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.
"I worked on that for six minutes and it paid off at the end," Lansberry said. "Our coaches have us in great shape; I can go six minutes and if he kept hanging I knew I could get it.
Bonner had Lansberry in some trouble twice in the third. "I knew there wasn't much time when I got the takedown. I didn't want to do anything stupid, give up a reversal and turn it to overtime," he said.
"We watched film on him when he wrestled (Juniata's Sean) Heggs and (Heggs) is a scramble guy and he had trouble with Heggs' funk, so I knew I had to go out and do my thing and be ready.
"This is the big stage. I've gotta be ready to go," he said.
Retherford (46-0) advanced with a 5-0 win over Brock Zacherl of Brookville.
Smith (36-1), in a semifinal eerily similar to last year's, nearly allowed a brief mental lapse to cost him the win.
In his semifinal, each had a takedown to start the second and third periods and it went to overtime at 1-1. After no score in sudden-death overtime, Smith showed his superior strength to hold Bonner down for 30 seconds, then got what proved to be the winning escape with six second to go in the final overtime period.
Solomon (39-0), who saw his postseason pinning streak snapped in Hershey, got back to his old ways in the semis. He took Croyle down by pushing him backward and taking advantage of the latter losing his balance.
Solomon went to work quickly, cranking him over with a double arm bar and stacking him onto his back.
"Coach (Mike) Snyder always says, 'Get on the mat, get off the mat' and that's what I did. It was good to get a pin and save a little energy. (Croyle) had a lot of losses on his record but I didn't look past him to the finals because everyone starts this tournament with a 0-0 record and he had reached the semis," Solomon said.
"(Today) will be an emotional day for me because I am wrestling my last match for Milton. It's hard to believe that there is just one more match in my high school career," he said.
Milton's Ryan Preisch and Mifflinburg's Ty Walter each lost in the semifinals.
Preisch fell by major decision, 16-7, to Austin Matthews of Reynolds, but defeated Boe Bonzo of Freedom, 7-0, to stay alive for third place in a match with Hughesville's Kyle Barnes.
Walter lost 5-1 to Cody Law of Forest Hills, but also came back with a 1-0 decision over Benton's Jeric Kasunic to also move into today's third-fourth-place bout, where he will face Taylor Fox of Fort LeBoeuf.
Southern Columbia's Kent Lane (126) also rebounded from a quarterfinal defeat to the fourth round of consolations. After a 12-1 loss to Kyle Shoop of Boiling Springs, he will go for fifth place today, versus Jarray Norris of Sharon.
Also advancing to go for seventh was ailing Cole Walter, Mifflinburg, who fell 4-2 to Lake-Lehman's Austin Harry for the second time in a week as he battles a respiratory issue.
Cameron Newman, Line Mountain (106), and Blake Marks, Southern Columbia, (152) lost in the third round of consolations and get a chance to go for seventh today.
Eliminated with consolation losses earlier Friday were Lewisburg freshman Brian Friery (106); Juniata's senior Heggs (138); Midd-West senior Zach Heeter (145); Southern Columbia senior Blake Marks (285); and Mifflinburg junior and returning state champion Nazar Mironenko (285).
Friery lost 8-1 to Triston Law of Forest Hills; Heggs, who placed fourth last year for East Juniata, where he is still a student, injured his neck and defaulted in 1:29 to Tri-Valley sophomore Hunter Harner; Heeter fell 3-2 to Brookville's Zach Vroman; Becker was pinned in 4:22 to Morgan Selepack of West Branch; and Mironenko, after a surprising 6-2 loss in the quarterfinals, saw his season end by default on a flagrant misconduct call in 2:55 to Biglerville's Trevor Stover.