BENTON - Keith Batkowski wrestles the first period of any match like a coiled spring which has just had the tension released. It's like an explosion of kinetic energy, and takedowns, like the one against Hughesville's Zach Fry in the 132-pound District 4 Class AA Central Sectional final Saturday, are the result.
The Montoursville sophomore's initial takedown against the returning state qualifier was enough to keep his winning streak alive, as he was one of three Montoursville wrestlers, and nine Sun-Gazette area wrestlers to claim a championship at Benton Elementary School.
Batkowski was joined atop the podium by teammates Garrett Hoffman (170 pounds) and Ben Cerney (220) as champions. Also winning titles were Muncy's Angelo Barberio (106) and Dakota Nixon (145), South Williamsport's Nathan Jones (138), Montgomery's Isaiah Bobotas (182), and Warrior Run's Eric Hunt (113) and Zack LeBarron (120).
Houston Bryant of Hughesville, rear, works Thomas Goetz of Montgomery Saturday at Benton in the District 4 Class AA?Central sectional first-round bout at 152 pounds. Bryant won by fall in 4:40. Bryant went on to finish second at the weight. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Hughesville won the team title with 153 points, topping Benton's total of 150, despite going 0-for-4 in the finals. Fry (132), Houston Bryant (152), Matt Herr (182) and Ethan Barnes (220) all were runners-up for Hughesville. Montoursville finished third in the team race with 137 points. In all, 40 Sun-Gazette area wrestlers advanced to next week's District 4 Class AA tournament with a top four finish.
Batkowski, who defeated Fry, 3-1, said the early points often dictate how a match is going to go. Saturday night it set the tone against Fry, a returning state qualifier. Fry had to play catch-up for much of the match, even after escaping relatively quickly in the second period.
"It's all excitement for me, especially in this type of environment," Batkowski said. "I want to go out there, it doesn't matter who it's against, and lay it all out there 100 percent. If you go out there and show them that you're ready to wrestle, it'll make them not want to wrestle you again."
It was the 33rd consecutive win this season for Batkowski, a regional fourth-place finisher a year ago. He hasn't lost - and it was his only loss of the season - since he was defeated by Jones in the final of the Top Hat on the second day of the season. Jones, who is still unbeaten at 32-0, is one of the few wrestlers in District 4 with a longer winning stream in terms of time than Batkowski.
And Batkowski has done it in all three positions. The work on his feet early in the match allows him to dictate the pace of the match. But maybe even more importantly last night was the escape he earned in the third period in just two seconds against Fry, who has been a hammer on top in his first two years in the Hughesville lineup.
"You always want to get key points as fast as you can so you have a long time throughout the match to be thinking about what it is you should be doing," Batkowski said. "These types of wins against good kids like Zach Fry are the ones that'll help me through districts and regionals and down to states and my goal to place at states. There's going to be kids just as good as him or better as I keep going along. But if I keep doing what I'm doing, it'll come."
Jones ran his winning streak to 32 matches this year when he picked up his second win of the year over Bloomsburg's Cody Klinger in the finals, 9-4. It was Jones' win over Klinger in a Jan. 9 dual-meet which seemed to be a big springboard for the junior in his breakout season.
He had the five-point win over Batkowski at the Top Hat, but he hadn't scored another high-quality win like that until he defeated Klinger. Saturday he got his offense going even more against Klinger, going up 7-2 at one point.
Jones thinks there's a bit of a target on his back as he enters the District 4 tournament undefeated, but it's not anything that's burdening him.
"It's a little bit of a rush knowing that nobody's beaten me yet and I'm top trying to keep the streak going," Jones said. "I don't feel like I have anything to live up to with it. I just go out there and wrestle. I feel free out there. I treat everyone as an equal at this point. Everybody is 0-0 and every week is a new week."
While Batkowski and Jones extended their winning streaks, Bobotas brought one to a halt as he handed Herr his first loss of the season, 6-4, in overtime in the 182-pound final. Bobotas gave up a controversial takedown at the horn to Herr to tie the score, one which wasn't initially given by official Jim Shriner. But after a brief discussion with mat judge Bob Greenly, Herr was awarded a takedown, sending the match into overtime.
Bobotas hit a double-leg shot 15 seconds into overtime and got Herr to the mat for the winning takedown. Herr fell to 31-1 this year. Bobotas, who entered the season ranked second in the state, hasn't lost since Jan. 4 setback to Montoursville's Lucas Shaheen.
"I'm mentally weak, usually," Bobotas said. "But a friend of mine from Muncy looked over at me and said 'finish it'. I said to myself that it's time to get it done. There's not much you can do (when a call goes against you), you just have to go out and wrestle."