LEWISBURG — Nothing was going to keep Terry Vrabec from the state medal stand.
Not the talented competition in the PIAA Class 2A boys breaststroke, not a bottom-feeder seeding, not even an upset stomach.
Vrabec ignored them all, while helping the Wyoming Valley Conference pull another shocker at states.
With a time of 1:01.08, Vrabec went from a 27th seed to an eighth-place medal in the breaststroke Saturday at the PIAA Class 2A Swimming and Diving championships, while earning what is believed to be a milestone medal at Coughlin High School.
“At least in recent years, he’s Coughlin’s first-ever male state medal winner,” said long-time Coughlin coach Donnie Williams. “I’m proud of him.”
The pride of Crestwood came through again, as Josh Grzech won his second state medal in as many nights — this one for a fifth-place finish in the 100 freestyle in his final high school swimming event. And his brother Joseph Grzech, also a senior at Crestwood, placed 15th overall and seventh in the consolation race of the 100 backstroke.
Both spent the past three years working with the Wyoming Valley West team, since Crestwood doesn’t offer a school swim program.
Those were the only swimmers from the Wyoming Valley Conference to make it through the preliminaries. A couple of divers made the girls semifinal round Saturday, before Kiera Gross of Dallas finished 17th with a score of 229.15 and Pittston Area’s Sierra Williams placed 18th by accumulating 222.60 points.
Vrabec wasn’t really worried about placement, because he tightened his eyewear for championship weekend.
Loose goggles weren’t about to get him this time, and neither was anything else.
Vrabec felt his low seeding in the state field, which is based on times attained during district championship meets, was only the result of a major distraction.
“My goggles fell off at districts,” Vrabec said, “and I choked on them. I couldn’t breathe. I just pulled through it, barely made it (to states).”
Once there, he ran into another dilemma.
“I don’t know what it was today, I’ve been sick to my stomach,” Vrabec said. “I still came out with a medal. I’m proud of that.”
He did it with a strong morning swim of 1:00.74 — which chopped nearly three full seconds from his seed time — to jump up 19 places and into eighth for the medal race. And that’s where he stayed, as Vrabec challenged the top finishers for half of the 100 breaststroke finals before settling for eighth place.
“I got my medal, I’m happy,” said Vrabec, who transferred to Coughlin from Holy Redeemer this year, “especially with the way this whole season went. Everything that could have gone wrong did. Everything that could be easy was hard. And I’m still on the podium.”
Josh Grzech joined him there.
After taking home a sixth-place medal in the 100 butterfly Friday, Josh Grzech moved up a spot in the 100 freestyle and placed fifth in the state with a time of 47.41 in the championship race. Actually, he bumped up from an eighth-place seeding to sixth by the end of preliminaries, and worked his way up one more spot in the finals.
“I feel great,” said Grzech, who earned two state medals for the first time in his career. “I really didn’t expect anything from this, because anything can happen. I’m just happy I kept moving up from where I was seeded.”
His brother Joseph moved into the consolation race — a big accomplishment after entering as an 18th seed. His 100 backstroke time of 54.91 placed him seventh in the consolation run and 15th overall in the state field.
“It felt great,” Joseph Grzech said. “Nothing better than coming back and swimming twice. I gave it my all. I’m retired now.”
For the second straight day, Crestwood’s Chris Lukasewski gave it everything he had, made a surge and nearly pulled off a second straight stunner.
Seeded 23rd in the boys 100 freestyle, Lukasewski wound up in 17th place during morning preliminaries with a time of 49.12. He barely missed the night consolation race — which included the ninth through 16th-place finishers in the preliminary round — by .04 seconds.
“At first, I was a little bummed out,” Lukasewski said. “But after realizing I had my best time, there was really nothing else I could do.”
He did more than enough to make his mark at states, though.
Saturday’s near-miss came after Lukasewski’s shocking 50 freestyle race Friday, when he came from a No. 32 seed — dead last — to pull off a sixth-place finish in that race’s consolation race while winding up 14th-best in the state.
“That was really good, to make consolations,” Lukasweski said. “I had a good senior year. I can’t complain.”