Six heading to States
Lehighton’s Chris Whiteman rides Camp Hill’s Sean Getty during Friday’s action at the Southeast Region Class 2A wrestling tournament. Whiteman not only advanced out of regionals to the PIAA State Tournament, but picked up his 100th career victory in the process. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Wrestling’s postseason produces no shortage of highlight reel moments.
And the first two weeks have delivered in droves.
The Times News area crowned first-time district champions in Jim Thorpe’s Ethan Mordaunt and Tamaqua’s Bronson Strouse two weeks ago. Mordaunt also added his first regional title this past weekend.
While Strouse and Mordaunt are making return trips to Hershey, four other area wrestlers will be wrestling at the state tournament for the first time this weekend.
Lehighton’s Chris Whiteman and Logan Pagotto, Tamaqua’s Nate Wickersham and Jim Thorpe’s Derek Hunter, all first-time state qualifiers, have a chance to cap already impressive seasons starting Thursday at the PIAA Championships.
Whiteman, Strouse and Mordaunt have also hit career milestones during their march to states, hitting 100 career victories.
Whiteman’s milestone moment came with an 8-2 decision over Thomas Allison of Mahanoy Area in the quarterfinals on the opening night of the district tournament.
“It’s really special,” said Whiteman. “I’ve been working super hard to get to this point in my career. It just feels like a relief, because I was chasing it all year, and I finally got it.
“Last year, I put more pressure on myself to get out to regionals. Now, I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself, I’m just trying to work hard, drilling, getting a good mindset before each match, because that’s really important to me. Just have to have the right mindset and be confident, and know what I can do.”
He reached win No. 99 by pinning Pen Argyl’s Brilynd Madeya in 33 seconds during his first match at districts.
“The first match was good, just to get the jitters out,” Whiteman said. “The first match of the tournament, you always have some butterflies.
“The second match, I just was focused, and I felt really focused the whole match. I just made sure I got that win, and I was doing everything I needed to do to get the win. It felt pretty good.”
Indians’ head coach Floyd Brown paused to put the accomplishment in perspective.
“It’s great for him,” said Brown. “He’s one that comes in every day; he’s a hard worker, and he’s a guy that all the other kids on our team can look up to, with his work ethic, and the way he goes out and wrestles tough all the time.
“So congrats to him, he’s been a pleasure to coach. He’s been outstanding.”
Strouse knocked off top seed Nickolas Warnke of Saucon Valley 3-2 in the district semis to reach the final, and notch his 100th career victory in the process.
“I wasn’t really concentrating on 100 wins because my girlfriend was trying to keep track. I didn’t really know what it was either,” he said. “I knew it was 98 or 99. (Coach Jim) McCabe knew. That’s why there wasn’t really a big thing, and we just took pictures.”
McCabe has helped Strouse open up and be more offensive, something that is crucial for Strouse’s success as a lighter heavyweight.
“I think he’s moving well,” said McCabe. “Physically, and mentally, he’s prepared to do what he needs to do, in the most efficient way.
“We’ve been working all season on getting him to open up and attack. As long as he keeps on using his footwork, and wrestling like the athletic heavyweight, not so much the traditional heavyweight, where they want to be up top and push up top, just continue to work on shots, and we’ll be fine.”
Mordaunt needed just 1:40 in his 220-pound quarterfinal match this past Friday at regionals to dispatch Joey Coblentz of Pequea Valley and punch his ticket to states – and also notched his 100th career victory.
“It’s great,” Mordaunt said this past Friday. “Two years ago, I came here and I was five points away from making it to states. I’m just proud of myself, and thankful for my coaches for pushing me as much as they have, and as they continue to.
“I only won like nine matches as a freshman, so to be here, feels pretty good. Mainly as a sophomore, and the beginning of my junior year, I was just excited to pin kids, because I was always the one getting pinned. But I learned as I progressed through my sophomore and junior year, it’s not all about pinnng kids — it’s about technique, scoring points and always trying to build your lead.”
Coming off his first district title a week ago, Mordaunt had a first-round bye, and had to wait for his opportunity to take the mat.
“It was kind of in the back of my mind,” he said. “I was kind of stirring a little bit. I was just excited to go wrestle another match.”
