HERSHEY - On a rough first day for area Class AA wrestlers at the PIAA Championships, the biggest problem for the Bedford trio of Johnathan Gabriel (113), Ryan Easter (132) and Garrett Thomas (138) might have been finding something to do to fill the rest of Thursday.
"I really don't know what we'll do. Maybe we'll go shopping, eat a little bit and get ready for tomorrow," said Gabriel, who is making his first appearance at states.
The Bisons had one of their best first days in recent history as they went 3-for-3 in the preliminary round at the Giant Center, finishing off their first day by 10:30 a.m.
Gabriel captured a 2-1 win over Line Mountain's Cameron Newman. Three-time medalist Easter followed with a 3-1 win over Conneaut Area's Kyle Lukowich, and Thomas capped off the perfect day with a 5-1 win over Bloomsburg's Cody Klinger.
"That's one of the better days I can remember coming down here over the last couple years," Bedford coach Brian Creps said. "The boys really wrestled well. They're ready to go. Thomas was able to get an opening takedown. Gabriel was able to get an opening takedown. When you get opening takedowns, that means a lot."
"That feels awesome," Thomas said. "We've got three solid kids wrestling for us now, and everybody is healthy."
Three other area guys - Central Cambria's Max Murin (106), Chestnut Ridge's Aaron Burkett (106) and Huntingdon's Jacob Oliver (145) - advanced to today's 9 a.m. quarterfinals
Huntingdon's Collin Glorioso (113), the returning state third-placer, battled Bethlehem Catholic returning state runner-up Luke Karam before losing, 3-1. Glorioso, who lost to Karam, 11-0, in the semifinals last year, rebounded with a 12-3 win over Lewisburg's Jordan Gessner to remain alive in the consys.
"Last year, I remembered where I was, in the state semifinals, and it just got to me," Glorioso said. "Here, I knew I had to go wrestle him."
Also still alive in the consys are Cambria Heights' Joe Davis (126), Levi Niebauer (160) and Aaron Gill (285), Chestnut Ridge's Conner Buttry (182) and Everett's Devin Reed (285).
"That was a tough first round," Heights coach Mike Eckenrode said. "The first round [draw] were pretty bad for the boys."
Penn Cambria's Nolan Link (106), Central Cambria's Tom Opdenhoff (126), Huntingdon's Devon Green (132), Tyrone's Jared Beckwith (195) and Ridge's Austin Buttry (285) were all eliminated after going 0-2. Gill eliminated returning medalist Buttry with a 3-1 overtime win.
"It feels amazing after losing to him for third and fourth at regionals," Gill said, "and I came back to beat him here when it counts. It's the best."
"That was probably the best I've seen Aaron Gill wrestle this year against Buttry," Eckenrode said.
Murin had no problem in his first bout, racking up an 11-0 win over Williams Valley's William Girard. After a scoreless first period, Murin scored five in the second, including two nearfall points, and had a takedown and four back points in the third. Murin (36-0) will face Muncy's Angelo Barberio (35-5) in the quarters.
"He started off a little hesitant with his takedowns. We were a little concerned about that," Red Devils coach Bob Nikolishen said. "You could definitely see this was his first match at the beginning, and that lasted for about 20 seconds. He started getting back points, started getting comfortable. Tomorrow will be outstanding. Max has his game face on."
In the other bracket, Bukett knocked off Brockway's Northwest Regional champ Ryan Carlson, 4-3, scoring two takedowns in the first two periods. Burkett will face Lancaster Catholic's Joe Lobeck (43-5), who beat Link, 2-1, in the first round.
"Burkett is wrestling tough," Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. "If he wrestles strong on his feet tomorrow, I think he has a decent chance of making it to the semis."
Gabriel had been bothered by an undisclosed injury at the Southwest Regional, but there were no signs of it Thursday. Gabriel had a 2-1 lead in the third and he was riding Newman and the wrestlers started to scramble. Newman looked like he might get a reversal late in the bout, but Gabriel (27-5) held him off to win and get a quarterfinal bout against Jamestown's Faris Messai (30-5)
"It wasn't too bad for me," Gabriel said, "because I always get into those weird, funky scrambling positions. So, I kind of felt comfortable there. Whenever we started scrambling, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to hold him off."
"Johnathan is a real good scrambler," Creps said. "He kind of enjoys those situations. He never panics, and that's what makes you a good scrambler."
Easter and Lukowich were scoreless for the first two periods, but Easter was able to tilt Lukowich for three nearfall points to win, although the scoreboard mistakenly showed it in Lukowich's favor.
"Ryan was able to get his tilt working and won the match with his tilt," Creps said. "That's not uncommon for him."
Thomas scored the first takedown against Klinger, and he added a reversal and a penalty point in the third period for the win. Thomas (28-5) gets one of the favorites at the weight in the quarters in Brrokville's Brock Zacherl (38-2).
"This is great," Thomas said. "Now, I need to focus on just winning one more to guarantee a place."
Oliver avenged his first loss of the season to Reynolds' Levi Stoyer, 9-8, in a tiebreaker. Stoyer, who beat the freshman, 8-5, at the PIAA Duals, was up 2-1 in the second period when, from the bottom position, Oliver hit a chin-whip to take Stoyer to his back. He nearly got the pin, but had to settle for a 6-5 lead going into the third.
"From where I was sitting, he looked pretty flat," Mykut said, "but it got us back in the match."
Stoyer reversed in the third and Oliver gave up a caution point with 19 seconds left to make the score 8-6. Oliver, however, scored a last-second reversal to tie the score and send it into OT. Oliver held off a couple takedown attempts in OT, rode Stoyer the whole 30 seconds of the first tiebreaker, escaped in the second and won.
"It feels pretty good because I did lose to him earlier in the season," Oliver said. "I knew I had a chance, but I didn't know if I'd beat him down here. I gave it my all and ended up pulling it out."
"Jake wrestled a great first match against the Stoyer kid who he lost to down here at team states," Mykut said. "It was close that match, and to be honest, he hit the same kind of funk the first time.
Oliver (38-3) has a chance to avenge another loss today against Burrell's Corey Falleroni (39-13), who pinned him at regionals.
"I'm pretty excited," Oliver said. "I don't know who I get, but I hope it's the Burrell kid."
His teammate, Green, who hadn't practice because of a sprained knee, was just glad he was able to compete at the state tournament.
"It defintely made a difference in my match," Green said. "I made it to states, and that's what I was shooting for."
Notes: The semifinals are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today. Consolation rounds will follow. ... Bethlehem Catholic, as expected, leads the team race. ... Kittanning's Jason Nolf, looking for his third title, opened with a pin.