HERSHEY — There were a few first-day jitters for members of the Boyertown wrestling team at the PIAA Championships.
Not all of them belonged to the athletes, either.
Head coach Pete Ventresca admitted to a bit of nerves while watching his Bear grapplers maneuver around the pitfalls and potholes of the opening sessions at the Giant Center. But in the end, the entire five-man contingent earned itself spots for Friday's competition, heading a local presence that just fell short of advancing everybody with 14 out of 15 staying in the hunt.
"The first day is always the toughest,' Ventresca said. "We got through that, so we're looking for better showings tomorrow.
"There will be a lot of nerves, a lot of pressure, a lot of good wrestlers.'
One of the more unnerving matches Ventresca and his coaches watched was Jordan Wertz's 195-pound opener. Wertz (48-3) found himself in a tight duel with Cedar Crest's Adam Gilson, trailing by one point as time wound down.
But the Boyertown senior scored his own escape in regulation, giving him new life in overtime. He went on to get an escape in OT, coming away with a 2-1 victory to emerge as one of three Bears still in gold-medal contention.
"It was a battle,' Wertz recalled, "but I knew I could hold him down. I was trying to get a takedown, but he was matching me on my feet.
' Then I felt I could hold him down in the second overtime. If I could get my hips free, I'd be fine.'
"That was too close for comfort, but he got it done,' Ventresca noted. "I don't like it that close, though.'
Close scores were part of the business for Boyertown all day and night.
Jakob Campbell had one at 106, where a second-period escape from a bottom start was his margin of victory over Nazareth's Tyson Klump. But it was good enough to get the Bear freshman (39-7) off to a flying start in his first individual state tournament.
"He hung tough to pull out the win,' Ventresca noted. "It was a good start for him, and he's going to have to perform again (Friday).'
Also remaining in the gold-medal chase is Jordan Wood (39-1). A 13-3 major decision on Lower Dauphin's Dave Wuestner was the Boyertown sophomore's response to a silver-medal showing at the Southeast Regional, and a loss to Coatesville's Mike Boykin that snapped the 38-bout win streak he had going.
"He moved out there well, taking some good shots,' Ventresca said. "We're hoping he's back to his old self.'
At the same time, Eddie Kriczky (132) and Gregg Harvey (160) stayed in medal contention by rebounding from close opening-round losses.
Kriczky (45-7) was blanked by Delaware Valley's Jalen Palmer at the start, 3-0, but he answered with a 4-1 decision of Bellefonte's Trevor Corl in wrestlebacks. And Harvey (41-8) found himself on the short side of a 3-2 score against Carlisle's Ian Shannon; the Boyertown sophomore, however, went on to roll up a 6-4 decision on General McLane's Ethan Laird.
"That was big,' Ventresca said of Kriczky's win. "It's hard to come back after a loss, but you have to put it in the rearview mirror and move on. And we knew Gregg could beat the first kid, but overall it wasn't a bad first match. In the second, he got takedowns going and controlled the match.'
Locally, PAC-10 wrestlers were on top of their games at 113 and 285.
Owen J. Roberts' Derek Gulotta (34-5) and Spring-Ford's Ryan Hayes (38-7) — longtime rivals who faced off in championship bouts from PAC-10s to the regional — got their business done on opening day. Hayes posted a 5:21 technical fall on Hollidaysburg's Damien Huff, and Gulotta blanked Ringgold's Doug Gudenburr, 5-0.
It was a similar scenario at 285, where Methacton's Tracey Green and Pottsgrove's Pat Finn — like Gulotta and Hayes, regular opponents in postseason tournament title rounds — prevailed in bouts at different ends of the bracket. Green (37-1) decisioned Cumberland Valley's Jackson Stanford 5-2, and Finn put together a 6-2 verdict on Hempfield's Joey Goodhart.
At 138, Demetrio D'Orsaneo joined OJR teammate Gulotta in Friday's quarterfinal round. Coming off a Southeast Region title finish, D'Orsaneo (34-9) blanked LaSalle's Greg Konieczny 5-0.
A third local wrestler in the 113 bracket, Upper Perkiomen junior Dustin Steffenino, bounced back from a technical fall in his opener to stay alive in the tourney. Steffenino (32-8) answered the loss with a 3-0 decision of Central York's Dylan Chatterton.
Other area wrestlers coming back in consolations were Pottstown's Bryant Wise at 132 (13-3 major decision of Northampton's Todd Hetrick), OJR's Dominick Petrucelli at 145 (forfeit win over Bangor's Charles Sell) and Perkiomen Valley's Nick Giangiulio at 160 (3-0 decision of Lampeter-Strasburg's Jack Habowski.
Boyertown came out of the opening day tied with Manheim Township for fifth place in the team standings. Both schools have nine points, with Franklin Regional the early leader at 13.5. ... The only area wrestler unable to advance to Friday's session was Nico Demetrio. The Pottsgrove senior lost a one-point decision to Parkland's Josh Orman in his 152-pound opener, 2-1, then sustained a third-period pin to close out his season at 38-5. ... Three competitors in the Class AAA field got their 100th career victories on opening day: Downingtown West's Gabe Hale and Father Judge's Idris White at 170, and Dallas' Ryan Monk at 285. ... Friday's schedule of AAA action starts with quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m., followed by second-round consolations at 3:15 p.m.
Follow Jeff Stover on Twitter at @MercuryXStover