HERSHEY – With the first three Class 3A wrestlers from the Wyoming Valley Conference losing their preliminary round bouts of the PIAA Championships on Thursday afternoon, Dallas’ Ryan Monk was the last hope for a win.
And the Mountaineer junior did more than that.
While pinning Harrisburg’s Andrew Brown in the 285-pound first round in 4:35, Monk picked up career win No. 100, showed he can compete with the best in the state and became the first wrestler from Dallas to win a match in the championship round of the event since Matt Gingo in 1999.
“It’s amazing with a capital A,” Monk said of his big win at the Giant Center. “The feeling is unbelievable, especially to share it with my parents and my friends.
“You gotta show up for the Wyoming Valley Conference. We have talented wrestlers. We can compete with the best of them.”
While Monk, who used a variation of the tilt to pin Brown, was the only one from the WVC to claim a victory in the 3A opening round, he wasn’t the lone grappler to win during the day.
Hazleton Area’s Jimmy Hoffman (120 pounds), Wyoming Valley West’s Nathan Cheek (145) and Monk’s teammate Connor Martinez (170) all won their first round consolation matches to bounce back after losses.
Hoffman faced defending champion and the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 120, Luke Pletcher from Greater Latrobe, in the first round. The Hazleton Area freshman was in the match after the first period, trailing 4-2, but Pletcher was too quick, grabbing six more takedowns throughout the bout to run away with a 17-5 major decision.
He then came back to defeat Brock Port from Bellefonte 3-2 in the rideout, exacting revenge from a loss to Port earlier in the season.
“I got the first takedown, which was big. I knew if I could get the first takedown I could control the match and that’s just the way it went basically,” Hoffman said. “I knew (Pletcher) was good and keeping it that close was kind of an accomplishment. … It was a major decision, which I was kind of happy with. I would’ve rather it be closer but …”
Martinez also lost to a defending state champ when he was pinned in the 170-pound bracket by three-time unbeaten champion Chance Marsteller from Kennard-Dale. Martinez couldn’t get out of the first period as Marsteller notched the fall in 1:23. But he got to experience what it’s like to wrestle one of the best wrestlers ever to come out of Pennsylvania.
“Losing sucks no matter who it is to, but it was easier losing to him than someone else,” Martinez said. “Right off the whistle it was attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. I just got caught off guard and he caught me and once he got on top I couldn’t do anything.”
He used that to rebound and win his first round consolation bout against Ringgold’s Devin Fellenstein 4-3. He’s now just one win away from securing a medal in his senior season.
“I’m definitely going to get a good night’s rest and going to bring it all (today), 150 percent for the whole six minutes of that match,” Martinez added.
Cheek is also looking to become a state medalist for the first time as a senior. After being the recipient of an 11-6 defeat in the first round, Cheek came back and won decisively 10-3 in his next match. But Cheek, who is used to wrestling in the wrestleback round after so many third-place finishes throughout his career, wasn’t rattled by the first-round defeat.
“It’s just another day in the gym,” said Cheek, who sported a fresh mohawk for the event. “I’m not so much nervous as I am excited. Just being here, I feel like I’m part of the good wrestlers. I haven’t had a better feeling. I’m just enjoying the moment.”
Cheek’s teammate Cody Cordes (160) wasn’t as fortunate. The junior was in a controversial match against Central Mountain’s Chad Reese, a state qualifier from last season in the preliminary round.
Cordes was called for a penalty in the second period when he was working a crossface, but was called for unnecessary roughness for rubbing his knuckle in Reese’s face by the secondary referee giving Reese one point.
Late in the third period, Cordes was attempting shots looking for a takedown and didn’t get points as it looked like he got one as time expired. He then lost to Dominic Scalise from Greater Latrobe in the losers bracket and was eliminated.