WILKES-BARRE — Entering the District 2 Class 3A Tournament as the No. 5 seed in the 113-pound bracket, Wyoming Valley West’s Alex Tirko wasn’t even expected to reach the semifinals in his weight.
The Spartan senior did much more than that. After advancing to the semis Friday night, he continued his success Saturday first upending the top seed in his weight, West Scranton’s Jimmy Forsette, in the semifinals then knocking off Scranton’s Aidan McNally 11-3 to claim the gold medal.
“Honestly, I felt like I wrestled an entirely different way than I usually do,” said Tirko, who also set off a celebration. “I went after kids for once. Everyone just kept putting it in my head that this is my last year and I want to go as far as I possibly can. … It’s insane. My dad’s freaking out; he’s going nuts. My whole family’s going crazy. It just makes you feel real good.”
In winning his first district title, Tirko was one of three Spartans to claim a gold medal as they cruised to their first team title since 2002, scoring 204.5 points and finishing well ahead of Delaware Valley (160), which finished a distant second.
Valley West 145-pounder Nathan Cheek and 160-pounder Cody Cordes also won their first district titles.
“All those times of running in the halls and the sweating and the tears, all of that coming together, I’m picturing all that because I know that we did it together,” said Cheek, who defeated Tunkhannock’s Ben Siegel, 9-4 in the finals. “We busted our butt for this.”
The Spartan who didn’t entered as a No. 1 seed and didn’t win was 132-pound senior Travis Roper, who lost the final to Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer, 8-6. Palmer won controversially when he was awarded two points for a takedown with time expiring as the match appeared headed for overtime.
Palmer got Roper’s ankle then spun around and was awarded the points. The officials talked it over and did not wave it off, despite a smattering of boos from the Valley West faithful. Palmer instead became the 27th wrestler in D2 history — and just the fourth in Lackawanna League history — to claim four district golds.
“I think he got robbed, but he’ll get him next time,” Cordes said of his buddy’s loss to Palmer.
Cordes was also in a bit of a controversial bout when he handed Abington Heights’ Matt Carr his first loss of the season. Carr locked his hands early in the third period giving Cordes a point before Cordes recorded an escape later on for a 2-1 win.
“It was definitely a clear call. I was trying to get out and he locked them and the refs saw it and called it. It was a good call,” Cordes said.
There was no controversy as two Coughlin wrestlers pulled off upsets to claim their first district golds. Junior Bobby Hawkins won the 126-pound medal knocking off No. 1 seed Tyler Lutecki from Pittston Area 8-5 in an action-packed match.
Two matches later, teammate Billy Poray defeated No. 1 seed Frankie Carrozza of Delaware Valley 3-2 in the 138-pound final, to pick up his first district title after two third-place finishes.
“It seems every time I’m in a big match I come up short, but I’m working hard everyday and it finally paid off,” Poray said. “Me and (Bobby) have been working out together for the last 10 years, going back to when we were little, and to share something like that with him is awesome.”
Dallas, which was the second WVC team in the standings while finishing sixth, also crowned a pair of champions in Connor Martinez at 170 and Ryan Monk at 285. Both were No. 1 seeds at their weight. Martinez, who was twice a third-place finisher, finally broke through when he defeated Pittston Area’s Kevin Wesolowski 6-3 in the final.
Monk, who cruised through his first two bouts in the tournament with a pair of pins less than 20 seconds, went at least 6 minutes on Saturday. In his semi, he had to defeat Coughlin’s Pat Pilch via decision, 2-0 before West Scranton’s Kamron VanWert took him to overtime.
In the extra session, Monk finally got the pin as he worked a double-leg takedown, putting VanWert on his back for the pin in 6:49. But he knows there’s more work to do.
“It’s surreal, but it’s not the big show yet,” Monk said. “The big show is at the Giant Center (state championships) and that’s what I’ve been working for.”
The final 3A champion for the Wyoming Valley Conference came from Hazleton Area freshman Jimmy Hoffman as he continued his good wrestling this season by defeating Scranton’s Rui Evanitsky 9-4 to claim his first district gold.
“I was very nervous to begin the tournament, and even in the tournament, but once it started it went away and I was ready to wrestle,” Hoffman said. “Wrestling against upperclassmen, I was nervous to see how I would do, but I knew the hard work would pay off.”