JOHNSTOWN - Penn Cambria's Evan Link didn't know why he struggled in his 6-5 Southwest Regional Tournament semifinal win over Burrell freshman Zack Kelly.
He certainly made up for it in the finals against old foe Nick Roberts.
Link charged out to a 4-1 lead, withstood a Roberts rally in the third period of a rematch of the 2009 state finals and earned a 4-3 win to capture the 112-pound title Saturday morning at the Cambria County War Memorial.
Photo for the Mirror by Jim Butler
Penn Cambria's Evan Link celebrates with coach Todd Niebauer after winning the 112-pound title.
"It was a great win," Link said. "Nick is a great competitor. This morning, I wrestled with my brother [Ryan], and he pushed me a little bit. I was focused the whole match. I felt comfy out there. I kind of slowed down in the second and third [periods], but I still attacked him."
It's Penn Cambria's second Southwest Regional title in as many years. Zak Newton won the school's first Southwest title last season.
Link (39-1) was the only area wrestler to win a title at the rugged tournament. Six others lost in the finals, including Tyrone's Ronnie Garbinsky (135) and Portage's David Kephart (189), both of whom lost in the overtime tiebreakers.
Garbinsky (35-1) was denied his third regional title by Burrell's Jeremy Landowski, 6-5, in the tiebreaker, and Kephart gave up a stalling point to Southmoreland's Jordan Kitta in the ultimate tiebreaker and lost, 3-2.
Bedford's Ryan Easter (103), James Dodson (119), Central Cambria's Ben Rager (125) and Northern Bedford's Joel Suter (215) also lost in the finals.
Twenty-one area wrestlers qualified for the PIAA Championships, which begins Thursday in Hershey, with the bulk of them coming from Claysburg-Kimmel, Penn Cambria, Central Cambria and Northern Bedford. Interestingly enough, C-K, PC and NBC sent a combined 12 wrestlers to the regional, and all of them made it to Hershey.
C-K, which finished second to Burrell by 56 points, 134-78, is sending five to Hershey. In addition to Dodson, who was tech-falled by Derry Area's two-time state champion Jimmy Gulibon in the finals, Ty Dively (125) and Cole Claar (130) took third, while Corey Aungst (145) was fourth, and Josh Brown (103) was fifth.
"All in all, to bring five guys here and to take all five guys to Hershey is nice," C-K coach Dave Marko said. "I always want more. I thought we could have placed higher in a few different places. The No. 1 jump is to keep the guys advancing, and that's what we did. Mission accomplished."
Penn Cambria is sending four. Joining Link is fourth-placer Justin Miller (140) and fifth-placers Nick Szala (130) and Tom Hanlon (152), the senior who caught fire in the postseason.
"These kids are awesome," said PC coach Todd Niebauer, his voice cracking. "You get kids like Miller and Hanlon who keep working and working and working. Believe in the system and believe in the program. I'm overwhelmed right now."
The Central Cambria trio of Rager (33-1), who suffered his first loss to Shady Side Academy's four-time Southwest champion Geoff Alexander, 5-0, third-placer Tony Risaliti (152) and fourth-placer Shane Morris (285) will make the trip to Hershey.
"Second, third and fourth isn't exactly where we expected to be," CC coach Bob Nikolishen said, "but three guys are getting the opportunity to go on to states. Anything can happen from here on out. At this point, it was let's find a place at the table in Hershey."
The Panthers had some hard luck in the tournament, but they finished with three qualifiers and in third place in the team standings with 62 points. Suter, who suffered his first loss to Burrell's Brian Beattie, 5-1, in the finals, will be joined by fourth-placer Dan Sollenberger (189) and Quinton Hixson (285).
"All my big guys [advanced]," NBC coach Jan Clark said. "We had a good tournament. We were hoping to get four through, but we got three, so we're content."
Bedford's third-placer Brian Gibbons (171), Huntingdon's fourth-placer Kie Brown (119) and Chestnut Ridge's fifth-placer Tyler Dibert (160) also qualified for states.
Bellwood-Antis' Friday Cinderella Jared Woomer (119) fell a win short of qualifying, finishing sixth, losing a rematch with Shady Side Academy's Phillip Elias, 4-2, in the consolation semifinals and dropping a 3-2 decision to Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta.
"It's tough," Woomer said. "It's disappointing a little bit. [Elias] is tough, and he's strong. It's hard to do anything."
"He wrestled well all year," B-A coach Ron Wilson said. "Our kids who came over here wrestled really well."
Link struck first against Roberts with a takedown at the edge of the mat in first period. Link reversed 18 seconds into the second period to go up 4-1.
"That's what you want to to do when it's going to be a close match like that," Link said. "You want to be the first one to get that takedown. It felt really good [to go up 4-1], but I knew it wasn't over."
