WILKES-BARRE — Saturday was a day of drama in the District 2 Class 3A Duals Tournament at the 109th Field Artillery.
The team to benefit most from the excitement at the venue also known as the Kingston Armory was Wyoming Valley West.
The Spartans won a pair of drama-filled, come-from-behind wins over Pittston Area in the finals, and West Scranton in the semifinals to claim their first D2 duals championship since 2001.
“We worked hard down in the room and it shows off right here,” said Spartans junior Cody Cordes, who had three wins during the day. “We showed them in the end who the real champs is.”
No one can say that the Spartans didn’t earn their title.
They were in a back-and-forth dual with the Patriots in the final, which consisted of six lead changes in the middle and trailed by 11 points at one point before rallying for a 43-29 victory. That win followed an emotional win in the semis for Wyoming Valley West as its back was against the wall down to West Scranton by 24 points with five bouts remaining.
Needing to win the last five and get bonus points in all five, the Spartans did just that to pull out an improbable 36-34 win.
The key component in both duals was senior James Donovan, who is in the varsity lineup for the first time. The 145-pounder got the deciding fall in the last match of the semifinal to push his team into the finals by pinning Tyler Baress in 3:45 to get the win and the team victory.
“I was nervous,” Donovan said. “There was a lot of pressure.”
In the finals, Donovan again came up big — this time with a fall over the Patriots’ Hunter Booth in 39 seconds to put Valley West in the lead for good. The Spartans led 31-29 at that point and won the last two matches to secure the win and a trip to the Giant Center in Hershey for the PIAA Team Championships, which begin Thursday.
“There were spots where we had some toss up matches and they (the Invaders) won two of them right from the start,” Spartans coach Drew Feldman said. “I talk to Donovan before every match. He just has that confidence and is really good…He’s a top level wrestler just hasn’t had a chance to show it. And he’s making the most of it now. When he goes out there with confidence, he can beat anyone.”
The Patriots were also in a thrilling semifinal, knocking off favored, three-time defending champion Delaware Valley, 36-33. Booth was a big part of that dual in the last match. Delaware Valley was trailing by six points and needed a pin from Billy Pearn to tie the score. Booth held Pearn to a decision.
Had the Warrior earned a pin, DelVal would have clinched a trip to the finals via winning on the second criteria, number of matches won with eight to Pittston Area’s six.
“We’ve had some barn-burners with Delaware Valley over the years,” Pittston Area coach James Woodall said. “I don’t know if Del Valley expected us to do what we did. I think we caught them a little off-guard.”
In the finals, the Patriots picked up where they left off, jumping out to a 14-3 lead after Jake Vaxmonsky won with a decision over Ian Moran at 220 pounds. A pin by Dave Deleo at 138 gave Pittston Area a 29-25 lead with just three bouts remaining. But Valley West was just too much in the end and the Patriots were missing a big piece from the lineup in Dan Gambini, who has pulled off upsets this season.
“I was excited he got the pin, but I didn’t think we had a real good shot to come back and do it. If we have Gambini in the lineup — he’s a pinner too — I think we have a better shot,” Woodall added. “Booth did an awesome job for us and helped us win that match against DelVal. But he’s a freshman and taking his lumps. He’s getting better and better.”
Also in Class 3A from the WVC, Hazleton Area and Dallas wrestled but both lost in the first round and dropped their first consolation match.
Delaware Valley bounced back to nab a close 36-34 victory over West Scranton in the third-place match.