Strouse, Schwartz capture gold
The feeling was as sweet as Jim Thorpe’s Will Schwartz could have imagined.
And it was as satisfying as Tamaqua’s Bronson Strouse remembered.
Schwartz and Strouse capped a grueling day of wrestling at the Schuylkill League Tournament Friday with gold around their necks.
The title was the first for Schwartz, who topped Pottsville’s Connor Demcher 6-2 in the 113-pound final.
Strouse earned his second league crown and first since his sophomore season with a 3-1 decision over Jim Thorpe’s Derek Hunter in the 285-pound title tilt.
The senior was also named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, recording two first period pins before topping Hunter in the heavyweight showdown.
“After winning it sophomore year and doing it again as a senior, it feels even better, especially being named Outstanding Wrestler,” said Strouse. “I was very surprised by that.”
The moment was a long time coming for Schwartz, who relished being able to reach the milestone in front of family and friends.
“This is awesome. (To do it) in our home gym – the fans are awesome,” Schwartz said. “We even had a couple of students out here; we had a student section up there. We have a little small town here, and it’s awesome to see everyone come out and support.
“To be a league champ is awesome. I’ve been working four years for it.”
Strouse had to work, too.
The showdown with Hunter was a showcase event for the top two seeds at 285, both of whom entered the tournament with 17-1 records.
After a scoreless first period, Hunter took a 1-0 lead in the second.
He made it last until Strouse got an escape with 1:35 to go to tie it at 1-1.
Strouse got to a leg with 24 seconds remaining for a takedown and a 3-1 lead, and was able to hold on for the victory.
“I expected to take more shots, and open up more,” said Strouse, who was a runner-up a year ago. “I had a little trouble with Derek, because he’s a bigger guy and really good.
“But in the third period, it was 1-1 and I took a shot and got the takedown.”
It was Hunter who pushed the pace early, something that caught Strouse by surprise.
But Strouse weathered the storm until he found an opening.
“I saw his lead leg forward and took the shot,” Strouse said. “He was probably trying to come out and end it soon. But coach (Jim McCabe) has us ready with conditioning and I felt pretty good in the third period. I still had energy.”
Hunter took the loss as a learning experience.
“My conditioning needs to be a lot better,” he said. “For me … I gave him good positioning by creating bad positioning for myself, and I let him get the takedown and that was that.
“But the competition is great. I like challenging myself. Matches like that really show you what you need to improve on. If I get to see him again, I know what I need to work on to beat him.”
Strouse pinned Pottsville’s RJ Quinn in 1:08 to reach the final. Hunter decked Schuylkill Haven’s Jared Spalti in 1:38 in semis.
Strouse pinned Payton Wentzel in 1:39 in the quarters. Hunter downed Lehighton’s Mike Yeakel in 3:13.
Schwartz, who was fourth wrestling at 106 last season, pushed the pace against Demcher, using his aggressiveness to his advantage.
It was an approach the top seed used throughout the tournament.
“I knew if I just pushed the pace and wrestled my match, get to my shots, that I would have no problem winning this bracket,” he said.
Schwartz scored a takedown with under 20 seconds remaining in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead.
An escape to start the second period made it 3-0. But Demcher cut it to 3-2 with a takedown.
After going up 4-2, Schwartz got a takedown near the edge of the mat with 1:09 left in the second to push his advantage to 6-2.
“Going up 3-0 was big,” said Schwartz. “He hit that slide-by in the second and got that takedown, and I knew I had to push the pace a little bit more and keep scoring. Even with 11 seconds left up 6-2, you have to keep shooting, you have to keep scoring.”
It’s an approach that has helped Schwartz become more confident – and dominant – in all positions.
“Last year, I didn’t feel too good on my feet,” said Schwartz. “That was something I really worked on in the offseason.”
Schwartz pinned Upper Dauphin’s Jordan Zerby in :33 and took down Williams Valley’s Kendal Davis in 1:30 to reach the semis.