Roberts escaped with 34 seconds left in the period and again 27 seconds into the third. Link was hit with a stalling call with 45 seconds remaining, but he kept in Roberts' face the rest of the way. Roberts took him down off the mat with 6 seconds left, but that was it. Link pointed to the Penn Cambria section when time ran out before he jumped into Niebauer's arms.
"It was a great match," Niebauer said. "I thought he wrestled real smart. He seemed confident. He was relaxed. I thought we kind of shut down [in the third period]. I want to work on that this week."
Garbinsky dominated Landowski in a heated bout in last year's regionals, but Landowski notched two first-period takedowns, and he led, 4-2, going into the second period. Garbinsky was awarded a stalling point with 9 seconds left in the second.
Landowski - one of five Burrell champs - released Garbinsky in the third period to tie the score, 4-4. The wrestlers got into a tangled mess in overtime that resulted in no takedown. Garbinsky won the toss and deferred, Landowski chose down and he reversed with a Peterson roll in the first tiebreaker. Garbinsky escaped in the next tiebreaker and tried a throw, but Landowski avoided danger and won.
"He's a lot harder to get in on his legs," Garbinsky said. "I think I turned him a couple times last year, but I didn't this year. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him again next week. I'll be more ready for that one."
"We knew it was going to be tough," Tyrone coach Blair Packer said. "I think [Landowski's] shots were really good."
Kephart (33-2) missed on a couple takedown attempts of Kitta in regulation and crumpled to the floor in the third due to a pain in his side. He continued and went into overtime tied, 1-1.
After no scoring in OT, Kephart escaped in the tiebreaker and gave up the first stalling point in the second tiebreaker to tie the score. In the ultimate tiebreaker, Kephart was called for stalling as he was holding onto Kitta's leg with 4 seconds left, ending the bout.
"I don't agree with the call at all," Kephart said, "but I should never leave it up to a referee's decision. It's not his fault. He made the call, but I should have never left it up to him. [The loss] makes me hungrier. This definitely refocuses me."
Nolf (40-0) took Easter down in the first period, rode him the entire second and escaped and took the Bison freshman down in the third to secure the win,
Gulibon, a junior ranked No. 1 in the nation by Win Magazine whose only loss this season was to Franklin Regional two-time state champ Nico Megaludis, was up 13-3 on Dodson after one period before winning, 20-4 in 2:59.
"James had a great tournament, but he just ran into a buzzsaw," Marko said.
After a scoreless first, Alexander escaped and took Rager down for a 3-0 lead. He added a takedown in the third.
"Rager had a great match," Nikolishen said. "If there's ever a definition of a good loss, I think he defined that today. He wrestled very tough."
Suter (24-1), out for most of February with mononucleosis, took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but Beattie reversed him to his back back for five points. Suter nearly reversed at the end, but Beattie held him off.
"I thought he did great for being out a whole month," Clark said. "His conditioning was definitely a factor. He was right there with that kid. We can wrestle with him anyday."Team Key
Avella (A), Avonworth (AVON), Bedford (BED), Bentworth (BENT), Berlin-Brothersvalley (BB), Beth-Center (BC), Blairsville (B), Burgettstown (BURG), Burrell (BURR), Cambria Heights (CH), Carlynton (CAR), Central Cambria (CC), Central Valley (CV), Charleroi (CHAR), Chartiers-Houston (CHART), Chestnut Ridge (CR), Claysburg-Kimmel (CK), Conemaugh Township (CT), Derry (D), Elderton (E), Forest Hills (FH), Fort Cherry (FC), Freedom (F), Glendale (G), Highlands (HIGH), Huntingdon (H), Hyndman (HY), Jeannette (JE), Jefferson Morgan (JM), Juniata (J), Keystone Oaks (KO), Kittanning (K), Laurel (L), Ligonier Valley (LV), Marion Center (MC), Meyersdale (MEY), Moshannon Valley (MV), Mount Pleasant (MP), Mount Union (MU), Northern Bedford (NB), North Star (NS), Penn Cambria (PC), Penns Valley (PV), Portage (P), Richland (R), Shade (SHA), Shady Side Academy (SSA), Somerset (S), South Alleghney (SA), South Fayette (SF), Southern Huntingdon (SH), Southmoreland (SOUTH), South Park (SP), South Side Beaver (SSB), Steel Valley (SV), Tyrone (T), United (U), Valley (V), Washington (W), West Greene (WG), Yough (Y).
Top 15 Team Standings
1. Burrell 134; 2. Claysburg-Kimmel 78; 3. Northern Bedford 62; 4. Juniata 61.5; 5. Shady Side Academy 60.5; 6. Penn Cambria 60; 7. Forest Hills 55; 8. Chartiers-Houston and Derry 52.5; 10. Bentworth 52; 11. Central Cambria and South Side Beaver 50; 13. Charleroi and Ligonier Valley 47; 15. Bedford 45.
