HERSHEY Troy Hembury stood bent at the waist, hands on his knees, thinking about what he wanted to do. He took a little extra time to think as the third period got started, letting Adam Mackie get completely set on the mat in the bottom position.
The Muncy 182-pounder then put his hands up, signaling to give Mackie a free point for an escape to start the third period of their Class AA semifinal match, cutting his lead to just one point. It was a risk Hembury took, but a calculated one.
"If I get a takedown, I win," Hembury said. "And if I don't get a takedown, I don't think he can take me down."
Muncy's Troy Hembury works on top against Blairsville's Scott Thompson during the quarterfinals Friday in Hershey.
Hembury advanced to his first PIAA wrestling final Friday night, beating the Brandywine Heights senior, 2-1, in the 182-pound semifinal at the Giant Center. Hembury was one of three local wrestlers to earn a spot in this afternoon's Class AA finals.
Milton's Ryan Solomon, the defending state champion at 195 pounds, advanced to his third consecutive state final with a first-period fall in the 195-pound semifinals. And Lewisburg senior Brandon Smith topped Avella's Jake Temple, 2-1, in a tie-breaker to move to his first state final a year after coming up one point short of doing so.
In all, eight local wrestlers earned a medal on the second day of the state tournament. Hembury, Solomon and Smith will wrestle for state titles. Hughesville's Kyle Barnes and Milton's Ryan Preisch wrestle each other in the third-place consolation at 152 pounds. Canton's Garrett Wesneski (182 pounds) and Muncy's Skylar Ebner (195) will each wrestle for seventh.
Williamson's Billy Barnes is in the fifth-place consolation at 145 pounds, but isn't expected to wrestle after he was taken out of the Giant Center on a stretcher last night. Barnes aggravated a lingering groin injury in his semifinal against two-time defending state champion Michael Racciato of Pen Argyl. The injury was severe enough that doctors feared it may have caused an injury to his left femur, according to Williamson head coach Mark Everett.
Barnes was taken to the Hershey Medical Center for X-rays and forfeited his consolation semifinal.
Hembury becomes Muncy's third state finalist in the last three years, joining his brother, Ryan, and Zack Strickland, who each won a state title in 2011 for the Indians. Hembury said he felt the most pressure in the semifinal match yesterday and it caused him to shut down a little and get out of his gameplan against Mackie.
"My dad (assistant coach Ron Hembury) told me coming off the mat, I think you major that kid in the practice room," Hembury said. "I had to agree with him. I didn't attack as much as I used to. The second period I was way too conservative. I would get to my feet and try to get a stall call, which was stupid. The third period I was definitely too conservative."
He lamented after the match how funky Mackie was with his hips. That was part of the reason he chose the neutral option to start the third period when Mackie chose the down position.
He felt far more comfortable on his feet than he did on the mat, especially after scoring the lone takedown of the match in the third period, and then being ridden out by Mackie in the second period.
"I'm tough on top, but I really like what I can do on my feet," said Hembury, who faces Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers, a returning state runner-up, in the finals today. "Knock on wood, but I haven't been taken down this year. I just feel really good on my feet. I trust myself better there."
Smith's two biggest moves in his semifinal with Temple didn't score a single point. After the two finished regulation and sudden victory overtime tied at 1-1, Temple chose bottom for the first 30-second tie-break period.
Smith kept him on the mat by twice lifting the junior and returning him flat to the mat. It was a strategy Smith took from an rideout match last season with Bloomsburg's Ryan Longenberger when he would lift his foot high in the air to keep Longenberger on the mat.
"This time I just picked Temple's whole body up," Smith said. "I wish I could have held him up there longer. I was planning on holding him up and stalling a little bit."
His semifinal win may not even have been Smith's most impressive victory of the day. He defeated two-time state fifth-place finisher Evan Daley of Fort LeBoeuf in the morning quarterfinals, 4-2, in an absolutely brilliantly wrestled match by the Lewisburg senior.
Smith's second-period takedown was an example of the great wrestling. As he had Daley's leg lifted high in the air, Daley reached down to one of Smith's knees, looking to be preparing for a funk roll when Smith kicked out Daley's other leg. Instead, Smith drug the leg and Daley's body to the mat to get a takedown.
The two were both physically exhausted after the bout, taking time to gather themselves before getting back to the center of the mat to shake hands.
"I said to coach Gessner I'm a lot less tired after a triple overtime match (in the semifinals) than I was against Daley," said Smith, who faces returning state third-place finisher Ray O'Donnell of Saucon Valley in the finals. "Daley was a horse and it was tough to move him around."
Solomon's trip to the final was maybe the most expected of the three local finalists. The Milton senior remains undefeated at 39-0 this year, and his win in the semifinals last night was the 140th of his career.
He's the lone returning state placewinner in the 195-pound bracket, and he showed why in the semifinals. After being taken six minutes for the first time in his first and second matches of the tournament, Solomon ran an armbar for his 10th fall of the postseason.
Solomon is in his third consecutive state finals match, having finished second at 215 pounds in 2011, and first last year at 195 pounds. He'll face Chartiers-Houston's Garrett Vulcano in today's final.
"The satisfaction is minimal," Solomon said of winning in the semifinals. "You want to get that gold. But winning in the semifinals does take a weight off your shoulders. Now I'm back in the finals again and I have to get it done."