HERSHEY - Dakota Mackley spent a lot less time at Giant Center on the first day of the PIAA Class AA championships than he did last year.
After wrestling three matches just to advance to the second day of the tournament last season, Mackley didn't even need to wrestle two minutes Thursday to advance to the tournament's second day. All of the regional champions get byes through the preliminary round and advance straight to the quarterfinals with first-round wins, and Mackley — the Southeast Region champion — pinned Sullivan County's Dylan Ammerman with three seconds left in the first period of their match.
“I practice all year round, and every single day up to this point has been dedicated to this tournament,” Mackley said. “I was hoping I’d get a quick pin and end the match early to get ready for tomorrow. I’m just going to rest tonight."
Mackley said he felt intimidated by Giant Center and felt nervous before his matches when he made his first state tournament appearance last season. He felt more relaxed as he found his way around this time.
“Last year, I was a lot more scared," he said. "Now that I’m used to the atmosphere here, I’m definitely more comfortable coming into it.”
Mackley will face Bethlehem-Center senior Anthony Welsh, the Southwest Region runner-up who has a record of 36-1, in Friday's quarterfinals. With a win, Mackley would assure himself of at least a top-six finish.
Delone Catholic picks up a win: On Thursday, a Delone Catholic wrestler competed at the state tournament for the first time since 2011.
On Friday, a Delone Catholic wrestler will compete during the second day of the state tournament for the first time since that same year.
The Squires brought 152-pounder Brian Shermeyer and 182-pounder Brady Repasky, both juniors, to Hershey, while several of their teammates watched from the crowd. After a first-round loss, Shermeyer scored three points in the third period of his consolation match to earn himself at least one more bout.
Repasky came up just short in his consolation match, rallying from a 6-1 deficit to tie the bout 6-6 in the third period. But he gave up an escape and couldn't secure one more takedown, seeing his season end by a 7-6 defeat.
“It’s something for the program to build on," Delone Catholic coach Frank Sneeringer said. "(The whole team is) underclassmen, they see it, we’ll have our end of the year banquet on Sunday, and we’re gonna talk about where we want to go. You have to be on the scoreboard to move up.”
Delone Catholic's last state qualifier, Josh Rupert, earned a seventh-place medal five years ago.
Shermeyer will need two wins Friday to assure himself of a state medal. He'll continue relying on his biggest strength, his proficiency from the top position, as he goes for those wins.
“Growing up, I went to Brian Morrow’s club and to Brad Ziegler’s club and those two really taught me, especially from the top position, how to be dominant," Shermeyer said. "They taught me how to ride legs, how to crab ride, how to tilt, all those things that make a person really, really dominant on top."
Garland loses amid controversy ... again: Giant Center just isn't kind to Hanover senior Caleb Garland.
Or, maybe it's just the referees inside Giant Center.
After winning a preliminary match last year, Garland lost to Southwest Region champion Collin Glorioso despite the fact that Garland appeared to have Glorioso pinned in the second period before referees stopped the match when Glorioso screamed in pain. Garland and coach Kurt Brenner left the mat upset after that loss, and left the mat equally frustrated on Thursday when not one, but two, controversial calls went against him.
Garland lost to Southeast Region champion Jonah Zych, 4-2, in the same round, falling behind in the second period after Zych was awarded a takedown when it appeared he only had an arm wrapped around Garland while the two were still standing up. Garland quickly escaped to tie the match but fell behind again in the third period when referees penalized Garland for lifting Zych up in the air and walking off the mat without securing full control.
Garland, who earned his spot in the state bracket when Palisades' Nathan Haubert dropped out of the tournament, now falls into wrestlebacks and needs to win at least two matches in a row in order to finish on the medal podium.
Unlike last year's format, which forced wrestlers who won preliminary matches but lost the subsequent match to wrestle a third time on the first day of the tournament, Garland will not wrestle his first wrestleback match until Friday.
Seven YAIAA wrestlers remain in Class AA: Ten YAIAA wrestlers qualified for the Class AA championships, and seven of them will return for the second day of the tournament.
Biglerville 152-pounder Nate Newberry, who came in riding the momentum of a district and regional title, will join Mackley in Friday's quarterfinals after his 11-4 win against Morgan Deremer of Chestnut Ridge.
Bermudian Springs juniors Austin Clabaugh (120 pounds), Ashton West (145) and Noah Fleshman (170) join Shermeyer and Garland as wrestlers still alive in consolation brackets.
Bermudian Springs' Landon West (106) and Logan Luckenbaugh (195) both saw their seasons end, along with Repasky.