103-Swarrow, BC, dec. Brown, CK, 9-4; Ju. Patrick, LV, dec. Losteter, SA, 1-0; 112-Jo. Patrick, LV, dec. Hough, MP, 4-0; Reckner, SSB, dec. Kelly, BURR, 4-3; 119-Brown, H, dec. Zanetta, KO, 6-4 OT; P. Elias, SSA, dec. Woomer, BA, 4-2; 125-Dively, CK, dec. Toth, CHAR, 2-0; Gentry, SSB, dec. LaVella, 6-5 OT TB2; 130-Sutton, CHART, dec. Szala, PC, 6-5; Claar, CK, dec. G. Fetchet, SF, 10-3; 135-DePalma, JE, dec. Kwasny, CHAR, 5-2; Rowles, J, tech. fall Crites, BB, 17-1, 3:25; 140-Miller, PC, dec. Durbin, WG, 2-1; Brydon, FH, dec. Drabik, KO, 2-0.
145-F. Mizia, BENT, dec. M. Fetchet, SF, 4-2; Aungst, CK, dec. Law, FH, 4-2; 152-Trombetta, CAR, dec. Hanlon, PC, 3-1; Risaliti, CC, pinned Boozel, MU, 1:33; 160-Demain, BENT, dec. Vulcano, CHART, 3-2; Treaster, J, dec. Dibert, CR, 3-2; 171-A. Mizia, BENT, dec. Kazalas, KO, 6-1; Gibbons, BED, dec. Conti, JM, 8-2; 189-Hornbake, FH, dec. Phillips, JM, 1-0; D. Sollenberger, NB, dec. Wood, MP, 5-3 OT; 215-Nanassy, LV, dec. Dillon, PV, 4-1; Meier, FH, dec. Howard, U, 6-0; 285-Garry, FC, dec. Hixson, NB, 3-0; Morris, CC, dec. Grandellis, CHART, 5-1 OT TB2.
103-Brown, CK, dec. Losteter, SA, 3-2; 112-Kelly, BURR, pinned Hough, MP, 3:45; 119-Zanetta, KO, dec. Woomer, BA, 3-2; 125-Toth, CHAR, pinned LaVella, JE, 4:04; 130-Szala, PC, dec. G. Fetchet, SF, 4-0; 135-Kwasny, CHAR, dec. Crites, BB, 5-3; 140-Durbin, WG, dec. Drabik, KO, 2-0 OT.
145-M. Fetchet, SF, dec. Law, FH, 3-2; 152-Hanlon, PC, pinned Boozel, MU, 3:56; 160-Dibert, CR, dec. Vulcano, CHART, 7-3; 171-Conti, JM, dec. Kazalas, KO, 7-2; 189-Phillips, JM, pinned Wood, MP, 1:59; 215-Dillon, PV, pinned Howard, U, 1:49; 285-Hixson, NB, dec. Grandellis, CHART, 5-1.
103-Swarrow, BC, dec. Ju. Patrick, LV, 5-1; 112-Jo. Patrick, LV, dec. Reckner, SSB, 4-2; 119-P. Elias, SSA, dec. Brown, H, 3-1; 125-Dively, CK, pinned Gentry, SSB, 2:19; 130-Claar, CK, dec. Sutton, CHART, 6-2; 135-DePalma, JE, dec. Rowles, J, 8-2; 140-Brydon, FH, dec. Miller, PC, 6-2.
145-F. Mizia, BENT, dec. Aungst, CK, 3-2; 152-Risaliti, CC, pinned Trombetta, CAR, 1:24; 160-Demain, BENT, pinned Treaster, J, 4:18; 171-Gibbons, BED, pinned A. Mizia, BENT, 4:50; 189-Hornbake, FH, dec. D. Sollenberger, NB, 5-4; 215-Meier, FH, pinned Nanassy, LV, 3:59; 285-Garry, FC, dec. Morris, CC, 4-1 OT TB2.
103-Nolf, K, dec. Easter, BED, 5-1; 112-Link, PC, dec. Roberts, NS, 4-3; 119-Gulibon, D, tech. fall Dodson, CK, 20-4, 2:59; 125-Alexander, SSA, dec. Rager, CC, 5-0; 130-Makara, BURR, pinned A. Elias, SSA, 1:08; 135-Landowski, BURR, dec. Garbinsky, T, 6-5 OT TB2; 140-Shaffer, D, pinned Demor, SSB, 2:40.
145-Beitz, J, dec. Innes, CHART, 8-4; 152-Carr, SF, maj. dec. Pavasko, SV, 16-3; 160-McKillop, BURR, dec. Wiercioch, CHAR, 5-3 OT; 171-DesLauriers, BURR, dec. Guidi, FC, 3-0; 189-Kitta, SOUTH, dec. Kephart, PORT, 3-2 OT TB3; 215-Beattie, BURR, dec. Suter, NB, 5-1; 285-Tarley, BC, dec. Rizzo, R, 3-2 OT TB3.