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OJR’s Mancini opens with monumental win, 1 of 3 PAC wrestlers in gold-medal hunt

HERSHEY >> He took a page out of Ryan Resnick’s book Thursday.

During last year’s PIAA Class AAA Championships, Daniel Mancini watched his former teammate handle North Allegheny’s Eric Hong — he was ranked second in his weight class nationally — by a 7-3 count in their bout at 160. When he faced a similar scenario in the opening round of this year’s state tourney, Mancini applied the lessons learned from watching Resnick and produced a big result of his own.

The Owen J. Roberts junior rallied from an early point deficit against highly-ranked Luke Kemerer of Hempfield Area, scoring a 4-2 sudden-victory decision in his opening bout at 152. Kemerer had been ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania at 145 previously this season.

“I always think about how Ryan beat that top kid last year,” Mancini said. “He was calm and focused, and I tried to maintain the same mindset.”

After Kemerer scored a takedown at the start, Mancini countered with a pair of escapes to force a 2-2 tie in regulation. He then scored a takedown before the fourth period ended to keep on track for a gold medal in his division.

It proved payback for Mancini (39-4), reversing the outcome of a previous duel two years earlier.

“I lost to him my freshman year, when we wrestled at 132 in the King of the Mountain Tournament,” Mancini recalled. “I think when I was a freshman, he was at a much higher level than I was. But it’s completely different now.

“I kept pressing into him, forcing him to take a bad shot. I then hit him with my counter-offense.”

As one of three Pioneer Athletic Conference wrestlers still in gold-medal contention — Pope John Paul II’s Ryan Vulakh and Boyertown’s Elijah Jones the others — Mancini now faces Scranton’s William Evanitsky (42-1) in Friday’s quarterfinals. Like Mancini, Evanitsky had to go the sudden-victory route in his 5-3 decision of Mifflin County’s Trey Kibe.

Boyertown’s Elijah Jones locks his grip against Hazleton’s Shane Noonan before pinning him in the second period of the 195-pound first round match. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Jones continued a winning roll dating back to the Jan. 13-14 Escape the Rock Tournament with his 2:27 pin of Hazleton Area’s Shane Noonan. The Bear senior (40-3), looking to upgrade the fifth-place state medal he scored last winter, takes a 20-bout streak into Friday’s quarterfinal against Clearfield’s Luke McGonigal.

“It was a medical forfeit,” Jones said of his last setback. “I wasn’t as healthy as I could be. I wanted to make sure I’ve been completely healthy and rested since then.”

Vulakh acknowledged his first-round opponent, Garrett Rigg of Bald Eagle Area, came into their bout with a plan. But he had a plan of his own, one that paid him with a 4-0 decision at 145.

“I felt I could ride him,” the Pope John Paul II junior said. “I wanted to score as many points as I could, to start with a bang.”

What Vulakh faced, instead, was trying to pad the 1-0 lead he got early in the second period. That tenuous advantage lasted until the closing second of the third, when he got three back points to secure a berth in Friday’s quarterfinal round.

“I worked that the whole period,” he said. “He (Rigg) made good use of his feet. But me getting to the side sealed the match.”

Pope John Paul’s Ryan Vulakh focuses in on Bald Eagle Area’s Garrett Rigg in a 4-0 win in the 145-pound first round bout. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

While Jones, Ryan Vulakh and Mancini continue in the championship chase of their respective brackets, six other area wrestlers remain alive in wrestlebacks.

PJP’s Matt Vulakh (106), Upper Perkiomen’s Jared Kuhns (113), Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith (120), Methacton’s Kibwe McNair (132), Owen J.’s Antonio Petrucelli (138) and Boyertown’s Jacob Miller (182) will try to stave off elimination after getting losses in their early bouts.

A first-round consolation bout of considerable local interest featured a third post-season duel between Boyertown’s Miller and Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith.

Their first two meetings carried gold-medal implications in the 182-pound division of the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA Central tournaments. The “rubber match” at the Giant Center was for continued life in the state tournament.

The bout went to Miller in a 6-3 decision. He won their pairing at districts, 3-2, to answer Smith’s 4-3 win at PACs.

Seeing their seasons end after losing twice Thursday were Spring-Ford’s Jack McGill (126), Ben D’Arcangelo (152) and Smith (182), OJR’s Connor Quinn (126) and Jason Zollers (170), Methacton’s Roman Moser (145), Michael Blakemore (160) and Tonee Ellis (220), Boyertown’s Evan Mortimer (160) and Pottsgrove’s Skylar McLeod (220).

Boyertown’s Jacob Miller scores a takedown and two near-fall points in a win over Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith in the first round of consolations at 182 pounds. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

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