The pressures of postseason wrestling are high enough, but when kids have to win that fifth-place bout at the Southwest Regional Class AA Tournament to get to Hershey, the pressure doubles.
Winning those bouts thrills and relieves wrestlers and their coaches. Losing them crushes dreams.
Penn Cambria's Pat Myers and Tyrone's Jeremy Barlett were at the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Myers qualified with a fifth-place finish, while Barlett didn't qualify due to a very odd end to his fifth-place bout.
The Golden Eagle senior was beating Charleroi sophomore Tommy Thorpe, 5-2, in the third period. Barlett was in on a single-leg shot, and Thorpe was defending with a whizzer when the action was stopped.
Thorpe immediately showed the referee the little finger on his right hand, and the ref ruled, after conferring with the scorer's table, that Barlett was disqualified for biting Thorpe.
Tyrone coach Blair Packer argued his case as a shocked and heartbroken Barlett, who was gutting out an injury to his braced leg, watched from the wrestling circle. But Thorpe's hand was raised, and that was it.
It was called a flagrant misconduct, and all of Barlett's team points were taken away. More importantly, though, he was denied his first trip to the PIAA Championships.
"I did not bite him," said an emotional Barlett afterward. "I did not bite him."
"Jeremy said [Thorpe] stuck his hand all the way down his throat," Packer said.
Thorpe showed his finger to a couple of reporters afterward. There were two marks on the top of his finger and another mark on the bottom.
"I went to throw a cross-face, and he just bit me," Thorpe said. "I could feel my finger on [his teeth], and he just bit down. I never won like that before."
In the real world, people get trials before a judge in order to get justice. But, of course, rulings have to be made instantly in sports, and this one was apparently made with visual evidence.
"I said [to the referee] 'I didn't see him bite him. You didn't see him bite him. Your mat judge didn't see it,' " Packer said. "He said 'I don't have to see it. All I have to do is see the mark.' It's a tough one to swallow."
Myers was ridden out in a three-tiebreaker loss to Northern Bedford's Tyler Chesney in the semifinals. In the consolation semis, he was beating Burrell's David Makara in the third period and got hip-tossed to his back for five points in a 9-4 loss.
But, the PC junior qualified with a 1-0 win over North Star's Joe Lascari in the fifth-place finals. It's the second year in a row that Myers has qualified with a fifth-place medal. Last year, he had to ride Westmont Hilltop's Trevor Kushner out in the third tiebreaker to advance.
"He's beating Makara and gets thrown to his back," PC coach Todd Niebauer said. "When does Patrick Myers get thrown to his back? Patrick did what he had to do. I'll be honest, I had to go sit down in the back after Myers won to collect my thoughts because my world is not complete unless Patrick Myers is there."
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.