Bobotas among six area NE AA regional champs

It’s not that Isaiah Bobotas thought his Northeast Regional gold medal was worthless. His goals merely stretch beyond the medal which briefly hung around his neck on a red, white and blue lanyard.

Saturday night’s win in the 182-pound finals was a significant step for the Montgomery senior in his pursuit of more hardware at the state level. He was brilliant in his three regional matches, not allowing a point and defeating the second, third and fourth-place finishers in the tournament.

Bobotas was one of six local wrestlers to capture gold at the PIAA Class AA Northeast Regional on Saturday, and he was one of 18 local wrestlers to earn a berth into next week’s PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Bobotas was joined on top the podium by 145-pound champion Billy Barnes of Williamson, Milton’s Ryan Preisch (160), Montoursville’s Garrett Hoffman (170), and Canton’s Garrett Wesneski (195) and Connor Route (220).

Finishing in second place was Montgomery’s Kyle Drick (113), Sullivan County’s Shawn Nitcznski (126), Montoursville’s Keith Batkowski (132) and Lucas Shaheen (182), Muncy’s Dakota Nixon (145) and Hughesville’s Ethan Barnes (220).

Also qualifying for states with third-place finishes were Muncy’s Angelo Barberio (106), Hughesville’s Zach Fry (132) and Matt Herr (182), Warrior Run’s Zack LeBarron (120), Williamson’s Trevor McWhorter (138) and Lewisburg’s Jordan Gessner (113) and Max Reed (160).

Benton captured the team title with 82 points, despite going 0 for 4 in the finals. Southern Columbia was second with 60.5 points, and Montoursville was third with 57. Williamson finished fourth (42 points) and Hughesville (41) was fifth.

Bobotas has spent a lot of time during the past few weeks with Montgomery assistant coach Patrick Sparks working on the mental aspect of wrestling. After a rough start to the season, Bobotas has found his grove in the postseason. He beat the second, third and fourth-place finishers for the second consecutive week.

“(Muncy assistant coach) Ron Hembury used to always tell me it’s 99 percent mental and the rest is in your head,” Bobotas said with a smile. “So for me, if I believe I can win, I usually win.”

Bobotas believed he could win before the postseason started. After winning a Central Sectional title three weeks ago, the returning state qualifier said there was no reason he shouldn’t have a sectional, district and regional title.

He finished off the trifecta Saturday night by beating Montoursville’s Shaheen in the finals, 3-0. That win came after a 6-0 win over Hughesville’s Herr in the semifinals, and a 3-0 win over Milton’s Gage Heller in Friday night’s quarterfinals.

“I knew I could do this all year,” Bobotas said. “For whatever reason it just wasn’t clicking. But I went out there and beat all those guys and none of them scored on me, and that says something.”

What it says is Bobotas is ready to tackle the real goal of standing atop the podium in Hershey next week when he makes his second consecutive trip to the state tournament. Last year he came within a win of his first career state medal before being eliminated from the state tournament.

But Bobotas said at the time that was all a matter of getting his feet wet in the setting in order to prepare himself for a deep run in the tournament should he get back in this, his senior year. And not only is he going back to the state tournament, he’s going back as the regional champion, a much different scenario than when he had to scratch and claw to qualify for states last year.

“I want the big chip. I’m not going to be happy until I get it,” Bobotas said. “Coach Patrick got into my head a little while ago that I need to turn it around. I knew I was more than capable of doing better.”

Hoffman put together by far the easiest finals match of the night when he won by forfeit over Midd-West’s Alex Lieberman, who was a little banged up. It gave the Montoursville sophomore his third consecutive postseason gold medal after winning the titles at sectionals and districts at 170 pounds.

But it was a beneficial match off for Hoffman. He has been battling a cold most of the week, so an extra match to rest up before traversing to his first state tournament wasn’t such a bad thing.

“Hopefully it’s a good chance to relax and get ready,” Hoffman said. “Once I got that win over (Bloomsburg’s Brandon) Conrad in the semis, it felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew no matter what happened in the finals I was still going to the Giant Center. Right now I think I’m starting to reach the peak of my wrestling this year. Going from sectionals on, I feel like I’m getting better and better every week we wrestle.”

Williamson’s Barnes and Milton’s Preisch continued their dominant runs through the postseason with wins in the finals. Both are ranked No. 2 in the state in their respective weight classes, and both cruised to championships. For Preisch it was his second consecutive regional championship. It was the first for Barnes.

Barnes got to the finals with a fall in 1:26 over Bloomsburg’s Sam Miller, who eventually came back to finish third, before beating Muncy’s Nixon in the finals, 5-1. It was the 105th win of Barnes’ career, and his 39th this year without a loss. The six-minute push from Nixon was a good test for Barnes who also was pushed for six minutes by Milton’s Zack Bennett in the district final last week.

“It’s about making sure I don’t run out of gas, and making sure I can push for all six minutes,” Barnes said. “I’ve gotten some good competition here at districts and regionals, so it’s been a good opportunity.”

Preisch outscored his two opponents 14-0 Saturday, beating Troy’s Nick Stephani in the semis, 9-0, before beating Benton’s Jeric Kasunic, 5-0. It was Preisch’s second consecutive win over Kasunic.

But Preisch came up short of his goal of getting a major decision win in the finals. He was hoping to get a turn for back points against Kasunic as good preparation for states next week, but he couldn’t get Kasunic’s back exposed.

“The main goal is to get to Hershey. The object is to win and be dominant,” Preisch said. “It would be nice to get some back points on a kid like Kasunic, but I didn’t get them in the semis. But the goal is to get into the top three, and it worked.”