Hembury, Solomon on top of NE AA regional

It was just a small addition Troy Hembury made in his description of his workouts with Milton’s Ryan Solomon. One he clearly didn’t need to add, but he did anyway.

The Muncy senior readily admitted when he works out with Solomon and Milton’s coaches that Solomon will occasionally beat up on him. It was one of those eyebrow raising admissions from Hembury because Solomon is about the only one who’s been able to beat up on him this year.

The two seniors have found each other to be their best competition during the last two months of the season because neither the district nor region has been able to push the multiple time state placewinners to even the brink of a loss.

Both of them cruised Saturday to Class AA Northeast Regional championships, as did fellow senior Brandon Smith of Lewisburg. The three perspective favorites in their weight classes who have combined for 423 career wins were brilliant again this week, standing atop the podium for the third consecutive week.

The three were among a group of five local wrestlers to win regional titles last night, including Milton’s Ryan Preisch (152) and North Penn’s Ben Minnich (170), who became the school’s first-ever regional champion.

In all, 17 local wrestlers finished in the top three in their weight classes to earn a trip to next week’s PIAA tournament in Hershey. Hughesville’s Zach Fry (120 pounds), Williamson’s Billy Barnes (145), Lewisburg’s Brian Friery (106), South Williamsport’s Justin Knee (170) and Muncy’s Skylar Ebner (195) all finished second.

Warrior Run’s Zack LeBarron (106) and Eric Hunt (113), Williamson’s Logan Everett (126) and Trevor McWhorter (132), Hughesville’s Kyle Barnes (152), Montgomery’s Isaiah Bobotas (160) and Canton’s Garrett Wesneski (182) all finished third to earn the final state qualifying spot in their weight classes.

Solomon’s challenges have been few and far between this year, and were really limited to his appearances in both the Beast of the East and the Hurricane Classic in Bethlehem right around Christmas. Hembury’s last true challenge came when he bumped up a weight class and beat Central Mountain state qualifier Blaze Buckwalter just before the New Year.

So the workouts they’ve been getting recently with one another have been the best competition either one has seen. It seems to have proven beneficial as Solomon and Hembury have wrestled a combined 17 matches during the postseason with just one going a full six minutes.

“He’s giving me a run for my money and beating up on me a little bit,” Hembury said after winning the 182 finals, 18-4, over Benton’s Logan Womelsdorf. “It humbles me. But I’m ready for states now.”

“He’s a great partner,” said Solomon, whose pin in the 195 finals was the ninth consecutive one of his postseason. “Him and I push each other hard, and that’s what you need at this time of year.”

The truth of the matter is Solomon is going to be the class of the 195-pound bracket in Hershey when he shows up Wednesday night for the pre-tournament workout. His biggest challenger likely would have been Saucon Valley’s Ray O’Donnell, but O’Donnell moved to the 220-pound weight class after losing to Solomon in the finals of both the Beast and the Hurricane.

Solomon, a Pittsburgh recruit, has been ranked No. 1 in the country most of the season by The Open Mat and Amateur Wrestling News and has beaten a handful of the top 15 195-pounders in the country at those two prestigious holiday tournaments.

Hembury has been a different story, though. His run of technical falls has pushed him to No. 2 in the state rankings behind only Burrell’s Dakota DesLauriers, a three-time state placewinner coming off a state runner-up finish. Bound for Columbia next year, Hembury is still trying to forge his name nationally, and wrestling against one of the top wrestlers in the country certainly seems to have sharpened his skills at the right time.

Hembury recorded his first two falls of the postseason this weekend – after five consecutive technical falls – and capped off the regional tournament with the lopsided win over Womelsdorf. And even if he says his game isn’t 100 percent yet, it sure looked pretty darn close after three dominating weekends.

“My takedowns are feeling real good. It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger,” Hembury said. “It’s my dad’s (Muncy assistant coach Ron Hembury) biggest thing with me right now. He probably has more confidence in me than I do.”

The two are used to entering the postseason with targets on their back. Solomon is already a three-time state placewinner and a defending state champion. And with his 2 minute, 35 second fall over Ebner in the finals last night, he tied former Milton four-time state champ Bobby Crawford’s career wins record of 138.

“He’s the best guy to ever come through Milton,” Solomon said. “To be put in that same class with him is awesome.”

Smith’s foray into the world as a favorite was brilliant. He’s been in the district and regional finals before, but has run into the likes of Solomon and Hembury’s older brother Ryan, both who were on their way to state titles.

The Lewisburg senior, who will play football at Penn State next year, won his first District 4 title a week ago, and added his first regional title last night with a 5-0 win over Wyalusing sophomore Dylan Otis. Being the favorite is not exactly something Smith has worried about.

He was more concerned with just making sure he got back to Hershey for a third time and improving on a disappointing fifth-place finish last year. He made quite the statement yesterday beating two-time state qualifier Eric McCracken of Central Columbia, 5-2, in the semifinals before disposing of Otis in the finals.

“We’ve been working hard all year and God has blessed me to do well so far,” he said. “I’m just confident in what the coaches have been with me on and I’m a lot more relaxed this year especially knowing some of the kids and how good of competition they are. But you can’t get caught up in how good someone is. I think the biggest think I have to learn is how to relax and let your wrestling take care of business.”