At Lake-Lehman, the wrestling season typically begins with the goal of ultimately winning the District 2 Class AA Tournament championship.
For the second straight year and the 22nd time in school history, the Black Knights accomplished that goal when they won the team title on their home mat Feb. 22-23.
Lake-Lehman wrestlers collected their individual medals, including four golds and five silvers, when the tournament came to its usual Saturday evening conclusion.
The team title essentially was decided, however, when that day’s activities began. Lake-Lehman opened the second day of the tournament by going 9-1 in the semifinal round, earning its nine championship round berths and the points necessary to separate from Western Wayne.
“Winning nine of 10 in the semis is huge,” Lake-Lehman coach Tom Williams said. “Basically, where we sealed it was with the really strong semifinal performance.”
Lake-Lehman has a total of 10 wrestlers in action at this weekend’s Northeast Regional Class AA Tournament, trying to earn spots in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championships in Hershey. Although team scores are still kept, the large number of schools involved and the prestige of participating in the state tournament turn the emphasis to individual performances at this stage.
The Black Knights were still thinking about team goals last weekend, however.
Lake-Lehman and Western Wayne went head-to-head three weeks earlier with the District 2 Dual Meet Championships at stake. The Wildcats won that battle of teams who went unbeaten in their divisional regular-season schedules, taking the Dual Meet championship, 28-28.
The Black Knights immediately set out for their original goal and a measure of revenge in the rematch.
“Once we got beyond the team tournament, we set our sights on this one,” Williams said. “We worked hard to make it happen.
“We have a good number of kids who are pretty battle tested in tournament settings.”
In dual meet competition, teams go head-to-head, matching their entire lineups just as they do in a regular-season meet. At the tournament, wrestlers work their way through separate brackets in each weight class, scoring points for the team with each win and with their final placement.
“I think we have a pretty strong tournament team,” Williams said. “We have several strong individuals who are likely to place.”
Those individuals combined for a 216-197 team advantage over Western Wayne. Wyoming Area, which matched the four champions by Lake-Lehman but did not have any other finalists, was a distant third with 139.5 points.
“We didn’t match up very well with Western Wayne as a dual-meet team,” Williams said. “It’s all in how you match up and we didn’t match up well, particularly at the lower weights.”
As a tournament team, the Black Knights proved to have more top-end wrestlers. Lake-Lehman led Western Wayne, 4-3 in champions, 9-7 in finalists and 10-8 in regional qualifiers.
Austin Harry (132), Derek Dragon (170), Brady Butler (182) and Dustin Jones (285) all won titles for the Black Knights. Harry defeated Blue Ridge’s Zach Edwards, 6-3, in a meeting of returning champions. He remained unbeaten with consecutive decisions after a 37-second pin in the quarterfinals. “Austin Harry had a very workmanlike tournament,” Williams said.
Dragon, a sophomore, defeated Brandon Hadden of Western Wayne, 8-3, in the final. He got there with two pins, including one in his first bout to fight off a potential upset by Nick O’Brien of Wyoming Area.
“It was a pretty gutsy performance,” Williams said of the matchup between the top-seeded Dragon and O’Brien, who was much tougher than an eighth seed, but missed so much time this season that he did not accumulate the points necessary for a higher seeding. “That was big for us. We didn’t want to lose him on Friday night.
Butler dominated his weight class. After a pair of first-period pins, he shut out Elk Lake’s Isaiah Ofalt for a 10-0 major decision in the final.
Jones fought his way to the title, knocking off second-seeded Justin Barber of Lackawanna Trail, 9-3, in the semifinals and top-seeded Elijah Greshman of GAR, 5-4, in a championship match that went to the ultimate tie-breaker format.
“He had two tough matches,” Williams said. “He showed he has worked his way back into shape.”
John Tomasura (113), Zeb McMillan (120), Josh Winters (145), Robert Wright (152) and Phil Hettes (195) each finished second by advancing to the finals where they suffered their only loss of the tournament.
Kody Pachamovitch fought his way back from an early loss with two straight pins and a one-point decision for third place and a regional berth at 220. Josh Sayre fell one step short by taking fourth at 138.
In Class AAA, Dallas tied for fourth out of 15 teams at Hazleton Area.
Dominic DeGraba, who won a title last year when Dallas was a Class AA team, took the 113-pound championship.
Ryan Monk was second at 285, Connor Martinez third at 182 and Zach Macosky fourth at 152 to earn spots in this weekend’s Northeast Regional at Bethlehem.
Jim Caffrey was fifth at 126. Kris Roccograndi suffered an injury in the semifinals and could not return, leaving him sixth at 170. Steve Mingey was also sixth, at 145.