In recent years, there has been one strong weight classes in the Wyoming Valley Conference where more than one wrestler qualified for the PIAA Championships.
Perhaps the most noted came in 2010 when Hazleton Area’s Jared Kay and Coughlin’s Josh Popple battled for the state’s Class 3A third-place medal at 171-pounds.
This season, the conference was mere seconds away from perhaps qualifying three wrestlers for states in the 145-pound bracket proving just how unique this weight was.
First, Wyoming Valley West’s Cody Cordes lost in the ultimate tiebreaker to Southern Lehigh’s Matt Mirth in the quarterfinals after the Spartan nearly escaped. Mirth, the eventual champion in the bracket, then went on to defeat Berwick’s Kevin Laubach in the semis by one point.
Right after Laubach’s loss, Crestwood’s Matt Hammerstone was dealt a loss in the ultimate tiebreaker in his semifinal as all three dropped into the loser’s bracket.
In the consolations, Hammerstone dealt Cordes a one-point loss before eliminating Laubach by UTB in the state-qualifying match. Hammerstone beat Cordes three times this season and Laubach twice in four meetings. Five of Cordes’ eight losses this season came to either Hammerstone or Laubach.
“It was a brutal weight class and it makes it tougher when guys wrestle each other so many times,” Valley West coach Drew Feldman said. “And that’s just what happened with these guys. They knew each others’ styles and knew what kind of match it was going to be.”
While all three could have moved to states, only Hammerstone advances. Cordes, just a sophomore, will be back next season. Laubach meanwhile ends his career with the most wins in Berwick history with 139, that’s an astonishing average of almost 35 wins a year.
“I wish I had five Hammerstones and five Laubachs on my team,” Crestwood coach J.J. Konigus said. “We’d be untouchable.”
GAR FINALLY BACK
It’s been almost a decade since GAR last qualified a wrestler for the PIAA Championships. That was Ted Yelland at 189 pounds in his second straight state tournament in 2004. He didn’t grab a medal that year losing via injury, but he did claim an eighth-place medal as a junior in 2003.
With 113-pounder A.J. Luton qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament, GAR broke the third-longest drought of WVC teams being in the state tournament. Only Nanticoke, Hanover Area and Tunkhannock have longer streaks.
Luton’s runner-up at regionals meant he was two points shy of becoming GAR’s first regional titlist since heavyweight John Hooper in 1998.
A GOOD LOSS
Coughlin’s Brad Emerick was dealt his first loss of the season Saturday night to Nazareth’s Aaron Bradley by one point in the Class 3A Northeast Regional 285-pound final.
There are plenty of upsides to come from the loss for Emerick. Sure every wrestler would love to end their careers with no losses their senior season, but no that’s one less thing to worry about.
“It’s all positives…You got the jinx off your back, and his attitude’s great,” Emerick’s coach Steve Stahl said. “I’ve seen guys come out of here (regionals) take third place and next week they’re state champ.”
STILL SHUT OUT
Like Luton, Wyoming Area’s Andy Schutz (126 pounds) lost his Class 2A regional final. In the loss, he missed out on being Wyoming Area’s first regional champion. He settles for being the school’s all-time wins leader currently with 122. Plus, he’s a two-time state qualifier now and is heading to Chocolatetown with a teammate this time around with fellow senior Nick Heck, who is at 138 pounds.
•When Matt Hammerstone secured his spot in states, he extended Crestwood’s streak of a state qualifier in 12 straight years. The last time the Comets did not have a state qualifier was in 2001.
•Hazleton Area will not have a grappler in states for the first time in the last six years. The last time the Cougars were not represented in Hershey was in 2006.
•Kyle Krasavage’s and Austin Harry’s regional championships extended the Wyoming Valley Conference stretch of crowning a regional champion for the 19th straight season. A WVC wrestler has won a gold medal at regionals every year since 1995.