LEHMAN TWP. – Hazleton Area’s Jimmy Hoffman said it best after beating 2013 state qualifier in AJ Luton from GAR to win the gold medal at the Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament.
“Watch out,” the Cougar freshman said with a laugh.
Hoffman not only put District 2 wrestlers on alert with his win, but likely will get the attention of those around the state – who have not already seen what he has been doing.
And what Hoffman did on Sunday was dominate the GAR senior in the 120-pound final.
Hoffman jumped out to an 8-0 lead with a takedown and six back points after the first period, then had a reversal early in the second period to go up 10-0.
Hoffman fended off Luton’s attempts the rest of the match for the shutout win to improve to 16-4 this season.
“I didn’t expect it to be that good of a match in my favor. But I guess I just pulled it out,” Hoffman said. “Winning the Wyoming Valley Conference is just another step to get me to my goal of going to states and placing at states.”
Like Hoffman, Meyers’ Colin Pasone earned his first conference title as a freshman, defeating Berwick’s Dakota Conner 9-6 in the 106-pound final. But it wasn’t easy.
In the match, which saw lots of action early on, Conner jumped out to a 5-0 lead and Pasone cut the lead to 5-3 after the first period.
With the score tied in the third period, Pasone got an escape and a takedown to secure the win.
“Just fight back, work my hardest and it would all turn out how it did,” Pasone said about being behind by five points. “I didn’t lose much confidence (when trailing), I just knew I had to step it up one more and keep doing and push the pace.”
Hoffman and Pasone were two of three freshmen finalists. The other, Wyoming Area’s Kenny Beyer (126 pounds) fell to Wyoming Valley West’s Travis Roper, who was one of five to claim their second gold medal at the tournament. Roper’s teammate James Wright (113 pounds), Pittston Area’s Tyler Lutecki (126), Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry (138) and Dallas’ Connor Martinez (170) also won their second gold medal.
Lutecki was in perhaps the most dramatic match of the finals. He held a 6-1 lead over Wyoming Area sophomore Charlie Johnson in the third period. But Johnson started a comeback, getting takedowns and letting Lutecki up, eventually forcing overtime with the match tied at 8-8.
With Lutecki trying to defend Johnson’s takedown move that was so successful in the third period, he did do that in overtime.
“I had a different mindset: win,” Lutecki said.
The different approach worked as Lutecki got the two points himself taking control to net the win.
“I definitely wasn’t underestimating him (because) he’s a tough wrestler,” Lutecki said. “He’s a good wrestler. He’s going to go far.”
When Wright defeated Pittston Area’s Zack Meckes, it was a sign that the Spartans were just getting started. They had seven in the finals and crowned five champions en route to their second conference championship in three years.
Nathan Cheek (145), James Donovan (152), Cody Cordes (160) all won titles, while Jamaar Taylor (182) and Matt Dubaskas (285) settled for runner-up.
The Spartans piled up 211 points to run away with the title finishing 51 points ahead of second-place Pittston Area (160). Dallas (132.50), Hazleton Area (120) and Lake-Lehman (100) rounded out the top five.
Donovan, who is a senior and has just now cracked the starting lineup for the team, handed Berwick’s Zack Kyttle, a No. 1 seed, just his second loss of the season in the finals, while Cheek upset top-seeded Ben Siegel from Tunkhannock, handing Siegel his first loss of the season.
Upsets in the finals were definitely the trend, as six of the 13 No. 1 seeds to reach the finals went down.
“I try to have the same mindset and not think much about the crowd, just wrestle my match and wrestle to the best of my ability” Cheek said. “I feel good that I got that win under my belt. It gives me a little taste of victory and what I can expect the rest of the season.
“We got a great warmup in and we’re really prepared and we deserved to win every match.”
After Martinez defeated Lake-Lehman’s Derek Dragon in the 170-pound final for his second straight WVC title, Hazleton Area’s Steve Longazel won his first title, pinning Valley West’s Jamaar Taylor in 25 seconds for his first varsity tournament championship.
“Everyday, I’m in the room putting in the extra work and it’s paying off,” Longazel said. “I took a lot of lumps but it’s paying off. It’s nice to finally win one.”
That win was followed by Crestwood’s Ty Robinson netting a tech fall over Hanover Area’s Kaine Rimmer to pick up his first tournament championship.
A pair of runner-ups from a year ago closed out the event with victories.
GAR’s Zac Faust, a two-time runner-up, knocked off defending champ Jake Vaxmonsky from Pittston Area in overtime for a 3-1 win, while Monk pinned Valley West’s Matt Dubaskas in the first period.
Monk was a runner-up last year to state medalist Brad Emerick from Coughlin at this tournament and at districts.