Tamaqua’s Aaron Coccio (138), Caleb Sell (145), Carson Krell (170) and Nate Wickersham (182), Jim Thorpe’s Nicholas Fayocavitz (160) and Trent Hunter (195) and Lehighton’s Brett Gasker (220) all had runner-up finishes.
Coccio, also a runner-up a year ago, dropped a 10-7 decision to Pottsville’s Bryce Gonzalez in the 138-pound final.
“I came up a little short, but the experience was awesome,” said Coccio. “To be able to wrestle a really good wrestler for first … hopefully I see him again.”
Blue Mountain’s Daniel Farrell edged Sell 5-4 in the 145-pound final.
“It was a good challenge,” said Sell. “He wrestled him before, and he beat me by a lot more than that. I really enjoy the competition. I love having the opportunity to be in the finals.”
Upper Dauphin’s Dillon Johns pinned Jim Thorpe’s Nicholas Fayocavitz in 3:21 in the 160-pound final.
“It’s my second year wrestling, and have just been working hard in the room,” said Faycavitz. “It feels pretty good to place and earn my first medal.”
Tri Valley’s Jacob Scheib posted a 6-1 decision over Krell in the 170-pound final.
“Coming into today, I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” said Krell. “I just got back from an injury. I was out for two weeks, and I only had two practices before this, so I was a little iffy. I really shocked myself. I’m really happy with how I did.”
Pottsville’s Shane Quick posted an 11-2 major decision over Wickersham in the 182-pound final.
“I know what it takes to get to that next level,” said Wickersham. “I just have to keep working harder in the room to make bigger strides and hopefully make it to states again and get on the podium there.”
Mahanoy’s Danny Lawrence pinned Trent Hunter in :38 in the 195-pound final.
“I joined wrestling late and don’t really have a lot of experience, so I just used my aggressiveness and strength to win my matches,” said Hunter. “And if you would have told me that I’d get second place, I probably would have said you’re crazy.
“But this is going to make me push myself harder to get even better.”
Blue Mountain’s Kevin Croley posted a 3-0 decision over Gasker in the 220-pound final.
“It’s a big thing for me, especially after not wrestling last year and coming off an injury,” said the senior. “I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, but I’m going to keep working and pushing myself harder for the end of the season.”
SPECIAL THANKS … It took a lot of cooperation to help make the condensed, one-day format a success. Jim Thorpe National Bank, PJ Whelihan’s, Penn’s Peak, Subway in Jim Thorpe, Dom N Ali’s, 3 Kids Market and Eatery and the Schuylkill League all came together to help sponsor the hospitality room for all the coaches, officials, training staff and tournament directors.
CHAMPS … Pottsville won the team title for the fourth year in a row, finishing with 222.5 points ahead of Blue Mountain (190). Jim Thorpe (165.5) was third, followed by Tamaqua (157) and North Schuylkill (130). Lehighton (89.5) placed ninth.
FAMILIAR FACES … Marian’s Mason Miller and Jared Spalti wrestle for Schuylkill Haven as part of a co-op between the two schools. Miller was third at 220 pounds, while Spalti earned the same result at 285.
