HERSHEY - No one saw as much mat time in Hersheypark Arena during Friday’s District 3 Class AAA wrestling championships as Blaine Yinger, who went to tiebreaker twice.
And that was just fine with the Northeastern heavyweight.
All that extra time and a whole lot of effort produced two wins and a semifinal berth, putting him just one win away from a trip to the PIAA championships.
He is one of seven YAIAA wrestlers still in contention for a championship in today’s semifinal round, slated to start at 10:15 a.m.
The South Western duo of Owen Wherley (138) and Gage Thomas (152) as well as Spring Grove’s Dalton Rohrbaugh (106), New Oxford’s Zurich Storm (120), Kennard-Dale’s Michael Bracey (126) and Dallastown’s Bryce Shields (195).
Another 14 league competitors are still alive in the consolation brackets. The top five in Class AAA earn berths in the state tournament at the Giant Center March 10 through 12.
For Yinger, the two wins helped to wipe out some memories of last year’s district tournament, where he fell one victory short of earning a state berth.
“(Last year) ended rough,” he said. “I came here with a lot of anger after being so close. It made me want it even more.”
Desire was something that came in handy in the 285-pound quarterfinal against a smaller but athletic Brady Maxwell of Cocalico.
Yinger took a 1-0 into the third period against the junior before Maxwell recorded a reversal to take the lead.
The Bobcat junior needed less than 10 seconds to return the favor with a reversal of his own for a 3-2 lead. But Maxwell was able to escape with 18 seconds left in regulation.
After a scoreless overtime, Yinger (31-3) took the lead with an escape in the first 30-seocn tiebreaker. He then controlled Maxwell for the second tiebreaker period, using his weight advantage to keep him on the mat for almost the entire 30 seconds.
That drama wouldn’t have been possible if Yinger hadn’t pulled out a come-from-behind win in his opening match against Northern’s Noah Smith.
The Polar Bear senior took a 3-2 lead after the first tiebreaker and was in control of Yinger in the waning seconds of the second tiebreaker when the Northeastern wrestler hit an arm roll for a reversal and two back points for a 6-3 victory.
“(Smith) was one of the biggest kids in the bracket so I was a little more confident (after the win,” said Yinger who faces Wilson’s Isaac Schannauer in the semifinals.
Those matches weren’t the only ones involving YAIAA grapplers that created drama.
In a 138-pound quarterfinal, Wherley, a district finalist last season, needed a little bit — as in eight seconds — of extra time to earn his spot in the semifinals.
Wherley finished regulation tied, 1-1, with Cumberland Valley’s Will Kaides. The Mustang senior wasted no time hitting a blast double-leg takedown for the winning points just eight seconds into the overtime period.
“I saw he was standing still,” said Wherley, now 31-2. “I wanted to finish it there because you don’t want to drop into the consolations.”
Thomas, Wherley’s Mustangs teammate, also had a nail-biter in his 152-pound quarterfinal.
Facing Solanco’s Kody Hart, the senior registered a takedown midway through the final period and then held on for a 4-3 decision.
South Western head coach Nate Murren wasn’t worried about Thomas finishing off the victory.
“Gage has been battling good kids all year and is used to that pressure,” said Murren. “I always talk about wrestling smart in those situations, and Gage did that.”
Shields also came through in a tight quarterfinal bout, earning a 2-1 decision against Susquehanna Township's Devin Evans. An escape in the second period ended up being the difference for the Wildcat junior.
Rohrbaugh, another returning PIAA participant, gave up the first takedown in his quarterfinal against Wilson's Brandon Connor. But the sophomore quickly took control and pinned the Berks County freshman at 4:55.
With two wins Friday evening, Storm and Bracey kept their perfect records.
In arguably the toughest weight class in the tournament, Bracey (29-0) earned a semifinal matchup with Central Dauphin's defending district champion, the nationally-ranked Tyshawn White, who is also undefeated at 44-0.
Storm (23-0) will face White’s teammate Jake Cherry.
Dylan Chatterton of Central York was an upset victim in the 145-pound quarterfinals.
The senior dropped a 5-3 decision to East Pennsboro's Matthew Danner on a controversial takedown at the buzzer. However, the returning state qualifier came back with a 3-0 over Chambersburg's Drake Brenize to keep his state tournament hopes alive.
The highlight among the remaining competitors in the wrestlebacks was Dover’s Brandon Rodriguez recording career win No. 100.
The Eagles senior bounced back from a quarterfinal loss with a 9-5 victory over Ephrata’s Cameron Terry in the second round of consolations to hit the century mark for his four-year varsity career.