By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
HERSHEY -- After playing second fiddle to Milton's Ryan Solomon in previous postseasons, Lewisburg's Brandon Smith is happy to join his buddy in the pursuit of state wrestling gold.
Solomon and Smith will be joined in this afternoon's championship finals (PCN, 2 p.m.) by Line Mountain's Seth Lansberry, who will battle his former teammate and former state champion Zain Retherford, now of Benton.
The three won their quarterfinal bouts in the morning and returned to the Giant Center on Friday night to take their semifinals.
Lansberry, at 138 pounds, gutted out a 3-2 win over Michael Bonner of Sharon. Solomon, at 195, the returning state champion at that weight class, decked Ryan Croyle of Kittanning in 1 minute, 15 seconds. Smith, at 220, took a 2-1 ultimate tiebreaker win over Jake Temple of Avella.
Smith said the coaches were reminding him to stay away from Temple in the final seconds but, for a moment, he forgot that the period lasted 30 seconds, despite the escape. He managed to get out of bounds before Temple got a takedown to win it.
"I just ran away from him and I'm thankful," he said.
"My thought after the six minutes I'm going to get this into the ultimate rideout and I scored the first point. I'm just excited," he said.
"Last year was a big disappointment. I didn't realize how close I was to getting into the championship until after it was too late. That's been heavy on my mind all year," said Smith, who finished fifth in 2012.
Lansberry (38-4), who barely survived the quarterfinals with a 3-1 overtime win over Nick Gavazzi of Charleroi, hit Bonner, a defensive wrestler, with a barrage of single-leg attempts. He then duped Gavazzi in the third period when he converted a single into a double for the bout's only takedown. Each gave up an escape.