The question posed to Lewisburg head coach Jim Snyder was more about his wrestler, Brandon Smith, than about Milton's Ryan Solomon. Snyder, though, didn't hesitate with his answer.
It was obvious Smith had to have learned something from his eighth career match with Solomon, the defending PIAA Class AA 195-pound champion. Smith, a state champion hopeful in his own right, was dominated in the 5-1 win for Solomon.
So the question posed to Snyder was simple: What did you learn from the match?
"I learned that Ryan Solomon is going to win a second state title. He's impossible to score on," Snyder said. "He's in great position all the time. Nobody's beating him."
Snyder is a head coach that loves to joke around. But when he gets into that serious tone like he did talking about Ryan Solomon, there's not a hint of a joke in his voice. He truly believes what he said about Solomon, and we're about find out if Snyder's beliefs about how good Solomon are true.
Milton is about to go through a meat-grinder of a week. It started yesterday with the first day of the Beast of the East and it'll end next weekend when the Black Panthers travel to the Hurricane Classic in Bethlehem, a tournament Milton has become a regular at. Both tournaments are probably in the Top 5 of the best high school tournaments in the country.
Solomon, along with the rest of the Milton lineup, will see the best competition of their season in these next two weekends. This weekend alone Solomon is competing in a 195-pound bracket which features six of the top 20 195-pounders in the country, including top-ranked Matt McCutcheon of Kiski Area.
"We can move him around (in dual meets0 and try to get him the best matchups every match, and we'll continue to do that," Milton head coach Mike Snyder said. "But these two weeks are going to be important for him and for all of our kids in terms of our postseason preparation, but especially for a guy like Ryan who might not get a lot of tests. These two weeks are going to be crucial in preparing him."
Solomon's only loss last year came in the final of the Hurricane Classic to Wyoming Seminary's A.J. Vizcarrondo, a Prep National runner-up. These kind of tests at these caliber of tournaments are vital to Solomon because he sees so few of them prior to getting to Hershey.
It's why Mike Snyder minimized the amount of dual meets the Black Panthers would wrestle this year while adding the Beast of the East and another tournament in February down in District 11. For a wrestler of Solomon's caliber, without going to the tournaments Milton is going to, he likely won't face a true test until the state semifinals.
Now, Solomon, Ryan Preisch and Taylor Porter, Milton's three state tournament hopefuls, will be battle-tested by the end of December and can use January to sharpen their tools, rest their bodies and prepare for a daunting postseason run through February and March.
"It's going to build their mind. That's why we're doing it," Mike Snyder said. "Physically, yeah, it's going to be a grind. This is it for us. We wanted to go to tournaments."
Solomon will have potentially two chances to face Saucon Valley's Ray O'Donnell in these next two weekends. O'Donnell is considered the biggest threat to Solomon repeating as a state champion. O'Donnell is ranked second in the state in Class AA behind Solomon and is the only other wrestler besides Solomon in the 195-pound rankings who has previously placed at the state tournament.
O'Donnell and Solomon wrestled each other in the quarterfinals of last year's state tournament with Solomon winning, 4-2. They're on opposite sides of the bracket for the Beast this weekend, so the two would likely only match-up in the finals, unless Solomon, the top seed, were to be upset.
But at next weekend's Hurricane Classic, Solomon will likely be the top seed with O'Donnell as the second seed.
What Solomon needs in his season is more matchups like the one with Smith earlier this week. It's why Mike Snyder and Solomon were both OK with giving up more than 20 pounds to a returning state placewinner just to get the work with the tough competition. But to say anybody in the gym at Milton other than Solomon and Snyder expected the domination Solomon dished out would be a little short-sighted.
"For him to do that, it makes a statement of where he's going to be come March," Jim Snyder said. "I just don't see anybody beating him. I just don't."
But it sure will be fun to watch people try.
AN ARMY OF ONE
Williamson's Logan Everett became the third local wrestler to commit to wrestle at a Division I school after high school earlier this week. The senior returning state placewinner gave his commitment to wrestle at the United State Military Academy at West Point, joining Milton's Ryan Solomon (Pittsburgh) and Muncy's Troy Hembury (Columbia) as Division I signees.
Everett entered the third weekend of competition with a 126-12 career record for the Warriors. He's a two-time state qualifier who is coming off a fifth-place finish at states a year ago after advancing to the semifinals. He's already 13-0 this year with 10 falls (nine in the first period).
He's helped establish Williamson as a legitimate contender for a District 4 Duals title and is the true hammer on a team that features another state qualifier in Tyrus Hamblin and a regional fourth-place finisher in Billy Barnes. He helped the Warriors pick up a big 38-30 win over Wyalusing on Friday night to help establish the Warriors as a threat to a District 4 title.
BREAK ON THROUGH
Warrior Run's Brandon Giannantonio has been a constant on the Defenders' roster for the last four years whether or not he's seen mat time. And to be frank, he hasn't seen much mat time at all. In three years on the varsity roster prior to this season, Giannantonio is 2-0 with both wins coming by forfeit as a sophomore two years ago.
Now as a senior, Giannantonio has finally broken through the barrier and has become a starter for the Defenders at 132 pounds, and he's gotten off to a quick start. He's 5-2 through the first two weeks of the season, including a second-place finish at the season-opening Darren Klingerman Invitational in Bloomsburg.
Giannantonio's only losses were to Cape Henlopen's (Del.) Elliot Young in the finals of the DKI, and to Mifflinburg's Cole Walter, a returning PIAA third-place finisher. Thursday against Benton, knowing the Defenders were gearing up for a battle with the heart of Benton's lineup, Giannantonio pulled out a thrilling 6-5 win over Ronald Flick with a reversal with just 4 seconds left in the bout.
He rallied for the win after giving up a takedown with 14 seconds left to surrender a one-point lead. His emergence as a senior could be vital to Warrior Run's chance to battling for a District 4 Duals title.
"Each year he got better and this year he's at the point where he can step in and he has the skills to do well," Warrior Run head coach Wayne Smythe said. "We look for good things from him."
WRESTLER OF THE WEEK
Max Reed, Lewisburg
Prior to the season, Lewisburg head coach Jim Snyder said that next to Brandon Smith, Max Reed is the best athlete the Green Dragons have in the wrestling room. It was high praise for a sophomore coming off a 22-win season and a runner-up finish at the West Sectional tournament. Reed certainly lived up to the billing this week bumping up a weight class to notch a pair of big victories in two wins for Lewisburg.
First he bumped to 170 pounds on Tuesday against Milton and beat stellar Black Panthers freshman Brandon Stokes, 10-5. Reed followed it up Thursday wrestling up a weight at 170 with a 4-1 win over Montoursville's Garrett Evans, a returning district sixth-place finisher. Reed is 3-0 in the early season but should be tested even harder this week at the Boiling Springs Holiday Tournament.
OF THE WEEK
Bob Rohm Tournament, at Bloomsburg University, Saturday, 10 a.m.
Don't feel like you have to go to Bethlehem to the Hurricane Classic to see some high-quality wrestling this weekend. The annual Bob Rohm Tournament at Bloomsburg University will feature three local teams - Muncy, Canton and Central Mountain - in a dual-meet tournament. The favorite going in will likely be Central Columbia, the consensus No. 1 dual-meet team in District 4, but watch out for Cary (N.C.) which is coached by former District 4 standout Taylor Cummings, as well as Smithtown East (N.Y.). It should be a great test for three local teams to see just how they stack up in a dual-meet tournament setting.
Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.