By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
Getting to wrestle with the best in the state was a dream-come-true for Lewisburg’s Max Reed.
So imagine what it was like to pin one of those wrestlers in the PIAA Class AA championships in the Giant Center.
“It’s amazing,” the Green Dragons’ junior 170-pounder said with a smile as wide as the Zamboni entrance.
He was talking shortly after pinning Cambria Heights junior Levi Niebauer in four minutes, 57 seconds, on Thursday.
Reed was one of six Valley wrestlers to win their preliminary-round bouts and advance to this morning’s quarterfinals.
The other opening-round winners were Southern Columbia’s Todd Lane, at 120 pounds; his cousin, Kent Lane, at 138; Mifflinburg’s Cole Walter, at 152; Southern’s Blake Marks, also at 152; and Milton’s Ryan Preisch at 160.
Reed, now 33-10, found a good way to help deal with the nerves: by scoring an early takedown.
But it was his nerves that almost kept him from getting the early score.
“At first I was a little bit hesitant to shoot on him because of my nerves,” Reed said. “But when I threw him by, I saw the opportunity for that and I lifted him up and took him to the mat.”
Not much happened after that, until Reed saw a golden opportunity.
Unable to get in on a cradle for more than two periods, Reed saw one fall into his lap, and he took advantage.
“I was pretty much holding onto it until the third period, when I saw a chance to lock the cradle up, and I pounced on it,” he said. “I was looking for it earlier in the match and I couldn’t quite get it and then there it was, right there for me.”
And when he locked it up, there was no doubt how this bout would end.
“I knew it was over; I had that really tight,” he said.
Although it was just one bout, the pride showed in Reed’s voice and his face.
“I’ve been looking up to the people that make it here my whole life and it’s really something to pin another state qualifier,” he said.
Walter and Marks, finals opponents the last three weeks (all won by Walter) won handily, but, for Walter, things started slowly in his 5-0 decision over Taylor Cahill of Berlin-Brothersvalley.
Going into the third period, Walter led just 1-0, on a second-period escape.
“I couldn’t really get in on my shots, because he just kept trying to throw me down,” Walter said. “He didn’t try to do too much on his feet; he just tried to slow me down.”
Walter, 41-2, said he and the coaches had a game plan going in.
“I knew the kid was going to probably try to do that to me, but I didn’t let it get to me, I just tried to stay focused,” he said.
It started to turn when he got the second-period escape.
“I started to get to work,” he said. “I felt confident going on top in the third, after I got out right away in the second, that I could get a takedown, so I wasn’t really worried (about the close score).
“I knew that once I got on top, I could go to work,” he said, noting that the score didn’t matter, just the win.
Marks, 33-5, had a rough tournament a year ago, but gutted out a seventh-place finish while battling a severe breathing problem. He was third as a freshman.
“I’m really confident going into this, just ready to go out there and work hard every match and keep winning and take one win a time,” he said.
Marks was never in danger, getting an early takedown, then reversals in the second and third periods.
He gave up a late reversal for the 7-2 final.
Marks surprised even himself, not with the win, but his mental condition for the state opener.
“I had no nerves at all, I don’t know why,” he said. “I was not nervous whatsoever, even though I was nervous in a lot of my other matches this year.
“My goal was to be on the attack and when I got in on a shot and we went out of bounds, it seemed like he wasn’t the best on his feet, so right off the whistle, I shot in and took him down,” Marks said.
Late in the bout, he tried to help the team by turning his 7-0 decision into a major, but, by his own admission, got a little sloppy and decided to give up the two rather than chance getting pinned.
Freshman Todd Lane looked like anything but a state tournament rookie as he pounced on Sage Moist, a Mount Union senior, to the tune of an 11-0 first-period lead, then added an escape, a reversal and two back points for a 16-0 technical fall in 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
He said the initial takedown helped him shake off the cobwebs and get on a roll.
“That put me back in the match. Once you start getting points, it gets easier and easier to keep thing rolling,” Lane said. “The confidence just kept building.”
Lane was literally off and running.
As he often does, the Tiger left the mat and went for a run, this time through the hallways of the cavernous Giant Center. “I came back and started running to keep my legs. I get off the mat and go for a little run,” he said.
Lane, now 35-4, said winning in that fashion didn’t mean a lot.
“A win is a win and I have to forget abut it and the next match is all I can focus on,” he said.
Kent Lane was a little bit slower on the uptake than his cousin, but he got on the board with a takedown with 24 seconds left in the first period en route to an 8-0 major over Richie McGinnis of Chartiers-Houston.
He tried to crank McGinnis over with a power-half, but ran out of time before the buzzer. He took McGinnis down again in the second and this time he had a better power half, but they rolled out of bounds.
Lane, 26-1, finally cranked McGinnis for three near-fall points in the third and picked up a penalty (stalling point).
“He was getting in on me in the beginning, and I couldn’t get on my attack, but I got on my attack and I scored,” Lane said.
He said he was not concerned early on when McGinnis got in position to score the first takedown. Even if he had given up a takedown, Lane said he doesn’t let things like that worry him.
“I kind of keep on wrestling, keep on grinding and come out on top,” he said.
McGinnis chose neutral for the third, which didn’t surprise Lane.
“I was beating the crap out of him on top, so (it was not unexpected),” Lane said.
Preisch, now 38-2 and seeking to move up the podium after a third-place medal last year, was all over Jefferson-Morgan’s Ryan Zalar. He nearly put him away in the first period with a takedown and cradle. That put the Black Panther senior up 5-0. He reversed Zalar and cradled him again in the second, this one a lock for a fall in 2:43.