HERSHEY - The clock in Billy Barnes' head was ticking. He had taken a look at the clock for his mat just before a late third-period restart and knew he had to be quick with what he wanted to do.
So on the whistle, he grabbed Blairsville's Noah Tarr and tried to hip him over. He knocked Tarr off balance, but didn't get the takedown. In his mind, Barnes was keeping track of how much time he had left.
He dropped to a single leg on Tarr, lifting it high into the air and quickly tripped out the other leg and wrapped up both ankles just as the horn sounded. District 4 official Ken Haggerty approvingly nodded his head as he signaled a match-winning takedown for the Williamson sophomore.
Not even an ever-so-brief discussion with the mat judge swayed Haggerty's decision. Barnes won his first match at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Champion-ships in quite dramatic fashion on Thursday morning. It was such an upsetting loss for Tarr that he was ejected from the tournament for saying the harshest of expletives after shaking hands with Barnes.
Barnes' win was a common theme yesterday, as the youngest of the area's representatives at the tournament found success in their first state tournament appearances. Lewisburg's Brian Friery, ranked 12th of the 16 state qualifiers at 106 pounds by papowerwrestling.com, earned a third-period fall in his preliminary match against Reynolds' Seth Hogue.
Hughesville freshman Zach Fry, ranked last of the 16 qualifiers at 120 pounds, advanced to this morning's quarterfinals with a 3-1 win over Northwestern's Matt Wheeler. Fry's reward for winning his first match, a quarterfinal matchup with Bethlehem Catholic defending state champion Darian Cruz.
"My coaches told me to just have fun since I'm a freshman going to states," Fry said. "They told me to just relax and wrestle. This feels great."
Barnes struggled to get in deep on Tarr while the two wrestled on their feet because Tarr was able to keep the Williamson 145-pounder at arm's length. Barnes trailed 5-3 going into the third, but Tarr didn't work too hard to hold Barnes down to start the third period, giving Barnes more than 1:50 to try and get a match-winning takedown.
Barnes used nearly all that time. But the one good shot he had in the third period, he capitalized on. Blairsville coaches protested the final takedown, but the mat judge and Haggerty conferred, leading to a confirmation of the last-second takedown.
"I knew as soon as I got in on the shot I had to keep pushing to get the two," said Barnes, who was the only one of three Williamson wrestlers to reach the quarterfinals. "He kept me off his legs. He had a great re-shot. The first and second period were edgy. I felt like I wasn't wrestling my match, but in the third period I tried to turn it up and just let loose."
Friery was disappointed with how the second period of his match ended as he got stuck in a spladle and gave up two back points and the lead. But he never lost confidence and never got frustrated.
He went to work on top down a point in the third and was able to run an armbar to pin Hogue in 4:38.
"I know I'm good on top. I was pretty confident I could still turn him," Friery said. "I'm confident in my game on the mat."
Friery took control of the match early when he had three really good shots to Hogue's right knee. He finished on only the first one, but that was 10 seconds into the match and seemed to set the tone.
"I saw an opening there," Friery said. "He was good at defending though. He has good funk."
Fry wrestled an absolutely brilliant match to kickstart his first tournament a week after finishing second at the Northeast Regional tournament. He got a takedown in the final 10 seconds of the first period which had Wheeler fighting from behind the whole match.
"I knew since he was really tall that he'd probably get out on bottom," Fry said. "So I knew I needed to get a takedown, and in the last 10 seconds, what better time to get a takedown? With only 10 seconds left, he couldn't get out."
Fry rode Wheeler for more than a minute in the second period before Wheeler escaped, but he got an escape of his own in the third to win, 3-1.
"I wanted to score more points, but I didn't want to give up any points," Fry said. "I knew that first takedown would be big."