Mordaunt put an exclamation point on the weekend, pinning his way through the regional bracket.
“It’s awesome to see one of your wrestlers achieve their goals,” said Olympians head coach Shawn Albert. “I see a kid who is very confident, and very determined to achieve his goals. He’s the second regional champ from Jim Thorpe, and I know that’s something that he set his mind to to make sure he did, and he’s done it.
“We’re proud of him, and excited about it. Now we get ourselves ready for states.”
MATCHUPS … Here are Thursday’s preliminary and first-round matchups for the six Times News area wrestlers that have qualified for states:
145 – Chris Whiteman, Lehighton (SE-6) vs. Shane Kemper, Burgettstown (SW-4, 34-7)
152 – Logan Pagotto, Lehighton (SE-3) bye; Pagotto will wrestle Mason Karpinski, Greenville (NW-2, 43-3), who also had a bye, in the second round
170 – Nate Wickersham, Tamaqua (SE-5) vs. Cole Toy, Reynolds (NW-4, 29-12)
220 – Ethan Mordaunt, Jim Thorpe (SE-1) bye; Mordaunt will wrestle the winner of Joey King, Maplewood (NW-4, 36-7) vs. Connor Forrest, Hopewell (SW-6, 30-8) in the second round
285 – Bronson Strouse, Tamaqua (SE-3) bye; Strouse will wrestle Kole Winfield, South Huntingdon (SW-2), who also had a first-round bye, in the second round; Derek Hunter, Jim Thorpe (SE-6) vs. Gerald Comedy, Washington (SW-4, 27-6)
ORDER OF EVENTS … The PIAA Class 2A Wrestling schedule is as follows:
Thursday, March 7
Preliminaries and first round - 9 a.m.
First round consolations - 1:15 p.m.
Friday, March 8
Quarterfinals and second round consolations - 9 a.m.
Third round consolations - 11:45 a.m.
Fourth round consolations and semifinals - 7:30 p.m.
Fifth round consolations - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9
Finals, third, fifth, seventh place matches - 2 p.m.
Tickets to the PIAA tournament are $8 per session, $32 for either the Class 2A or 3A event and $64 for the entire weekend.
COMING TO A DEVICE NEAR YOU … For the first time this weekend, the PIAA Championships will not be broadcast live on cable television. Instead, FloWrestling will stream the entire tournament, an agreement that runs through the 2022 school year, which was announced with a press release on Jan. 29.
“FloWrestling is the site for the most comprehensive wrestling content in the country,” PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert A. Lombardi said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with FloSports to broadcast the PIAA Team and Individual Wrestling Championships on FloWrestling.com to further promote high school wrestling in Pennsylvania, as well as across the country and globally.”
In order to access the content this weekend, fans can visit FloWrestling.com and become a PRO subscriber, which unlocks access to premium content across the entire FloSports network. Watch across all screens by downloading the FloSports app on iOS, Roku, or Apple TV 4. The cost to become a PRO subscriber is $150 per year.
LAST TIME … Northwestern’s Caleb Clymer became the first state champion from the Times News area since Jim Thorpe’s Kevan Gentile won the Class 2A 106-pound title in 2016 when he won a 7-1 decision over Southern Columbia’s Jaret Lane. Clymer was masterful in his 160-pound final against Port Allegany’s Jacob Kallenborn, rolling to an 8-0 major decision victory. Northern Lehigh’s Ryan Farber was a runner-up in 2016.
FACTS AND FIGURES ... Mordaunt and Hunter are the first pair of Jim Thorpe wrestlers to qualify for states in school history. Mordaunt joins Tim Zaengle (1983 and 1984), Ryan Bennick (2002 and 2003), Dillon Smith (2009 and 2010) and Kevan Gentile (2015 and 2016) as just the fifth wrestler in school history to qualify for states multiple times. Gentile is the school’s only state champion, a feat he accomplished in 2016. Tamaqua has sent at least one wrestler to states in six consecutive seasons, now the longest active streak in the area. The following wrestlers have qualified during the Raiders’ run: Colin Mashack (2014), Dylan Rynkiewicz (2015), Tanner McHugh (2016 and 2017) and Strouse a year ago.