HERSHEY — When Austin Harry isn’t conditioning or refining his moves in the Lake-Lehman wrestling room, he can be seen inside the room updating the historic wall.
Since the Black Knight arrived at the varsity level, he’s been renovating the room by updating the letters and names with district and regional medalists and other award winners that weren’t up to date for a few years before he started his successful run.
It hasn’t hit the senior 132-pounder yet that in a few days from now, he could be putting his own name underneath the heading that reads “PIAA State Champions” and consists of five plaques to date.
“That would be a great feeling. Ever since I was little, my goal has been to be a state champion and it would be great to be up on the wall with names like the Bonomos (Rocky and Ricky), (Matt) Dragon and Scottie (Davis) and Mike (Leskowsky),” Harry said. “I’ve never thought of doing half the things I’ve done and it’s crazy to think.”
What Harry refers to is that he has racked up so many accomplishments already in his career, and the only thing missing is the elusive state title.
He and eight other Wyoming Valley Conference wrestlers are trying to become the first state champion from the conference since Lake-Lehman’s Scott Davis and Hazleton Area’s Nate Eachus were both crowned in 2007.
Joining Harry in Class 2A are his teammate Derek Dragon (170 pounds), Wyoming Area’s Charlie Johnson (126) and GAR 285-pounder Saul Wilkins. In Class 3A, Dallas’ Connor Martinez (170) and Ryan Monk (285), Wyoming Valley West’s Nathan Cheek (145) and Cody Cordes (160) are joined by Hazleton Area freshman Jimmy Hoffman at 120.
For Harry, a four-time state qualifier, three-time regional champion and four-time District 2 titlist, 2014 is the first time he’s made the trip to Chocolatetown with a teammate.
“I wish everyone could’ve made it,” Harry said. “Bobby (Wright), Brady (Butler), R.J. (Driscoll), Phil (Hettes). They’re all great wrestlers, but I’m glad that Derek’s coming down with me and it’s nice to have another teammate down with you.”
Dragon has received many comparisons, name-wise, to his cousin, Matt Dragon, who was a state champion from Lake-Lehman in 2005. He has learned to deal with that. And while it’s an honor for Derek to get recognized like that, he’s on a journey to build his own legacy.
“I try to ignore it, but as much as I try, the comparisons are always going to be there,” Dragon said. “He left a legacy that is almost impossible to fill, but I want it to be at the point when they hear the name Dragon they don’t instantly think of Matt.”
There always seems to be at least one set of teammates from the Wyoming Valley Conference participating in the PIAA Championships. This time around, there are three. If recent history is any indication of what’s to come for the teammates, medalists will be dressed for all three squads.
Over the previous 11 seasons, it’s occurred 23 times that teammates of a WVC school have qualified for states. And 21 times, at least one grappler from each school has come home with a medal.
Wyoming Valley West has advanced teammates to states the last two seasons under coach Drew Feldman.
In awe, in return
At last weekend’s Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament, Harry walked up to Wilkins and congratulated the GAR first-year wrestler on joining him as a regional titlist.
Wilkins said afterward that he was shocked Harry knew who he was. Harry was humbled when he read that quote from Wilkins in the paper the next day, and is astonished with what Wilkins has done in just his first season.
“That’s crazy. I saw him in the first match year of the year when we wrestled GAR and he wasn’t very good,” Harry said. “But as the year progressed, you could see him getting better and better. He obviously absorbs everything very quickly because he caught on quick and he’s doing well now.”