanned Northern Tier League squad from Blossburg, it wasn't apparent Thursday night. Warrior Run rang up six falls and hammered North Penn 67-6. The Defenders advance to Saturday morning's quarterfinals at Milton and a blockbuster match-up with the Tigers, an unlikely No. 7 seed, who dispatched Southern Columbia, 48-21.
"There wasn't much doubt who our opponent was going to be," Smythe said. "But you have to respect every team in the District 4 tournament because they got there on merit. You can't help but peek ahead, especially as coaches, to prepare for those teams that you hope to get to wrestle but you can't forget the business that you have in front of you and we didn't do that tonight."
The Defenders (15-3) took advantage of three North Penn forfeits, rang up six falls, and got an overtime victory from senior Daniel Breech in a battle of state-ranked wrestlers at 170 pounds. The Panthers' only win didn't come until the next-to-last bout when Nathan Kriner, ranked No. 8 at 285 by Off The Mat rankings, pinned Austin Fiedler in 48 seconds.
"It was a complete team effort," Smythe said. "It's always nice to have most of your guys win. But we saw things to work on and we're anxious to get back in the room (tonight) and do that."
The Defenders got falls from Tyler Hunsberger (120), Doug McCarty (138), Masen Wagner (who was losing, 8-3, when he stuck Lucas Groover at 145), Nick Rohm (160), Matt Kilgus (220) and Zack LeBarron (still unbeaten at 106).
Elias George added a 12-4 major decision at 152 to go with wins by Brandon Giannantonio (132), Hunter Stroup (195) and Breech.
Breech's win over Minnich was the biggest of the night for the Defenders. Minnich, a senior with a 24-4 record, was ranked No. 14 by OTM while Breech (21-3) was tabbed No. 16, and it was Minnich, with an explosive double-leg takedown, who took an early 2-1 lead. He expanded the margin with an escape in the second period. With Minnich slowing down in the third period, Breech escaped and converted a takedown to take a 4-3 lead before Minnich tied the match with an escape with a minute to go in the bout.
Breech forced overtime and then converted a takedown with two seconds left in the sudden-victory period.