By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
For Zack LeBarron, the first round of the PIAA Class AA Northeast Regional wrestling tournament was all about change. For teammate Eric Hunt, Friday night was simply a question of getting past the round.
Last week, LeBarron barely escaped with a wild 11-9 decision over Midd-West’s Corey Stauffer in the semifinals of the District 4 tournament. So with a slightly altered game plan that featured more half-Nelsons than the cradle he preferred a week earlier, LeBarron maintained his unbeaten record with second-period fall over Stauffer to advance to this morning’s 106-pound semifinals.
Hunt, who blanked Mifflinburg’s Cooper Wagner, 3-0, in their district quarterfinal bout at 113, came out slow against Wagner shortly after LeBarron had wrapped up his victory, falling behind 6-1 in the first period. But Hunt stormed back and pinned Wagner in 3:45. He now sits one win away from Hershey.
The Defender duo’s success was continued throughout the evening as 14 other area wrestlers are one morning semifinal victory from the state tournament.
“I was loose (in the top 106-pound position) last week,” said LeBarron, who will face Line Mountain’s Cameron Newman in the top half of a pair of dandy bouts at 106. “I just tried to change it up because I figured all week that he was practicing for the cradle. So I just tried to stay tight and run the half.”
The strategy paid off with a couple of sets of back points as LeBarron built a 9-0 lead before the fall.
“I wasn’t surprised because I wasn’t at the top of my game last week,” LeBarron said.
Hunt said he’s not a first-round wrestler.
“I have never been a first-round wrestler and I started a little slow,” Hunt said. “After I turned him the first time (in the second period) I knew I was on a roll and I wasn’t gonna stop. (Wagner) came out a lot different than last week. It felt like he had a lot more energy (Friday) that he did last week.”
Hunt will face Troy’s Ethan Calkins in the semis.
Warrior Run enjoyed a perfect night when Garrett Moser, at 182, pinned Tom Bogorawski in just 1:12. Moser will face Benton’s Logan Womelsdorf in the semis.
Southern Columbia and Mifflinburg both advanced three wrestlers. Southern’s Kent Lane (126) outlasted South Williamsport veteran Andrew Gipe, 9-4, and will face Montoursville’s Keith Batkowski. Blake Marks (152) pinned Maurice Wood of Nanticoke in 1:07 and gets Nick Stephani of Troy. Jake Becker (285) picked up his 100th career victory with a 6-2 decision over Elijah Gresham of Wilkes Barre GAR and takes on Mifflinburg’s Nazar Mironenko.
Mironenko stopped Wyalusing’s Dalton Chilson, 11-6, and both Mifflinburg Walter brothers won. Cole cruised past Nate Jones of South Williamsport with a second period fall at 132 and will face Williamson’s Trevor McWhorter. Ty blanked Lewisburg’s Max Reed, 15-0 (5:12) and will face Isaiah Bobatas of Montgomery.
Lewisburg and Milton both moved two wrestlers into the semis. At 106, the Green Dragons’ Brian Friery decked District 2 champion Patrick Heck of Wyoming Area in 35 seconds and will face Muncy’s Angelo Barbario. Brandon Smith (220) pinned Montoursville’s Connor Bassett in 1:44 and gets Central Columbia’s Eric McCracken.
For the Black Panthers, Ryan Preisch (152) and Ryan Solomon (195) both won. Preisch’s 14-0 shutout of Towanda freshman Dayton Wickwire assured a highly-anticipated showdown with Hughesville’s Kyle Barnes in the semis. Solomon got his seventh straight fall of the post-season with a 35-second effort over Connor Route of Canton. Solomon’s semifinal will be South Williamsport’s Tyler Jenkins.
For Line Mountain, Newman earned his semis slot against LeBarron with a 16-0 (5:25) technical fall over Zack Meckes. His teammate, Seth Lansberry, also won, beating William Lee of Lackawanna Trail, 16-3. Lansberry will face District 2 champion Nick Heck of Wyoming Area.
Midd-West endured the roughest night, advancing just one of its four wrestlers to the semis. Zach Heeter (145) won a 10-3 decision over District 2 champion Manny Mirailh and will face Billy Barnes of Williamson.
Still alive in the wrestlebacks are: Midd-West’s Stauffer, Tanner Ebright (120), and Alex Leiberman (170), who was stunned by South Williamsport’s Justin Knee, 4-3; Lewisburg’s Reed; Southern’s Brett Shepard (113); Shamokin’s Zach Biddiscombe (220); Mifflinburg’s Wagner; Milton’s Zack Bennett (132); and Mount Carmel’s Blake Panko (138).