Ethan Barnes was on the mat for less than 20 seconds Friday night at the 40th annual Top Hat wrestling tournament at Williamsport High School. It was 20 seconds the Hughesville senior has been waiting a year for.
Coming off a knee injury which forced him to miss his entire junior season - an historic season for the Spartans - Barnes made quick work of Mifflinburg's Kyle Pletcher, earning a fall in 14 seconds in his lone 220-pound bout on the first night of the two-day tournament.
Complete results of the first night of wrestling were not immediately available because of problems with the tournament's scoring operation. The tournament was also cut to just one round of championship action and consolation bouts. The tournament will resume this morning at 10 a.m. with championship quarterfinal bouts.
Robert White of Hughesville looks for the call on Tristan Nadonly of Titusville at 170 pounds Friday night at Williamsport. White won by fall.
Barnes never even got the chance to begin his junior season at Hughesville last year. He tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee competing in the Disney Duals during the summer of 2012. He would have been a key component to a Hughesville team which was primed to have its best dual-meet team in quite some time.
Even without Barnes being able to compete, the Spartans managed to finish third in the District 4 Class AA Duals tournament, earning the program's first-ever berth into the state duals tournament. So Barnes watched from the bench as Hughesville's program continued to grow under the tutelage of head coach Steve Budman. He watched from just behind the dasher boards in Hershey as teammate Zach Fry competed in his first state tournament, and his brother Kyle won his second state medal.
"It was real tough to watch, but it gave me an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective and learn more about wrestling," Barnes said following his win last night. "I've wrestled for a while, but it was just different sitting back and being able to watch."
Barnes hadn't competed in a varsity match since February of 2012, when he took fourth in the East-Central Sectional tournament, competing at 160 pounds. He admitted to being a little nervous when he took the mat last night against Pletcher. It surely didn't show.
Even after waiting nearly two hours from the scheduled start of the tournament as technical problems got sorted out, Barnes stayed focused and earn his first varsity win in nearly 22 months.
"I told my coach it feels like Christmas to me because it's the first time I've wrestled in a while," Barnes said. "Sitting out for a year, and not by choice, definitely made me appreciate the sport more."
Barnes could get quite the opportunity to test out his knee today when the tournament resumes. He faces Tri-Valley's Mason White in this morning's quarterfinals. White was a District 11 fifth-place finisher a year ago.
Waiting on the horizon could be matchups with Montoursville's Ben Cerney who is coming off a stellar freshman season, and maybe even a matchup with Central Mountain's Cameron Porter who was a Class AAA regional qualifier a year ago.
There's no hesitation in Barnes' wrestling despite the injury. Only the bulky brace covered by a black sleeve on his left knee would point to anything having been wrong with the senior.
"The doctor told me I was 100 percent, so I feel 100 percent," Barnes said. "I learned a lot about the little things last year. The little technical things. Shots, takedowns, moving more on bottom. Tonight's match didn't last long, but I'm hoping I get to incorporate what I learned more (today)."