---- — By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
HERSHEY -- Perhaps sleep is overrated. Perhaps it is merely wasted on the young.
Southern Columbia's state wrestling street newbies, freshman Blake Marks and senior Jake Becker might want to stay up late the rest of the week.
Becker, Marks and teammate Kent Lane, a sophomore who qualified last year but did not place, all won their preliminary bouts Thursday morning in the Giant Center, moving on to today's quarterfinals. Becker won at 285 pounds, Marks at 152 and Lane at 126.
Also moving on to the quarters, starting at 9 a.m. today, were returning state champions Ryan Solomon (195) and Nazar Mironenko (285), of Milton and Mifflinburg respectively; Line Mountain's Seth Lansberry (138), Midd-West's Zack Heeter (145), Milton's Ryan Preisch (152), Mifflinburg's Ty Walter (160), and Lewisburg's Brandon Smith (220).
Staying alive with first-round consolation wins were Line Mountain's Cameron Newman (106) and Mifflinburg's Cole Walter (132).
Becker, who gutted out an ultimate tiebreak win with a fall in 8 minutes, 17 seconds, said that he and Marks were helped immensely by Lane.
"Having Kent here, having been here last year, really helped," Becker said.
"Last night me and Blake didn't get much sleep. He being a freshman and me being a senior and being here for the first time," Kent said "it's not that bad, just go out and have fun."
All three Tigers did just that and their efforts had Southern place in the team points after day one.
Lane had a first-period takedown and nearly had a reversal in the third before Pen Argyl's Andrew Sutton got a stalemate. But Lane bounced right back and popped his head out for the all-important reversal and four-point lead en route to a 7-0 win.
"He's hard to score on, he has moves most kids don't have. I did have to work harder than normal to win," he said.
Lane said the third-period reversal was big, mainly because of the funky style of Sutton. "In a match like that you gotta put guys away. I felt like he hurt himself; I put my legs in and he tried to shake me off and I got the cradle in."
Marks admitted he was "pretty stunned'' when Fort LeBoeuf senior Tyler Harrington took him down in the first period and nearly turned him.
"I almost gave up two back (points) there, but when I got the back points (five in the second period) it turned the tide for me," he said after his 6-4 win. "The one move he tried to roll out and I caught him on his back."
Marks said he was so nervous in the early going that the word "butterflies" doesn't even describe it.
Becker had to gather himself up after the officials took away a first-period takedown.
"I thought I had it, he took a bad shot and I spun behind him and I thought I had both feet on the mat. I was excited but you just have to fight through it."
Becker took bottom for the final overtime period because he said he didn't think Biglerville's Trevor Stover could hold him down and "it worked out for me."
Freshman Friery was trailing 4-3 to Reynolds freshman Seth Hogue when he turned him and got the fall in 4:38.
"I was very nervous until I got the first takedown (in the first period), then I wasn't as nervous," he said.
"I know I am pretty good on top and (when I turned him), I wanted to seal it there," he said. "I do (feel a lot better now)."
Lansberry, who beat Saegertown's Matt Humes 9-0, said he got frustrated by how Humes was wrestling him.
"You just have to keep on working."
He credited his workouts with Bison Legends Club director and volunteer Bucknell University assistant coach Ian Assael for helping him. "He drove into my brain that you can't think too much during the match. You just have keep doing what your doing and that really helped a lot."
After a scoreless first, Lansberry escaped, got a takedown and two back points, followed by four more in the third on a reversal and two-point nearfall.
"I knew I could ride him on top, and I got the back points and the whole match changed," he said.
Ty Walter had to put his younger brother, Cole's, struggles (he is hampered by a breathing problem which surfaced in last week's regional finals) and his 13-2 loss in last year's opener.
"When I first walked onto the mat I was thinking about that first match last year, I was really hoping that didn't happen again," he said after his 18-7 major over Bryce Fochtman of Berlin Brothersvalley. "Last year I was really nervous and didn't wrestle the way I should have. I'm glad to have that first one out of the way.
"After I got that first takedown I knew I was in a much better place, my nerves went away and it was time to wrestle and I felt much better the rest of the match."
Last week as he took the mat, he didn't know what was wrong with Cole.
"People were coming up to me and emphasizing that he was going to be OK, and it really had me nervous. I was shaking when I went on the mat. I really don't remember my match and I have no idea how I won. I'm just glad I pulled that one out."
Walter, a state place-winner as a sophomore said of his brother, a bronze medalist last year, "It really is tough for him. I think he's definitely one of the best kids in the bracket, if not the best. I feel bad for him. I know what it's like to be injured in that position. You still want it as bad, but you just don't have it. He didn't have it last week."
Heeter, another first-timer, was almost taken down in the first period, but kept his composure and got a takedown of his own en route to a 5-3 win over Conemaugh Township's Tanner Cahill.
"I relaxed a little bit too much and he caught me off guard. I had to keep my hips square, I just had to keep him tied up and stay square. He was definitely a lot bigger, but I just had to relax."
Preisch, after an 8-0 win over Bethlehem Catholic's Mark Maloney, said, "I need to wrestle better on my feet. As long as I am on the attack, I wrestle better. Once I got that first takedown (in the first period), that really helped my offense."
Smith, who had no trouble in a 7-0 win over Mitchell Walker of Berlin Brothersvalley, said, "He gave me some opportunities to score, and thank God I was able to take advantage of it. It's going to be tough down here. It becomes harder and harder to score."
Benton is second to favorite Bethlehem Catholic in the points with 14, having advanced all five of its wrestlers — Matt Welliver (120), Zain Retherford (138), Colt Cotton (145), Jeric Kasunic (160) and Logan Womelsdorf (182) to the semis.