HERSHEY >> On the same Giant Center mat where his season came to a devastating end the year prior, Kennett’s John Pardo waited for just the right time to make amends.
Fighting off attacks from Waynesburg Central’s Eli Makel for most of the first two periods, Pardo finally got his opening and hit an ankle pick with five seconds in the second for a takedown.
The Kennett junior held off Makel in the third, and when the final seconds ticked off of a 3-1 victory in the 215-pound quarterfinals of the Class 3A PIAA Championships, Pardo let out a roar a year in the making.
“I’ve been thinking about it since I stepped in the building,” Pardo said of his loss in the blood round a year ago. “I just kept the one-match mindset, but I didn’t want to wrestle back again.”
Pardo will start his Saturday in the semifinals, against Nazareth’s returning state champion, Sonny Sasso. The semis start at 9 a.m., with the finals slated for 7 p.m.
Bailey Shindle (285 pounds) won his blood round bout to give Kennett two state medalists in the same year for the first time, ever. He’ll wrestle in the fourth round consolations, also starting at 9 a.m.
Ridley’s Curtis Nelson (107) became the program’s first state medalist since 1985, after he bounced back from a loss in the quarterfinals with a win in the blood round.
But Pardo is the lone area wrestler with a shot at a title still. He did it just the way he planned.
“I had a game plan coming in and knew what I wanted to do,” Pardo said. “I knew if I wore him down in the first period and focused on scoring in the last 30 seconds, I was going to get it. I knew I had a better gas tank than him.”
Pardo is guaranteed a top six medal, while Shindle and Nelson will have to win their first bout, Saturday, to earn a top six spot.
Nelson started his afternoon off with an 11-4 loss to Bethlehem Catholic’s Keanu Dillard, in the quarters.
“It was pretty hard to shake off,” Nelson said. “I was disappointed, but just had to get ready for my next one.”
His next one was against Central Dauphin freshman, Thunder Beard. Nelson provided the lightning, scoring quickly in the first and then using a merkle for a pair of near-fall points in the second.
Nelson went on to win, 7-2, and will face Altoona’s Braiden Weaver, Saturday morning.
“I’m really happy,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t have done it without my coaches or my dad and all the support everyone gave me. … My coaches told me I’d be the first placer in decades, so I was ready to get that win.”
Shindle was bumped from the championship bracket with a 6-3 loss to Carlisle’s Layton Schmick. He dropped down to face Chambersburg’s Avery Kuhns, and after giving up the first takedown, he scored the next six for a 6-2 win to get him to the podium.
“I just knew I had to keep working,” said Shindle of the early takedown. “It made me put it in overdrive, not only to get that two back, but to get ahead.”
The Kennett senior will face Penn Trafford’s Joe Enick, next, but realizing he’s ending his career with some hardware got Shindle emotional as he walked up the tunnel after the match.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Shindle said. “There are no other words to put it.”
Conestoga’s Hayden McLellan (172) was leading his blood-round match, 1-0, against J. P. McCaskey’s Kevin Olavarria, but when Olavarria took McLellan to his back on a potential takedown, McLellan suffered a lower leg injury. The ‘Stoga senior was forced to injury default and was taken out of the arena on a stretcher.
Haverford High’s Cole McFarland (114) lost both his matches, Friday, and was eliminated. Sun Valley’s Brandon Carr (145), Garnet Valley’s Dylan Bledsoe (285) and Strath Haven’s Ben Farabaugh (285) were also knocked out of the tournament in the blood round.
Owen J. Roberts’ Dean Becthold (189) and Dillon Becthold (215) joined Pardo as semifinalists from Chester County, while Sam Gautreau (152) made it three state-placing Wildcats.