Ebner leads area contingent into semifinals

Skylar Ebner glanced at one of the two red scoreboards which hang on the wall of the gym at Williamsport High School with a bit of frustration. He saw his four-point deficit to District 2 champion Conner Rosensweet and knew he had all but given those points to him.

Ebner was caught early trying to force his trademark headlock and the Western Wayne senior was able to build his lead. Ebner, a senior 195-pounder from Muncy, recognized his errors and knew how to make the adjustment.

His final four minutes on the mat Friday night at the Northeast Regional Class AA wrestling tournament were brilliant. He outscored Rosensweet by 11 over the final four minutes and was one of nine District 4 wrestlers to beat a District 2 champion.

Ebner’s 13-9 win highlighted a night in which 24 local wrestlers won their quarterfinal bout and advanced to this morning’s semifinals. Three other local wrestlers besides Ebner managed to upset a District 2 champion, including Lewisburg Brian Friery (106 pounds), Hughesville’s Zach Fry (120) and North Penn’s Nate Kriner (285).

On top of that, South Williamsport’s Justin Knee upset District 4 champion Alex Lieberman at 170 pounds. Lieberman was the only District 4 champion to fall last night.

The start of the second period in that 195-pound quarterfinal allowed Ebner to reset. He understood he was the one making the mistakes leading to a lopsided score.

He refocused, no longer worrying about that left-handed headlock which seems to catch his opponents off-guard, and began wrestling the match at his pace and getting the shots he wanted.

“I knew to stay at my pace, wrestle how I should, and that’s what I did,” said Ebner, who has 107 career wins for the Indians. “I pretty much gave him the first six points. I started doing my moves that I know I can and I eventually got him.”

Ebner knew he was in for a tough first match ever since forfeiting out of the third-place match at last weekend’s District 4 tournament. He was in school last week for just one day as he battled the flu.

After beating Central Columbia’s Matt Hackenberg in the consolation semifinals, Ebner didn’t even stay around to receive his medal. He instead went home knowing he didn’t have the energy to wrestle the third-place match against South Williamsport’s Tyler Jenkins. So by taking fourth, he knew he would be paired against the District 2 champion.

The move wasn’t so much calculated as it was a necessity. Ebner said last night he likely would have lost that third-place match anyway because he just couldn’t go.

Friday night he looked like he had all the energy he needed with reserves in the tank in hitting a five-point move to go ahead of Rosensweet, and then a late takedown to the seal the win. Ebner’s first appearance in the regional tournament was quite impressive.

“I had to come in this week and prove that I could hang with these guys and eventually beat them,” Ebner said. “This is a good stepping stone for me. I just have to carry it on to (today) and keep it going.”

Knee made it clear wrestling doesn’t seem any easier after what he had to do last week just to get to the regional tournament. But he also made it clear he was a better wrestler for having to win three consecutive consolation matches just to make it to regionals.

So last night when he faced Lieberman in the quarterfinals, he wasn’t the least bit intimidated. Instead he scored the first points with a second-period reversal and then scored a decisive takedown with less than a minute to go in the third period to upset the District 4, 170-pound champion, 4-3.

“I’m confident now, but not too confident,” Knee said after the win. “Too much confidence isn’t a good thing.”

Knee worked his way back through a loaded 170-pound weight class last week after losing his first bout, 2-1, to Loyalsock’s Aaron Hepburn. He then beat regional fourth-place finisher Erik Smeltz, 2-1, East Section runner-up Robert White, 6-3, and East Section champ Brandon Lontz, 3-1 in overtime to secure his bid to regionals before losing the third-place match.

The hard work put in just to finish fourth paid off last night when he wrestled a brilliant six minutes against Lieberman. He never left the Midd-West senior an opening to get a takedown and gave up just three escapes.

“I feel like I shouldn’t have been the seventh seed,” Knee said. “Some of those kids I’m definitely better than, so this is a big win for me.”

He could feel Lieberman getting worn down by his physical style as they got to the third period. And tied at 2-2, he noticed an opening when Lieberman was taking his shots that allowed him to get the winning takedown.

“I knew his head was hanging a bit on his shots,” Knee said. “So I pummeled the head and I could get into a front headlock. You just have to be patient because a lot of these kids wear out.”

Before Fry stepped on the mat, he watched Central Columbia’s Lewis Williams get upset with a fall on the same mat he wrestled on. The freshman said he never usually allows seeing an upset like that get to him, but he couldn’t just ignore it.

Williams beat Fry in their last meeting by five points and was likely going to be Fry’s opponent in the 120-pound semifinals today. But Williams was caught on his back near the end of the first period and pinned.

So when Fry easily dispatched of Wyoming Area senior Carm Mauriello with a 15-0 technical fall in just 3:34, Fry said he couldn’t help but think how the bracket opened up for him.

“I just couldn’t ignore that,” Fry said. “I still have to go one match at a time, but it increases my chances, I think.”

The chances Fry talks about are the ones of him reaching the finals and a spot in the state tournament next week. Fry faces Blue Ridge sophomore Dalton Hogle this morning in the semifinals. Hogle lost to Mauriello in last week’s District 2 semifinals, 16-4.

Fry dominated Mauriello on top, earned three sets of back points in the first period and took a 10-0 lead into the second period.

“I wanted to dominate on top,” Fry said. “I saw Lewis get pined and that really boosted my confidence and I knew I had to win. I was really fired up.”