HERSHEY — Drawing a tough opponent in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3-A state wrestling championships, Dallastown senior Bryce Shields knew earning a first ever state medal would be difficult.
Despite losing his opener on Thursday, 7-5, to Council Rock South's Joe Doyle, the defeat gave him confidence for the rest of the tournament. He gave one of the top 220-pound wrestlers in the state a challenge. The only downside to it was that one more loss and his high school career would be over.
But, he stayed alive with a win in the consolation round on Thursday to advance to Friday's action at Giant Center.
Then, after receiving a forfeit in his second consolation bout to open things on Friday, Shields, fresh and ready to go, dominated Nathan Feyrer of Parkland, 9-2, to advance into Saturday's action and assure himself of a first state medal.
"It feels great," Shields said about the assurance that he'll finish his career with a medal. "It's been one of my goals since I was really young."
Right from the get-go of his bout with Feyrer, Shields was the aggressor. A pair of takedowns in the abbreviated one-minute first period, which is a rule for consolation bouts, put him ahead 4-1 after the opening period. He proceeded to ride out Feyrer for the duration of the second period and then continued to dominate in the third period, scoring a couple more takedowns to wrap up the 9-2 result.
After the bout ended, his celebration was reserved, which he attributed to fatigue. So, even though he didn't have to wrestle in the previous round, Shields put it all on the line in that bout to make sure he got to Saturday.
Placing in states was the goal Shields (37-3) set for himself at the start of the year, with his ultimate goal being to finish in the top six. Now, knowing that he'll at least be on the podium on Saturday, he can relax a little bit more overnight as he prepares for the final day of competition in his high school career.
"My goal this year was to place," he said. "My ultimate goal was to place in the top six, so hopefully I can get close to that."
Disappointment for Wolfgram: Central York sophomore Michael Wolfgram entered Friday with an unblemished 35-0 record to his name.
One more win would guarantee him a medal. However, he ran into two tough challengers and dropped both of his bouts on Friday, finishing his 10th grade year with a 35-2 record, but no state medal.
"We just need to go back and work on the things we did well this year and just keep improving," Panthers' head coach Seth Beitz said. "I know this wasn't the result he wanted, but let's refocus that and get better for next year. Let's just take this as a learning opportunity and get better."
In his quarterfinal bout, Wolfgram dropped a 6-4 result to Montour's Roman Macek to fall into the consolation bracket and had to wrestle again on Friday. Then, facing Gerald Brown of West Mifflin, an early takedown by Brown set back Wolfgram. He got an escape to make it 2-1 after the first period, but wrestled from behind the rest of the way, ultimately dropping a 5-2 decision.
"You have to look at the season for what it's worth," Beitz said. "He did a really good job all year for us. He scored a lot of points and he made huge improvements from last year to this year. I'm hoping he has that kind of laser focus to do the same thing this summer. So, it's really up to him now what he wants to take this week as and where he wants to go from here."
Storm keeps gold alive: New Oxford senior Zurich Storm kept his quest for a gold medal alive with a 6-1 win over Aiden Burke of Council Rock North on Friday.
Storm, who is a four-time state qualifier, had never earned a state medal in his first three state appearances. Now, in his last chance, he not only assured himself of one, but can make it gold.
Storm (35-1) has had little trouble in any of his first two state bouts, also earning an 8-2 decision during Thursday's first day of action. The only time Storm found himself in any bit of a scare against Burke was when he was briefly on his back. However, Storm quickly recovered and actually turned it into a reversal to regain control of the bout.
More wrestlers bow out: If the first day of the state competition wasn't kind to Y-A League wrestlers on Thursday, then Friday dealt another blow to even more.
Several other area wrestlers saw their dreams of a state medal vanish after losing on the second of three days of competition.
Perhaps most surprising was Spring Grove junior Dalton Rohrbaugh getting knocked out at 113 pounds. Rohrbaugh grabbed a bronze medal at 106 pounds as a sophomore last season, but was facing an uphill battle to repeat that performance at a higher weight class.
After losing his opening bout on Thursday and then staying alive with a consolation victory later in the day, it all came to an end in his first bout on Friday. Struggling to score, Rohrbaugh dropped a 1-0 decision to Belle Vernon's Jacob Dunlop, allowing an escape with 45 seconds to go in the third period. Just prior to that, Rohrbaugh almost scored back points, which would've given him a 2-0 lead, but he couldn't finish the tilt.
Immediately following Rohrbaugh's state-ending defeat, teammate Clay Baker took the same mat as Rohrbaugh. Baker lost to Zach Glenn of Bethlehem Catholic, 5-3, failing to get the necessary takedown to force overtime.
Not long after Rohrbaugh and Baker saw their state tournaments end, so too did Red Lion's Dylan Gurreri. The senior used good defensive tactics to force overtime against Tyler Delorenzo of East Stroudsburg South, but after Gurreri got an escape to go up 2-1 in the second overtime period, Delorenzo got the needed takedown to earn a 3-2 win.
Blaine Yinger of Northeastern saw his high school career come to an end, as well, getting taken down with about two seconds left to lose, 3-1, to LaSalle's Vincenzo Pelusi. The two traded escapes through the first two periods and then Yinger went for a late takedown, had it stuffed and then Pelusi spun around and gained top position to earn the late victory.
Clabaugh wrestling for gold: In the Class 2-A tournament, three Y-A League wrestlers will compete for medals on Saturday's final day.
The three — Bermudian Springs' Austin Clabaugh (126), Delone Catholic's Brian Shermeyer (160) and Littlestown's Carl Harris (170) — all made it through the blood rounds earlier on Friday and assured themselves of top-eight finishes in the tournament.
Clabaugh is leading all of them, as he continued to cruise through the 126-pound division with a 5-0 win over Quaker Valley's John Rocco Kazalas to book a spot in the gold medal bout.
"I'm pretty excited," he said. "I've been working for it. It's definitely been the goal all season, getting to the state finals. I wanted to dominate through the state tournament and so far I have been."
Clabaugh scored midway through the opening period against Kazalas to grab a 2-0 lead. He maintained his top position during the entirety of the second period and then got an escape and one more takedown in the third to finish off things.
Saturday's final will be the first time Clabaugh will earn a state medal in his career, but to make it gold will require a strong effort. Awaiting him is top-ranked Gavin Teasdale of Jefferson-Morgan, who needed just a period and a half to score a 20-5 tech fall in his semifinal.
Clabaugh won't wrestle scared just because he's facing an undefeated opponent. Instead, he plans to wrestle loose and leave it all on the mat.
"The finals, I'm just going to go out there and giving it everything," Clabaugh said. "I'm just going to go out there and wrestle and try and win a gold medal."
Shermeyer dropped his fourth round consolation bout, 3-2, to Seth Baney of Huntingdon to drop to the seventh-place bout on Saturday against Jacob Carpenter of Shamokin.
For Harris, he was pinned in his fourth round consolation bout by Jared McGill of Chestnut Ridge in 2:43, also falling into the seventh-place bout. He'll face Nick McClimans of Sharon.
In total, five Y-A League wrestlers have assured themselves of state medals.
Action will wrap up Saturday night at Giant Center.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com