PIAA Wrestling Championships The golden Mule
Haines wins third straight PIAA crown to lead quintet of county medalists. By Dave Byrne, Sports Writer email@example.com
HERSHEY -- He'd been in this situation two years ago, the freshman finalist who stood his weight class on its head.
So Thomas Haines had a wary respect for Boyertown freshman Jordan Wood as they prepared for the 220-pound championship of the PIAA Class AAA wrestling tournament, Saturday night at Hershey's Giant Center.
Respect, but not apprehension. The only way youth would be served was as the footnote to the Solanco junior's third state championship.
Haines defeated Wood 7-2 to defend his 220-pound title, adding it to the 215-pound hardware he brought home as a frosh.
His teammate, Connor Sheehan, finished second at 106, bested by Greater Latrobe's Luke Pletcher, 8-2.
Three other countians won medals in the consolation finals.
Solanco's Ronnie Perry took seventh at 120. Manheim Township's Adam Smith placed sixth at 145. Warwick's Tom Devenney nailed down fifth place at 285.
Determined to improve his offense from neutral this season, Haines' focus paid dividends as he executed a clean single leg halfway through the first period.
After Wood escaped, Haines nearly got another single, running out of time as the period expired.
Wood escaped once more, just after Haines could only get a one count on a tilt, and the match got very interesting when Haines walked right into a Wood single leg off a restart.
"It was a pretty textbook defense, just block on the outside," Haines said. "He couldn't really do anything with it."
"Only once," he said, "when I got off my feet and ended up underneath him I thought, 'Wow. Now I'm in a little trouble. I have to start working.' "
And yet, with all that: "I almost got the two," he said as he came out on top just as the buzzer sounded.
He put the match away in the third period after Wood let him up, scoring his second takedown, then tilting Wood for two with a minute left. From there the title was his.
Sheehan faced a familiar foe in the person of Pletcher, who defeated Sheehan 6-0 in the PowerAde Christmas Tournament.
"He pretty much dominated me on my feet," Sheehan said. "He took me down three times."
Not that that had any bearing on Saturday night's rematch.
"I still had to go out there and give it my best shot," said Pletcher, showing remarkable maturity for a high school freshman. "I just wanted to stick with my game plan. Do what I wanted to do."
He certainly did that as he shrugged Sheehan to the mat halfway through the first period.
Sheehan knotted the match at 2-2 in the second period, countering Pletcher's single leg with a spladle. But, "he arched his back and fought it off well," Sheehan said, "otherwise I would've had him."
Sheehan pressed his advantage, Pletcher escaped and shot right back in taking Sheehan down for a 5-2 lead that pretty much told the tale.
"He was so tough on top," Sheehan said. "He's thick. And he has a really strong tight waist. I didn't want to be under him too long, but I guess he got the best of me."
Pletcher escaped at the start of the third period and tallied a final takedown with five seconds left off Sheehan's go-for-broke headlock try.
Sheehan demolished Central York freshman Dylan Chatterton 13-5 in the semifinals at 106. Chatterton, who came in as the District Three bronze medalist, was riding a wave, pinning his first two opponents.
Sheehan took him down twice in the first period for a 4-1 lead and did not let up. Leading 5-3 going into the final two minutes he took Chatterton down to his back for four points and added a pair of takedowns on shrugs in the last 46 seconds.
In a rematch of the 2012 semifinals, Haines majored Bethlehem Freedom's Evan Kauffman, 9-1.
Kauffman, who was pinned in 1:04 in the 2012 semi, consulted District Eleven peer Aaron Bradley of Nazareth, finalist at 285, for advice on how to wrestle Haines. Bradley gave Haines a battle, albeit a losing one, in the 2012 championship final.
While Kauffman got off a good single-leg shot early on and threw Haines out of bounds in the second period, Haines was the master, scoring three takedowns and turning Kauffman late in the second for a 9-1 win.
Headlocked by Pennridge's Ben Ross in the consolation quarterfinals, Perry dropped to the seventh-place match, where he topped Oley Valley's Joey Fick, 5-2.
Perry broke open a tight bout that he led 1-0, tilting Fick for two back points. Fick, who placed seventh at 120 in the 2012 Class AA tournament, escaped out of the tilt, but Perry hit a shrug with 12 seconds left to ice the win.
Smith blanked Crestwood's Matt Hammerstone 7-0 in his consolation quarterfinal, but was defeated by Nolan Barger of Clearfield, 6-4, in the consolation semis as Barger scored three times on tough single-leg shots.
Down 6-2, Smith took Barger down with eight seconds left, not enough time to work his armbars.
Wrestling for fifth, Smith surrendered a late takedown to drop an 8-4 decision to Allderdice's Brian Estep. Estep, one of the few wrestlers from the Pittsburgh City League to appear at states since the tournament went to two classes, took command when he turned Smith early in the third period.
The two back points gave Estep a momentary 5-2 lead, Smith reversed out, then let Estep out, looking for a tying takedown that proved elusive.
Devenney's second-period escape, plus a stalling point in the third, produced a 2-0 elimination of Shippensburg's Cary Hess. But a second-period tilt by Coughlin's Brad Emerick in the consolation semi loomed large in Devenney's 3-2 loss.
Wrestling for fifth, Devenney turned Methacton's Tracey Green with an arm bar for two near-fall points, then stayed out of trouble on the bottom in the final two minutes of his scholastic career to take the medal home. n