Zephs miss on Hershey
It was a pair of fives for the Zephyrs last weekend when the Northeast AAA Regional Tournament concluded at Liberty High School's Memorial Gymnasium.
Both Brad Schuler and Joey Gladish finished fifth in the regional tournament, narrowly missing a trip to Hershey and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Individual Wrestling Championships.
The number of qualifiers this year was expanded to four wrestlers in each weight class, and both Schuler and Gladish were hoping to get their tickets punched.
Both wrestlers made it into the quarterfinal round, with Gladish advancing to the semifinals where he faced this year's District 11 195 champ, John Callahan. The two met previously in the quarterfinals of the D-11 tourney, with Callahan escaping with a 3-1 victory over the junior. This time Gladish got caught in a cradle, losing by fall to the Patriot.
However, Gladish's hope for a Chocolate Town visit still remained intact, but a familiar foe stood in his way.
He would have to wrestle Brandon Blobe for a trip to the PIAA tourney. Gladish defeated Blobe in the D-11 quarters last week 4-2, but then lost the third-place match in the consolation round by a 3-1 score. Those bouts were preceded by a dual meet season ending win by Gladish, defeating the Becahi grappler, 5-3.
Gladish's earlier premonition about meeting the Golden Hawk again came true, and the bout was an epic tussle with Blobe holding on for a 3-2 win.
Gladish gave up a first period takedown, and then proceeded to control the match the rest of the way, but couldn't overcome that final point which prevented him from making states.
Cunningham said that it's hard for a wrestler to bounce back after a tough loss, especially in the semifinal round. Still, Gladish fought his way through the bracket to meet Blobe.
That placed him in the fifth-place bout, and Gladish came back and defeated Trent Thomas of Pleasant Valley 5-1 to earn the spot.
He had previously pinned Thomas in the quarterfinal round, decking the Bear in 4:59, while his first match at regionals resulted in a 9-1 major decision over Jerome Haupt from Wallenpaupack.
"Joey responded well and really sucked it up," said Cunningham. "He showed a lot of character and wrestled real well."
Gladish finishes the season at 33-6.
Schuler's road to the fifth-place finish began with a pin of Leonor Garcia from Mariana Barcetti Academy in 1:26. His next bout was a 9-5 quarterfinal loss to Wallenpaupack's Jared Wehrmann.
The senior then wrestled back in the consolation rounds, pinning Michael Leyland from Roman Catholic in 0:47, and then edging Mark Khavinson from George Washington, 3-2 which put him in the fifth-place match against Jody Crouse, another familiar foe from District 11.
Schuler earned a 12-0 major decision over Crouse, his second win over the Becahi product in as many weeks, earning him fifth at Regionals.
Schuler's two losses at regionals were by a combined eight points. One of those was during his semifinal consolation match when Hazelton Area's Derek Spachman upended him 10-6. Spachman subsequently defeated Dieruff's Jayden Reyes 5-0 in the third-fourth bout.
"He gave it all he had," said Cunningham. "The kid he wrestled in the semis was pretty good. Sometimes it depends on how your bracket falls."
Before the fifth-place match, Cunningham told Schuler that he could end his wrestling career with a win, something that's hard to do in the sport.
Schuler responded with a major decision, finishing this season at 35-5.
In fact, both wrestlers seized the opportunity to win their last match of the season. Cunningham said their effort underscored their commitment and integrity when it comes to wrestling.
"That showed a lot of character," said Cunningham. "They both wrestled really well. That meant a lot to both wrestlers. You're still representing your school, and it's your last chance to wrestle for the year.
"You can't control your wins and losses all the time, but you can control your performance."