BETHLEHEM – It was a year ago at this time that Ryan Monk reached the semifinals of the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament.
But then the Dallas 285-pounder struggled in his next match, fell into the consolations and couldn’t recover to reach the PIAA Championships.
Here he is again in the same situation this morning after winning via fall in his only match of the tournament on Friday night at Liberty High School.
This time, he feels he has learned from last year’s mistakes and the junior knows what he has to do to improve on the finish from a year ago.
“Just be smarter. Be aggressive, setting up my moves well, knowing where I am on the mat and just wrestling the way I wrestle, not the way he wrestles,” said Monk, who won via fall in 3:58 over George Washington’s Stephane Eugene in Friday’s quarterfinals and will take on Stroudsburg senior Cody Cooper in today’s semis, which begin at 11 a.m. “Against the bigger kids (last year) I just kinda went with their pace instead of going with my pace.”
Monk, who earned career victory No. 97, is one of four Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers who reached the semifinals. He is joined by a trio from Wyoming Valley West in Travis Roper (132 pounds), Nathan Cheek (145) and Cody Cordes (160).
While Monk is in the semis for the second straight season, all three Spartans didn’t get there a year ago, but the team is still in second place in the team standings with 32, 23 points behind team leader Nazareth.
Roper, who was a state qualifier in 2013, picked up a pair of wins on Friday and doing so in typical Roper fashion – being quick to the punch and racking up points. In his first round win over Easton’s Jacob Montes, Roper won via major decision 13-3. He then won 8-2 over Southern Lehigh’s Adam Ziegler to reach the 132-pound final four.
He didn’t show any signs of a letdown after last weekend’s tough loss to Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer in the District 2 final. He now prepares for a match against the No. 1 seed in the bracket, Chase Zemenak from Nazareth.
“No (it didn’t effect me). I should see him again. That’s my plan, to get another crack at him and it would be another toss up match,” Roper said. “It’s crazy that I’m in the semis, but I have a real tough match … I guess I feel like a big dog now because I’m just beating up on kids.”
Two bouts after Roper walked off the mat victorious, Cheek did the same thing in his quarterfinal bout against Bobby Endy from St. Joseph’s Prep. Cheek, the District 2 champ, defeated Endy 7-4 after knocking off Emmaus’ Cole Franklin, 10-4 in the first round. Cheek gets the No. 2 seed in his weight, Charles Sell from Bangor.
“I’m just gonna try to keep the dream alive,” Cheek said. “I’m excited but we got one more to go to make it to states. Anything can happen. Just have to pray to God and hope for the best.”
Cordes looked the most dominant of the three Spartans on the night. He picked up a pin in 57 seconds to begin his tournament then reached the semis with a 10-1 win over Ricky Fornaciari from Nazareth in a scrappy bout.
“He was cocky, throwing punches at me, punched me in the jaw twice I just wanted to beat him up by wrestling him,” Cordes said of quarterfinal win.
There are no easy roads to states, but Cordes, a junior, may have an upperhand in his semifinal. His opponent is Brody Keefy, a sophomore from Pleasant Valley, who topped the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals and is the No. 3 seed from District 11.
“(The win) definitely gives me motivation to go out and win the next match,” Cordes said.
After going 14-13 in the preliminary round, the WVC wrestlers took a hit in the quarters going just 4-12. Three wrestlers – Wyoming Valley West’s James Wright (113), Tunkhannock’s Ben Siegel (145) and Dallas’ Connor Martinez (170) – all lost in overtime. The positives for those three is that they didn’t have to wrestle in a consolation match Friday night and had time to recover from the tough losses.
In all, 27 of the 29 WVC wrestlers who entered the tournament are still in contention to reach the PIAA Championships, despite 25 falling into the loser’s bracket.