Three area top seeds will wrestle in finals today
By Todd Irwin
For the Mirror
HERSHEY — Central Cambria’s Max Murin, Chestnut Ridge’s Justin McCoy and Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver have been ranked No. 1 at their weights for most of the season.
Today, they’re a little closer to becoming the ultimate No. 1 wrestler at their respective weights.
All three will be wrestling in today’s 2 p.m. finals of the PIAA Class 2A Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Murin has pinned his way to the 138-pound finals, including a lightning-quick 21-second fall over Slippery Rock’s Michael Doerflinger in the semifinals.
“I thought it was going to last a little longer,” Murin said. “I thought I would have to take him down and let him up. I thought I was going to have to break him, but I got a cradle right away and got the pin. It’s the state tournament, so I definitely want to get on and off the mat as fast as I can and get ready for the next one.”
McCoy and Oliver’s bouts were a lot more tighter. McCoy earned a 3-1 win over Southern Columbia’s Todd Lane in the 145-pound semis, while returning state champ Oliver edged Southern Columbia freshman Gaige Garcia, 3-2, in the semis at 170.
“It feels amazing,” McCoy said. “I’ve worked to be in this moment for most of my life. Last year, I got seventh, which is pretty disappointing. I’ve just been working like crazy to get here, so hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow.”
“It was tighter than I thought it would be,” Oliver said. “He blocked off more than I thought he would. He didn’t wrestle me like I thought he was going to.”
Four other area wrestlers have earned a medal and will be wrestling at the same as the championship finals.
Central’s Brock Biddle (152), Huntingdon’s Seth Baney (160) and Ridge’s Jared McGill (170) will wrestle for third, while Moshannon Valley’s Larry Brown (160) will go for fifth.
Everett’s Garret Cornell (113) and Liam Flaherty (132), Mo Valley’s Jon Dale (152), Ridge’s Morgan Deremer (160) and Huntingdon’s Landon Fisher (220) were eliminated in the third round of consolations — one win shy of making the medal round.
Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown (160) and Central Cambria’s Nate Martin (285) were eliminated in the second of consolations.
Murin (39-0), who has relished dominating technical falls coming into the tournament, has spent 3:49 on the mat in his three bouts, including pins in 40 seconds and 21 seconds.
“He’s chill,” Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen said. “He’s a penguin out in the Arctic. He’s in his element. The sun is out. It’s cold. He’s swimming. He’s playing on icebergs. This tournament, I’ve never seen Max laugh as much. He had a plan coming in to make it memorable, and he’s doing that.”
His fourth bout will likely not be as quick.
In his third appearance in the state finals, the 2015 state champ and 2016 runner-up face Reynolds’ 2015 state champ Cole Matthews (43-1). Matthews has two first-period pins in the tournament, including a 37-second pin of Tri-Valley’s previously once-beaten Sammy Hepler in the semis.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” Murin said. “I’ve been waiting for this day for 364 days. I’m confident if I wrestle Max Murin style, I’ll win it.”
Murin, who decked Ridgway’s Logan McClain in 2:48 in the semis, got a quick takedown in the finals, hooking up a low-leg cradle in the process, put Doerflinger on his back and his 88th career pin came quickly.
McCoy survived a tougher quarterfinal than his semifinals, winning 4-3 over Palisades sophomore Nathan Haubert, who hit a throw after the buzzer sounded.
“The last kid I wrestled in the quarterfinals was a big, strong kid,” McCoy said. “He didn’t do very much, and he just tied me up a lot. I got the win, so it doesn’t really matter. I’m in the state finals.”
In the finals, McCoy scored a takedown in the first period and added an escape in the second for a 3-0 lead. He rode Lane for the first 1:12 of the third before giving up an escape. He avoided any danger from there, and when the final seconds ticked off the clocked, points to the Ridge fans and hugged coach Greg Lazor.
“All the fans support me so much,” McCoy said. “My family has taken me to so many practices and camps trying to get me better. It’s paying off.”
“He’s been working really hard and dedicated himself all spring and summer and all season doing the extra,” Lazor said. “It was great to see him being rewarded for it. I thought he wrestled really well in the semis. And Lane is a top competitor who has multiple medals. And for him to come on top, I’m very excited for him.”
McCoy (42-3) will face Bishop McDevitt’s top-seeded John Pipa (41-4) in the finals. Pipa defeated South Park’s Dallas Bulsak, 6-0, in the semis.
“I just want to go out and have fun,” McCoy said. “In my quarterfinals match, I was real tense. (The semifinal) I was smiling before the match. The coaches were getting me relaxed. I just wanted to have fun out there.”
Oliver, who pinned Mahanoy’s Matt Lewandowski in 2:54 in the quarters, went to the third against Garcia down 1-0.
Oliver immediately escaped in the third, hit a textbook low double-leg shot near the edge of the mat and got a takedown 30 seconds into the period. Garcia escaped 10 seconds later and looked for an opening that Oliver never allowed.
“He had a gameplan and stuck to it, but he gave me that one opportunity,” Oliver said. “He stepped real big and I saw it right away, and I took it.”
Oliver (43-1), who has earned his fourth medal, will face Susquenita’s Dalton Group (37-1) in the finals. Group beat Reynolds’ Joel Leise, 10-3, in the semis. Leise knocked McGill into the consolations, 8-5, in the quarterfinals.
“I’m excited. I’m pumped,” Oliver said.
Mo Valley’s Brown reached the semis with a 1-0 win over Coudersport’s Gage Arnold, but he dropped a 4-2 decision to Wyalusing’s Creighton Edsell. He was tied 1-1 in the third, but Edsell received a stalling point with 33 seconds left, and he got a late takedown.
Baney, knocked into the consolations by Reynolds’ Gavin Wilkerson, 12-1, fired back with three consy wins, including a 3-1 overtime win over Brown, avenging, his District 6 finals loss. Baney got a stalling points with 11 seconds left, and then he got a takedown with 30 seconds remaining in OT.
Biddle pinned three of his consolation opponents on Friday after dropping an 8-5 decision to Susquehanna Township’s Edmond Ruth.
“It feels great placing at the state tournament,” Biddle said. “I’ve come up short a couple times before. This year, I really worked hard, put in the effort. I just give it to God and go out and wrestle as hard as I can. As soon as I lost to Ruth, I got in the right mindset.”
“For him to fight back like he did and be as dominant, get three pins in the state tournament is a nice way to finish the day,” Central coach Dave Marko said. “We get greedier tomorrow.”
His last pin, in 2:50, was with a tilt, and it was not well received by his opponent, Pen Argyl’s Chase Anklam. Anklam pounded the mat, costing his team a point, and he flipped off the referee, which disqualified him from receiving a medal.
“I just stood there and I didn’t know what to do,” Biddle said. “I stayed quiet.”
“That’s crazy,” Marko said. “I don’t know why he was so upset, other than just being upset with himself.”
McGill went 3-0 in the consys, including a major decision and a pin, and then he took Garcia down in overtime to win, 6-4.
“He had a tough loss in the quarters,” Lazor said, “but he straightened his head, came back and decided he wanted to keep climbing that ladder. Garcia was kind of his childhood nemesis, so I’m very proud of him.”