WILKES-BARRE – Tanner Gillette shouted in jubilation as Western Wayne fans pelted the senior 195-pounder with Hershey Kisses.
A first-year grappler and four-sport athlete, Gillette created a memory he’ll share for the rest of his life. He’ll be able to talk about the night he won his team a District 2 Class 2A Team Duals championship.
Gillette took down Lake-Lehman’s Tyler Long and stuck his shoulders to the mat for the first-period pin as the Wildcats defended their district dual title with a 40-36 victory over the Black Knights at the Kingston Armory.
It’s the third straight district dual title for Western Wayne, which defeated Lehman in the last three 2A finals.
“Lehman is always tough, and they know what to do with their lineup to get the matchups that they want,” Western Wayne coach Dante Terenzio said. “It’s always close with them. We’ve been looking forward to this match, like we always are. We are excited to get out of here with a win. It’s what we’ve been working for all season.”
A tough spot for a first-year wrestler, right? Title hanging in the balance, a trip to states there for the taking.
Not for Gillette.
“I knew I could do it,” said the senior, who also plays football, soccer and baseball. “He’s a first-year wrestler, and so am I. I just wanted to stay confident. You can’t fold under pressure. You have to live up to the moment.”
The 195-pounder wasted little time, catching Long on his back midway through the first period. At that point of the match, the Wildcats trailed Lehman by two points after the Black Knights swept the middle weights.
“I didn’t care how it happened. I just wanted him to get us a win,” Terenzio said. “That’s the thing with Tanner. You can tell him what to do, but he gets himself fired up. He’s the type of guy you want in that situation.”
Arguably, the most important part of the match was the disk flip at the very beginning.
Lake-Lehman, which forfeited three weight classes, needed to win in order to set up the right matchups to counterbalance those 18 points.
“That flip was huge because it had to do with three matches,” Lehman coach Jack Davis said. “We knew going in that this was probably the most important flip of the day. It would have set us up, and gave us three favorable matchups. It just didn’t work in our favor. Our kids wrestled so good. I’m proud of them.”
Lehman trailed 34-15 with five weights left – but they were five that played to its strength.
A forfeit to Derek Dragon (170), pins by Brady Butler (182) and Robert Wright (152) and a single-leg third-period takedown by Thomas Williams for a 3-1 victory at 160 set up the dramatic finish.
“We are giving up 18 points, and we were still in the match. We fought,” Davis said. “We battled all season. The credit belongs to our kids because they never quit. They are a great bunch to be around.”
The early rounds played out like most expected with the top seeds from both Wyoming Valley Conference and Lackawanna League taking care of business.
The Black Knights didn’t trail in their semifinal against WVC third seed Wyoming Area.
Butler slapped a near-side cradle on Matthew Dimick just 39 seconds into the opening bout at 195, Phillip Hettes stuck Zachary O’Brien’s shoulders deep in the Resilite in the second period and a Justin Winters’ headlock gave Lehman an 18-0 lead.
The Warriors were able to cut it back to 24-21 with six bouts left, but a late six-point combination by Tyler Kolb at 145 proved important, and Williams’ first-period pin locked up the finals berth.
The Wildcats’ semifinal wasn’t as close.
Thanks to last-second takedowns by Gillette (195) and Austin Swoyer (285), the Lackawanna League top seed grabbed all the early momentum and rolled out to a 42-9 lead over Meyers with just four bouts left.
Western Wayne dropped all four, but did enough damage in the first 11 weights for a 42-30 victory.
Meyers wrestled back to defeat Wyoming Area, 42-30, in the third-place match.
“We left some points on the mat early in the semifinal, and it put us in a bad position,” Meyers coach Ron Swingle said. “We gave up some bonus points, and unfortunately, we had some kids that needed to overwrestle and it hurt us. I think we took a few losses that we shouldn’t have because we were looking for those bonus points.”