By Bill Albright
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- It was a long and at times rocky road that Line Mountain and Mifflinburg traveled Saturday at Williamsport High's Magic Dome as the Top Hat Wrestling Tournament came to a close.
The Eagles went 3-for-7 in the quarterfinals with wins from Brian Earlston (113), Cameron Newman (120) and Blake Carl (132).
The Wildcats went 2-for-5 in the quarters, as Noah Kuba (126) and Cole Walter (152) registered wins.
Earlston was a winner by fall in 1:59 over Morgan Schwarsberger of Red Lion; Newman majored Kyle Stephens of Tri-Valley 14-2; and Carl also won by a major over Cooper Wagner of Mifflinburg, 15-6.
In the semis, Earlston continued his winning ways with a fall over South Western's Gavin Smith in 2:47. Newman dropped a 5-3 decision to Central Mountain's Keanan Bottof before Carl came up short in a wild 13-10 battle with Steve Shannon of Central Columbia.
In his title bout, Earlston, just a freshman, was pitted against Sammy Hepler of Tri-Valley and the Eagle looked strong in defeating Hepler 9-6 for the title.
"This feels real great knowing that I put the time in over the summer and here it is paying off for me," said Earlston. "He (Hepler) and I work out at the same club sometimes so we have a pretty good idea of what each other does and I think that showed."
For Mifflinburg, Kuba was all over Jersey Shore's Noah Ulmer for an 8-1 quarters win, while Walter continued his domination of the weight class with a 17-2 technical fall over Ryan Ramich of Schuylkill Valley.
In the semis, the 'Cats went 1-for-2 when Kuba was blanked 7-0 by eventual champion Josh Giorgio before Walter posted his third straight technical fall, a 19-4 effort in 6:00 over Dakota Nixon of Muncy.
In his bid for the title, Walter was paired against Calgary Christian's Richie Cerebe and although he had to settle for a 4-0 shutout win for the gold medal, he dominated.
"He (Cerebe) stayed in his position real well," said Walter. "I watched him in a couple of other matches where he didn't get out of position and even though I tried, I couldn't get him to come out of it.
"Right now my goal is to beat up on every guy I wrestle to take control of them in the third period and that is what happened when I finally got him out of position a little bit there in the third for a takedown."
As for work ethic, Walter's is top drawer.
"Not only do I go to every practice we have, but I also try to go to other workouts," said Walter, who was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler. "That helps me to keep my pace to go hard the entire six minutes to be able to dominate my opponents."
"He (Walter) is the real deal," said Mifflinburg head coach Dave Murray. "I have said it before, but he is the hardest working high school I ever coached. Right now what you see out there (on the mat) is a result of what he is doing in the room. It is all him."
As for goals for his season, Earlston has one that many wrestlers have.
"I think my biggest goal is to get to Hershey," he said. "Just to get there would be something and placing there would be quite an achievement."
Coming up short of advancing in the winners' bracket were Line Mountain's Collin Klinger (106), Brendan Renn (182), Rayce Boyer (195) and Garrett Kieffer (285).
In addition to Earlston, the Eagles had five other place-winners who battled their way back through the wrestlebacks.
Klinger finished a strong third at 106; Newman came back to finish third at 120; Carl wound up taking fifth at 132; Renn finished seventh at 182; and Boyer came back to finish fifth at 195.
"I am extremely happy with what I saw from these kids in this tournament," said Line Mountain head coach Mike Martz. "Every guy that wrestled here for us competed whether they won or lost. We come to tournaments like this to see what we have to improve on as well as what we are doing well and I think we got that out of this tournament. Collin Klinger wrestled well as we expected him to, and, obviously, Brian (Earlston) was outstanding. Everybody we brought here competed well and the entire coaching staff was happy with what we saw."
Coming up short of keeping their hopes for a title with setbacks in the quarterfinals were Mifflinburg's D'Varon Felicano (113), Cooper Wagner (132) and Ryan Gessner (170).
Working back through the wrestlebacks, the Wildcats had three other place-winners in Feliciano, sixth at 113; Kuba, fifth at 126 and Gessner, eighth at 170.
Murray also liked what he saw from his other place-winners.
"I thought our 113-pounder (Feliciano) did a good job for his first-ever varsity tournament," Murray said. "Noah (Kuba) is wrestling hard and he took a fifth for us and Gessner did a nice job placing. Overall, we saw some good things."