HERSHEY — He finally got off the Giant Center floor.
And because of it, Derek Gulotta has insured himself a better medal than the ones he received the last two years.
Gulotta's productive visit to the PIAA Wrestling Championships got even more productive Friday. The Owen J. Roberts junior, with his victory in the 113-pound bracket's quarterfinal round, clinched a spot on the podium for the Class AAA awards ceremony Saturday night.
Not only that, his second-period pin of Phillipsburg-Osceola's Chris Thompson guarantees Gulotta no less than sixth place in the medal presentations. That surpasses the eighth-place awards he received his two previous trips to Hershey ... and puts him on the podium, as opposed to the eighth-place wrestler standing on the floor.
"I was kidding him, because he was eighth the last two times here, he needs to get off the floor,' OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said jokingly prior to Friday's quarterfinal session.
Gulotta's focus on the bout with Thompson, understandably enough, was on something other than getting to the medal round.
"Basically, I went out there figuring how the kid wrestled,' he said. "He's tall, so I knew I'd have to get close to him. Once I got close, I was able to control him.'
Control he did, getting the slap at the 3:47 mark. In doing so, Gulotta became the first of three area wrestlers still in the gold-medal chase, and one of eight who survived Friday's sessions to qualify for Saturday's action.
Boyertown's Jordan Wood made the 220-pound semifinals in dominating fashion, rolling up a 4:40 technical fall on Kiski Area's Tyler Worthing. And Pottsgrove's Pat Finn continued his charge to become the program's furthest-advancing grappler, scoring a 3-1 decision on McDowell's Scot Augustine at 285.
Gulotta (35-5) was able to negate any advantage Thompson's physique may have offered him. His bid for Hershey gold will now go through General McLane's Joe Wheeling (36-1), who went overtime for a 6-4 decision of North Allegheny's Luke Landefeld.
"I just have to go out and wrestle like it's my last match,' the OJR junior said. "Getting to the semifinal ... I'm happy with the placing, but I'm not done yet,'
The 113-pound podium will have a definite local presence, with three steps claimed by PAC-10 wrestlers. Along with Gulotta, Spring-Ford's Ryan Hayes and Upper Perkiomen's Dustin Steffenino, both winners in Friday's consolation round by decision and forfeit, respectively, are in line to score medals from Saturday's action.
"It's nice to see everyone place,' Gulotta said. "The PAC is getting stronger, and it's nice to see kids in the league get medals.'
Wood (40-1) is no stranger to the Hershey experience, either, coming away with a silver medal as a freshman. He's been on a mission since last weekend's runner-up finish at the Southeast Regional, as evidenced by the 18-1 lead he built on Worthing. That followed the 13-3 major decision he posted on Lower Dauphin's David Wuestner in Thursday's opener.
"When I got him (Worthing) on his back in the first period, I almost pinned him,' Wood recalled. "I knew I needed to keep racking up points, to keep going.'
Wood's next opponent will be Liberty's Jake Gunning (38-4), who is coming off an 8-4 decision of Wilson's Hunter Hatlee. Bettering last year's silver-medal showing is not the only difference Wood is seeking from this trip to states.
"Last year when I was here, I went out not wanting to lose,' he recalled. "This year, I want to dominate.
"Early in the year, everyone had me in the No. 1 spot, After losing last week, it gives me the chance to shoot for knocking somebody else out of the No. 1 spot.'
In a 285-pound weight class where 12 of the entrants had 30 or more wins to their credit, Finn (15-3) is disclaiming the significance of the numbers. The Falcon junior, not getting on the mats until late January due to a football-related concussion, followed Thursday's 6-2 decision of Hempfield's Joey Goodhart (37-4) with a 3-1 verdict on Augustine (38-3).
Finn's bid for gold will be contested by Dallas' Ryan Monk (42-2), who posted a 5-4 victory over Mount Lebanon's Zeynul Zaynullayev.
"I was happy with my seed coming in,' he said. "Coming off the injury was discouraging, but I knew I had to work twice as hard to reach my goals.'
Jordan Wertz was among the five area wrestlers who rebounded from quarterfinal-round losses to reach medal territory. The Boyertown senior (49-4) — no stranger to close-scoring matches, his two Hershey wins decided by a combined two points — got untracked with a 3-1 loss to Norwin's Andrew Phipps at 195. But he parlayed an escape into a 1-0 victory over Penn Wood's Karon Lucas-Tillery, the opponent he bested for regional gold.
Owen J. Roberts' Demetrio D'Orsaneo (34-10) got dropped into the 138-pound wrestlebacks by Pittsburgh Central Catholic's Vicenzo Joseph, who recorded a third-period pin. But the Wildcat junior answered with a 5-0 decision of State College's Mike Kauffman to qualify for his next match with Punxsutawney's Kaleb Young (31-2).
At 285, Methacton's Tracey Green is in position to upgrade the sixth-place medal he brought home from Hershey last year. The Warrior senior (38-2) was denied gold in a 1-0 loss to Kiski Area's Shane Kuhn, but he got back on track by gritting out a 1-0 verdict on Harrisburg's Andrew Brown.
Green will be opposed by Hempfield's Goodhart (37-4), who got dropped into the consolation bracket by Finn.
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The ranks of area wrestlers got virtually halved as a result of Friday's double-elimination action.
Boyertown's Jakob Campbell (106), Eddie Kriczky (132) and Gregg Harvey (160) all saw their seasons come to an end. Campbell (39-9) lost twice on the day while Kriczky (45-8) and Harvey (41-9) lost in second-round consolations after winning bouts in the first round of wrestlebacks.
Pottstown's Bryant Wise (132), Owen J. Roberts' Dominick Petrucelli (145) and Perkiomen Valley's Nick Giangiulio (160) were also eliminated Friday. Wise closed his sophomore campaign with a 31-8 record, Petrucelli finished his junior season at 32-9 and Giangiulio, who became the Viking mat program's career win leader this winter, capped his scholastic career with a 36-7 senior season.
The final day of action for Class AAA competitors opens with semifinals and third-round consolations at 9 a.m. Fourth-round consolations follow at 11:30 a.m. ... Following Class AA's final session at 1:40 p.m., the big-school field comes back at 6:40 p.m. for its Parade of Champions and medal-round bouts. ... Another Hershey competitor joined the ranks of 100-match winners Friday. The newest addition to the rolls was Warren's D.J. Fehlman, who edged Souderton's Kolton Veit in their second-round consolation bout, 8-7.
Follow Jeff Stover on Twitter at @MercuryXStover