By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
Line Mountain’s Garrett Keiffer doesn’t look like an imposing heavyweight. He’s a freshman in an upperclassmen’s weight class, a youngster who is just now discovering the confidence to compete with veterans.
After the first round of the PIAA Class AA Northeast Regional tournament at Williamsport on Friday night, Keiffer is one win away from the state tournament. Keiffer stunned Hanover Area’s John Sheridan with a fall in 28 seconds to highlight the first night of the tournament.
Fourteen other area wrestlers moved into this morning’s semifinals while nine others remain alive in the consolation bracket.
Defending team champion Benton had all six of its wrestlers win and the Tigers hold a 10-point lead over Southern Columbia (22-12) in the team race.
“At the beginning of the year, Garrett weighed about 235 pounds and he’s gained about 20 pounds since then,” said Line Mountain coach Mike Martz. “We thought his weight might go the other way and he might be a 220-pounder in the postseason, but he is growing into the weight class.”
Keiffer wasted no time against Sheridan, a sophomore, taking him down quickly and pinning him. He’ll take on District 2 champion Saul Wilkins of Wilkes-Barre GAR this morning.
“I’m not surprised by his success,” said Martz. “We knew he’d take his lumps at the beginning of the year. But we knew when he turned the corner from a confidence standpoint, the success would come fast and I think he’s done that. Coach Wolf Downs has done a phenomenal job with Garrett.”
The Eagles also advanced veteran Cameron Newman into the 113-pound semis. Newman outlasted Eric Hunt, a state qualifier last year, with a 6-4 decision.
Southern Columbia, Lewisburg, and Milton each pushed three wrestlers into the semifinals.
For the Tigers, Todd Lane (120) pinned Brad Glazenski of Hanover Area in 2:52 and Kent Lane (138) decked Charlie Andrews of North Penn in 3:49. Blake Marks (152) pinned Cory Franc of Western Wayne in 44 seconds.
Lewisburg advanced Brian Friery (106), Jordan Gessner (113), and Max Reed (160). Friery pinned Jacob O’Brien of Montrose in 5:21 while Gessner continued his hot wrestling with a 13-1 major decision over Rodney Driscoll of Lake-Lehman. Reed decked District 2 champion Bobby Wright of Lake-Lehman in 4:29.
Milton’s Zack Bennett (145) pinned Nanticoke Area’s Kyle Gavrish in 1:35 and Ryan Preisch (160) stopped Warrior Run’s Elias George in 3:08. Sophomore Brandon Stokes (195) handled Jude Polit-Moran with a 9-2 decision.
Warrior Run sent two wrestlers to the semifinals. Zack LeBarron (120) pinned Brian Earlston of Line Mountain in 1:47 and will get Todd
Lane in the semis. Brian LeBarron (126) registered the quickest fall of the night with an eight-second effort over Anthony Tlatenchi of
Midd-West’s Alex Leiberman (170) stopped Rashaun Mathis of Wilkes-Barre GAR with a fall in 2:48 and Mifflinburg’s Cole Walter (152) stopped Kirah Thompson of Williamson with a 19-7 major decision.
NOTES: It was another tough night for District 2 wrestlers as they combined to win just six matches while losing 36. Seven District 2 champions lost on the opening night. ... This morning, semifinals start at 9:30 and the consolation finals and finals are slated to start at 4:45. ... The top three-place winners advance to the state tournament, which begins Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey.