WILLIAMSPORT — While he and his Southern Columbia teammates were en route to running the table on regional qualifiers in Saturday’s District 4 Class 2A tournament, junior 172-pounder Gavin Garcia said he saw no reason to get in the faces of any of the Tigers after they lost.
All nine Southern qualifiers advanced to this week’s Northeast Regional back in Williamsport.
“We did what we had to do. Every guy wrestled hard in the consolation rounds to get back into fifth, third or fourth and advance. I couldn’t have been more proud of them,” Garcia said.
But if the situation warrants it this weekend, expect Garcia to be more vocal.
“It’s going to be a grind to get out,” he said, with only three moving on from this year’s tournament.
If things go awry for any of his teammates, Garcia said, “I’m definitely going to be in their ear, because I definitely want them to be with us the next week.” he said.
The nine Tigers and 20 other Valley wrestlers will return to the Magic Dome mats on Saturday morning trying to finish in the top three, which would move them on to the following weekend to a Super Regional; to help set the field for the state tournament in Hershey.
Garcia, ranked No. 1 in the state by PA Power Wrestling, is 18-2 and will face the winner of a preliminary bout between Montgomery junior Colby Springman (23-6) and Troy sophomore Mason Woodward (18-5). If the seeding holds, Garcia would get a finals rematch with Muncy senior Ethan Gush (14-2), ranked No. 11. Garcia majored the Indian 9-1 in last week’s district final.
Indicative of the strength of the Valley contingent, 25 of the 29 locals in the field are ranked among the state’s top 25, with five ranked in the top five.
That includes a pair of former state medalists who met the past two weekends at 126 pounds: No. 3-ranked Mifflinburg senior Gabe Gramly (26-3) and No. 5 Southern junior Kole Biscoe (15-5). Gramley won the past two weeks.
Gramly is in the same bracket as No. 2 and unbeaten Benton senior Gable Strickland, a three-time state qualifier and two-time medalist with a career mark of 127-21.
Midd-West senior and three-time state qualifier Avery Bassett (160) is the No. 2 seed and is seeking to better his PIAA third-place finish of last year. He is 28-1, his lone loss coming to Benton junior Nolan Lear, a returning PIAA fifth-place finisher, in last week’s district final. Bassett is his school’s all-time leader in wins with a 145-18 record. Bassett will open with a quarterfinal match with Berwick freshman Trystyn English (6-3).
Southern sophomore Wes Barnes (189), ranked No. 3 and a returning PIAA fourth-place finisher, opens the quarterfinals with senior Zach Consla, of Blue Ridge, who is 10-2. Barnes is 17-1, losing in last week’s finals to top-ranked Cael Crebs. The Montoursville senior is 25-1 and 128-18 and a returning state bronze medalist.
Other top regional qualifier from the Valley include Warrior Run sophomore Kaden Milheim (113), 15-2, ranked No. 8, and his senior teammate Kaden Majcher (120), 16-2, ranked No. 7; Southern freshman Mason Barvitskie (120), 14-0, ranked No. 9; Meadowbrook Christian sophomore Kade Wirnsberger (132), 22-7, ranked No 9; Southern senior Patrick Edmondson (145), 16-1, ranked No. 8; Line Mountain senior Jacob Feese (189), 26-3, No. 10; and Mifflinburg sophomore Emmanuel Ulrich (285), 25-1, ranked No. 7.
Mount Carmel junior Damon Backes (215), a returning state qualifier, expects to be back in action Saturday after defaulting because of an injury in the district third-fourth bout versus Milton junior Nathan Rauch.
Backes (22-2), ranked No. 7 in the state took Rauch down with a fireman’s carry, and felt pain in his shoulder.
Because that win or lose in that bout, he would still advance, they decided to rest him and get his shoulder checked.
“I don’t see there is any way that he is not going to wrestle (in regionals),’’ said Mount Carmel coach Tom McDonald Sr., adding that he believes it is just a sprain.
Wrestling gets under way with quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m.