By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
For wrestling coaches, fans and parents, there are few more stressful situations.
Their wrestler is facing a do-or-die match for the last chance to qualify for the state tournament. The anxiety, and for some, the consequent disappointment, is compounded if the wrestler is a senior.
Fans of the NCAA basketball tournament say its one-and-done aspect are what make it one of the most exciting times of the year. Not so in wrestling. Excruciating is a more accurate adjective.
Watching your son or your wrestler battling for that final chance at Hershey may be even more uncomfortable than those harder-than-slate bleacher seats at the so-called Magic Dome. Those bleachers are further past their time than the Philadelphia Phillies infield, but major renovations are planned and should be completed before next season.
But I digress.
In Saturday’s consolation finals, in which the winner wrestles this week in Hershey, and the loser saw his season, or career, come to an abrupt end, several Valley athletes were among those sustaining heartbreaking defeats.
Lewisburg sophomore Brian Friery, who was undefeated two weeks ago, saw his promising season end in a 2-1 loss to fellow sophomore Angelo Barberio of Muncy in the consolation final at 106 pounds. Friery qualified for the state tournament as a freshman.
In the 113 consy final, one Valley wrestler was guaranteed a state berth and the other a season-ending defeat. Red-hot Lewisburg sophomore Jordan Gessner got the nod, with a 5-2 win over Warrior Run junior Eric Hunt.
Milton sophomores Gage Heller, at 182, and Brandon Stokes, at 195, each endured one-point losses in their last-chance matches, with Heller’s bout with Hughesville senior Matt Herr going to overtime.
The most unlucky of all were seniors Brian LeBarron of Warrior Run and David Burke of Danville, who battled back to get one last shot at Hershey only to fall short in the consolation final.
Some might think from watching their battles in the last three 152-pound finals, that Mifflinburg’s Cole Walter and Southern Columbia’s Blake Marks are bitter enemies.
They would be incorrect.
Though the two are probably not making dinner plans any time soon, there is plenty of respect.
Walter said after his 9-3 win over Marks on Saturday night in the regionals, his third win in a row over the Tiger, that he hopes both make it to Saturday’s championship final.
“It will be good for our section and our district for us to get to the final,” Walter said.
Marks told a fellow reporter that, despite the losses and the sore shoulder he receiver from Saturday’s physical encounter with Walter, those matches will prove beneficial. He said wrestling Walter will help him when he faces the tough competition that always awaits in the Giant Center.
Scoping it out
Milton senior Ryan Preisch is on a roll as he returns to Hershey for his last shot at a gold medal. He won bronze a year ago.
Preisch said Saturday night that he would start looking at the guys in his weight class (160) who are ranked ahead of him and he has already watched some of them in action.
“I have wrestled some of them, and I’m not worried about it. If I wrestle my way, I can’t lose,” he said.
One of those in his bracket is Coudersport’s unbeaten Kyle Bova, the returning 152-pound runner-up, who has been ranked No. 1 all season by Off the Mat.
“I wrestled him two years ago at states. I think that I will be fine with him. I’ve seen him wrestle and I’ve watched a bunch of his matches, I know how he wrestles. I’ll be good,” said Preisch, who beat Bova 8-0 in 2012.
The two are paired in opposite brackets so, unless both lose earlier, they would not meet until the final.
The patriarch of the Cesari wrestling family, Joe Cesari Sr., who officiated at regionals over the weekend, is the proud grandfather of the latest Cesari to make his mark in the sport.
Matt Joseph Cesari, a senior at Leesport High School in Raleigh, N.C., recently completed his high school wrestling career with his fourth appearance in the state tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum, finishing fourth at 152 pounds.
Matt, son of Joe Jr., was 40-3 as a senior and 161-42 for his career, with 103 pins.
The younger Cesari had among his goals to surpass some of the accomplishments of his father and wrestling uncles, Mark and Steve. He did that.
He surpassed the win and pin totals of his dad and his uncles, who all wrestled at North Schuylkill, where their father was a successful head coach.
Steve was 155-22-2, Joe Jr. was 154-6-1 with 101 pins, and Mark was 138-8.
Joe Sr. said his grandson accomplished all of the goals while feeling the pressure of wrestling in the shadows of his dad, uncles and grandfather.
Matt’s record is the best in the history of Leesport.