HERSHEY — There are certain truths the PIAA tournament will hold wrestlers to, and if they don’t, Hershey will eat them up.
For West Chester Rustin’s Brett Kaliner, giving a full six minutes of competitive, focused wrestling has him a win away from a medal in the Class 3A PIAA tournament.
For those who couldn’t put a full six together, well they’re either clinging for their wrestling lives or watching from the Giant Center stands.
Thursday, Kaliner led a group of five from the Ches-Mont League to the quarterfinals, which will begin 2:15 p.m. Friday.
“My coaches preach fitness level and it’s definitely a reality,” Kaliner said. “As long as I believe in my fitness level and can push the pace the whole match, and these guys can’t, it’s a mental edge I have over everybody.”
Kaliner (126 pounds) scored a takedown in the waning seconds to get by Canon McMillan’s Matt Oblock, 4-3, in the pigtail. In the first round, Kaliner scored the only takedown of the bout in the third period to knock of the Northwest Regional champ, Garrett Rigg of Bald Eagle, 5-1.
The Rustin senior will face Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Anderson in quarters, and will have to win one more before he loses two to place.
“I think as a sophomore I kind of took it for granted and obviously it didn’t work out,” said Kaliner, who missed states as a junior. “That fueled me all year to get back and having been here before, I can focus of my stuff and not on the big stage.”
Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf (106) was the first local to reach quarters with a 5-1 decision over Moon’s Frankie Bonura. He will face Josiah Gehr of Cocalico next.
Conestoga’s Eric Hutchinson (138) had a successful first appearance in Hershey with a 3-2 win over Kiski’s Cam Conner. Nazareth’s top-ranked Sammy Sasso is next.
“I have a tough first match, but I know I just have to wrestle like I have been,” Hutchinson said. “If I don’t make any mistakes I’ll be able to reach my goal of a medal.”
Coatesville’s Brent Windle (145) followed with a dominating 9-5 win over Erie Cathedral Prep’s Albert Taylor. In his first trip, Windle shook off the nerves and will get Nazareth’s Brock Wilson.
“I was looking up in the crowd, even while I was wrestling, and I was just like ‘wow,’” Windle said. “It’s breathtaking. Plus winning out there was a whole different feeling.”
Fellow Red Raider, Chase Stephens (152) did not have such luck. He gave up a takedown in overtime to Belle Vernon’s Brock Godzin in the first round and will have to win two straight in the consolation bracket to earn his second medal.
Oxford’s David Cox (170) was the fifth local quarterfinalist with a commanding 5-1 decision over Bethlehem Liberty’s Gunnar Anglovich. The win sets Cox up against Exeter’s Ty Bagoly.
In all, 13 of the 19 3A locals are still alive on day two. No one had a bigger win in the first round of consolations than Henderson’s Killian Delaney. Trailing early, Delaney came back to defeat Central Mountain’s Geo Barzona, a two-time sixth-place PIAA medalist, 4-3.
“(Barzona) felt strong and I knew I had to conserve energy,” Delaney said. “At the start of the match he came right at me, but I knew he was gonna be gassed. I just tried to stay composed and calm.”
Also remaining in the consolation brackets are Henderson’s Jake Reid (120), West’s Nick Lilley (132), Unionville’s Jake Taylor (132), Octorara’s Ryan Sharpless (170) and Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards (182) and Josh Walls (285).
Eliminated with two losses were Downingtown East’s Lukas Richie (113), Rustin’s Dan Labus (152) and Collin Hurley (160), Coatesville’s Sean McBride (182), West’s Cole Zapf (195) and Unionville’s Mike Maguire (220).
Church Farm’s Noel Gilgeous made his first trip to the 2A tournament, but he was bumped with two losses.