106 – Dalton Monger (Pottsville) pinned Cade Schneck (Pine Grove) in 1:05
113 – William Schwartz (Jim Thorpe) dec. Connor Demcher (Pottsville), 6-2
120 – Michael Myers (Williams Valley) dec. Danny Grigas (North Schuylkill), 6-5
126 – Wiley Kahler (Pottsville) dec. Ethan Paul (Upper Dauphin), 2-1
132 – Dalton Touchinsky (Blue Mountain) dec. Chase Esterline (Williams Valley), 5-2
138 – Bryce Gonzalez (Pottsville) dec. Aaron Coccio (Tamaqua), 10-7
145 – Daniel Farrell (Blue Mountain) dec. Caleb Sell (Tamaqua), 5-4
152 – Bryce Enders (Halifax) tech. fall Leo Andrewsky (Mahanoy), 19-4 (5:59)
160 – Dillon Johns (Upper Dauphin) pinned Nicholas Fayocavitz (Jim Thorpe) in 3:21
170 – Jacob Scheib (Tri Valley) dec. Carson Krell (Tamaqua), 6-1
182 – Shane Quick (Pottsville) maj. dec. Nate Wickersham (Tamaqua), 11-2
195 – Danny Lawrence (Mahanoy) pinned Trent Hunter (Jim Thorpe) in :38
220 – Kevin Croley (Blue Mountain) dec. Brett Gasker (Lehighton), 3-0
285 – Bronson Strouse (Tamaqua) dec. Derek Hunter (Jim Thorpe), 3-1
106 – Colin Seefeldt (Blue Mountain) med. forfeit over Noah Smith (Upper Dauphin)
113 – Harry Bowers (Blue Mountain) maj. dec. Tyler Slotterback (North Schuylkill), 10-2
120 – Travis Anderson (Pine Grove) dec. Anthony Zeplin (Blue Mountain), 4-3
126 – Gabe Heaney (Jim Thorpe) maj. dec. Ethan Miernicki (North Schuylkill), 15-1
132 – Randy Steigerwalt (Tamaqua) inj. def. Mike Sterner (North Schuylkill)
138 – Owen Oakley (Blue Mountain) pinned Steven Fritzinger (Lehighton) in :42
145 – Cesar Rivera (Mahanoy) tech. fall Blake Harner (Tri Valley), 17-2 (4:06)
152 – Cole Eberts (Tamaqua) won by forfeit over Kade Matter (Upper Dauphin)
160 – Gavin Harris (Pine Grove) maj. dec. Dylan Edwards (North Schuylkill), 8-0
170 – Toby Renninger (Blue Mountain) med. forfeit over Jared Newhall (Jim Thorpe)
182 – Alexis Perez (Mahanoy) maj. dec. Alex Zeigenfuss (Lehighton), 10-1
195 – Jacob Mull (Pottsville) maj. dec. Christophe Schadle (Pine Grove), 6-3
220 – Mason Miller (Schuylkill Haven) med. forfeit over Kendall Herron (Jim Thorpe)
285 –Jared Spalti (Schuylkill Haven) pinned RJ Quinn (Pottsville) in :44
106 – Ridge Snyder (Jim Thorpe) maj. dec. Noah Gilgore (North Schuylkill), 8-0
113 – James Salerno (Lehighton) med. forfeit over Jordan Zerby (Upper Dauphin)
120 – Sam Sterns (Pottsville) dec. Lukas Ferguson (Lehighton), 4-1
126 – Saul Blankenhorn (Blue Mountain) and Mason Boltz (Tri Valley), double forfeit
132 - Lucas Sangiuliano (Lehighton) inj. def. Cal Schoffstall (Pottsville)
138 – Zander Conrad (Halifax) dec. Colby Carlin (Tri Valley), 5-1
145 – Ben Wolfe (North Schuylkill) pinned Eric Kriner (Pottsville) in 4:11
152 – Jacob Strohecker (Tri Valley) and Dylan Bohorad (Pottsville), double forfeit
160 – Nick Buchanan (Pottsville) dec. Sam Quick (Mahanoy), 6-2
170 – Dylan Shirey (Pottsville) and Jared Tinari (North Schuylkill), double forfeit
182 – Caleb McDermott (Jim Thorpe) and Caleb Reiter (Pine Grove), double forfeit
195 – Shaneef Carter (Lehighton) pinned Blake Olayo (North Schuylkill) in 2:31
220 – Joe Tinari (North Schuylkill) med. forfeit over Mark Ritschel (Pottsville)
285 – Logan Holland (Blue Mountain) pinned Peyton Wentzel (Upper Dauphin) in 4:32