HERSHEY - Kyle Barnes stared ahead of him, looking at nothing in particular.
Standing in the bowels of the Giant Center after a disappointing first day of the PIAA Wrestling Championships, the Hughesville senior tried to find a way to describe exactly what went wrong in his preliminary match, but words seemed to escape him. His 5-2 loss to Coudersport's Kyle Bova was merely a continuation of what has been a frustrating and disappointing season.
Now, the returning state runner-up is out of contention to become Hughesville's first state champion since Greg Budman in 1990. Barnes stayed alive in the tournament with a 5-1 win in the first round of consolations over Palmerton's Zach Graver. But he'll need to win his first match this morning to guarantee earning his second consecutive state medal.
FRANK DIMON/For The Sun-Gazette
Hughesville’s Kyle Barnes, rear, looks for a big move against Kyle Graver of Palmerton during the first round of Class AA consolations at 152 pounds on Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Barnes stayed alive with a 5-1 decision.
"It's been a really hard year," Barnes said after his consolation match. "It's been frustrating ever since the (loss to Crestwood's Matt Hammerstone). I just feel like I haven't kept my head in it and I'm not performing to the best of my ability."
Barnes was one of two local seniors with state title aspirations to lose their first bout of the state tournament Thursday morning. The other, Williamson's Logan Everett, was also able to rebound in the consolations to win and stay alive in the tournament for Day 2.
In all, nine of the 17 wrestlers competing in the Class AA tournament won their preliminary matches to move on to this morning's quarterfinals. Warrior Run's Zack LeBarron (106 pounds) and Eric Hunt (113), Williamson's Trevor McWhorter (132) and South Williamsport's Justin Knee were all eliminated from the tournament after going 0-2.
Barnes' loss shakes up the top half of the 152-pound bracket. The only other returning state placewinner on that half of the bracket is Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog, an eighth-place finisher a year ago.
Bova, who wrestled Barnes during offseason MAWA tournaments, was able to keep the senior at arm's length while the two were on their feet. Barnes, who said after the regional tournament he's been struggling on his feet, was left with little option other than taking random swats at Bova's legs to see if he could get hold of one.
"I felt like I pushed the entire match. I pushed him all over the mat," Barnes said. "I finally got my stalling call in the third period. He just had that one shot and got the one takedown off of it. I guess from there it just went downhill."
Bova is a junior returning state qualifier and he made the initial takedown stand up. He added three more points in the second period and led 5-1 after two periods.
Barnes' best opportunities for takedowns always seemed to come on the edge of the circle where he could snap and spin behind, but always ended up out of bounds. He rebounded with a dominant performance on his feet against Graver, looking to be the same physical, quick and athletic wrestler which helped him make a run to the state final a year ago.
"I feel like I can let loose, I just have to do it now," Barnes said. "Last year I thought I was the best thing out there. Now I just don't know what to do with myself. It's definitely a mental block, but I have to get over. I have to get the doubt out of my head."
Everett did everything he could to stay out from bottom against Boiling Springs' Kyle Shoop in the 126-pound preliminaries. After wrestling him during the summer, he knew how tough Shoop is on top working a cross-wrist tilt.
His first-period takedown of Shoop helped him carry a 2-1 lead into the second period, and when given his choice of position in the second, Everett, an Army recruit, chose the neutral position and scored another takedown for a 4-2 lead heading into the third period. But as he suspected, Shoop chose the top in the third and tilted Everett three times with that cross-wrist tilt for nine points and an 11-4 win.
"I knew I could control the match from my feet and that's where I wanted to be," Everett said. "I knew he'd pick top. I knew exactly what he'd do with that cross-wrist tilt. We knew it was coming but my movement on bottom wasn't very good. That's what happens when you don't get to your feet, I guess."
Everett is a returning state fifth-place finisher who reached the semifinals at 120 pounds a year ago in Hershey. He had beaten Shoop during their summer match because he was able to get to his feet when he took bottom. Everett is trying to become just the second two-time state placewinner in Williamson history, joining Chris Collum.
Shoop was able to tie up Everett's hands, and there was really no defense as Shoop rolled him over to his back. All Everett could do was try to peel Shoop's hands from his wrist.
"Once I gave up that first one, I broke down and couldn't get my wrist back and I got tilted again," Everett said. "It was tough at that point knowing I was down by a lot. The match was still within reach, but it's just not a comfortable situation."