Hughesville’s Barnes reaches Class AA quarterfinals

HERSHEY – It’s not that Ethan Barnes is particularly setting out to hit a big move. It’s just kind of been there through the postseason.

Thursday, in his first match at the Giant Center in Hershey, the opportunity presented itself again for another big move. The Hughesville senior capitalized, scoring a fall in 43 seconds over North East’s Andrew Phelps to move to this morning’s 220-pound quarterfinal round.

Barnes was one of 12 local wrestlers to win their preliminary-round match Thursday at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships to move to the quarterfinals. Muncy’s Angelo Barberio (106 pounds) and Dakota Nixon (145), Montgomery’s Kyle Drick (113) and Isaiah Bobotas (182), Sullivan County’s Shawn Nitcznski (126), Williamson’s Billy Barnes (145), Milton’s Ryan Preisch (160), Lewisburg’s Max Reed (160), Montoursville’s Garrett Hoffman (170), and Canton’s Garrett Wesneski (195) and Connor Route (220) all won their opening bout yesterday.

Warrior Run’s Zack LeBarron (120), Montoursville’s Keith Batkowski (132), Williamson’s Trevor McWhorter (138) and Hughesville’s Matt Herr (182) all dropped their preliminary bout, but rebounded to win in Round 1 of consolations to stay alive in the tournament.

Lewisburg’s Jordan Gessner (113), Hughesville’s Zach Fry (132) and Montoursville’s Lucas Shaheen (182) were all eliminated after going 0-2.

Barnes’ pin highlighted a 9-6 day for the area’s first-time state qualifiers. Seven of the area’s 11 first-time state qualifiers in Class AA won their first bout of the day. And Barnes was one of three first-time qualifiers to pick up a fall. His also happened to be the most electric.

“If you pin him, you don’t have to go the distance,” Barnes said. “The first goal is always just find a way to win. If that’s the way to win, I’ll take it.”

The first-period fall was the eighth fall of the postseason for Barnes, and his fifth which came in the first period. And surprisingly enough, it was only the third-fastest fall of the postseason for the senior.

Barnes recorded four falls in the District 4 tournament and was awarded with the most falls in least amount of time award.

“I just try to move my feet and let it flow,” Barnes said. “Whatever it falls into, just go for it.”

It’s not that he doesn’t have the kind of gas tank which would allow him to wrestle hard for six minutes, but Barnes is an aggressive wrestler who can punish opponents. His style is one which lends itself to getting quick falls if his opponents aren’t ready from the first whistle.

Now the senior who missed his entire junior season with a knee injury is one win from winning a PIAA medal.

“Coach (Steve Budman) always says don’t be nervous, just wrestle,” Barnes said. “Don’t wait around, because most of the kids who wait around are here wrestling again (in the consolations). So if you do your stuff at the beginning, you don’t have to worry about wrestling another round.”

Falls for Route and Hoffman didn’t come nearly as easy. In fact, both fell behind before they were able to hit big moves for their falls.

Hoffman gave up a pair of takedowns in the first period and was dangerously close to giving up a third in the second period to Saucon Valley’s Jason Lynch, as Lynch was in deep on a single-leg attempt. Hoffman scrambled out of the takedown situation, freeing his leg, and scrambled to wrap up both of Lynch’s ankles on the edge of the mat for a takedown of his own.

Once on top, Hoffman, in the blink of an eye, worked Lynch’s left arm over his head and was able to sink in a deep half-nelson, turning Lynch to his back. Hoffman got one five count before readjusting and planting Lynch for the fall 3:36.

“I think it was that third shot where he got deep that I got really frustrated. I let him in there three times on really deep shots that he should have never been close to,” Hoffman said. “But since the postseason, me and the coach have been working on that head lever. I knew once I got in that position and got it over my head, I’d at least get back points.”

Route also gave up the first takedown against Columbia’s Vanyel Petham-Peterson, falling behind 2-0. But the Canton senior recovered quickly. He scored a takedown of his own with under a minute to go to take a 3-2 lead.

He then nearly scored a fall at the end of the first period when he rolled over Petham-Peterson with a double armbar, but Petham-Peterson was able to keep his shoulders off the mat. He didn’t fare as well 1:09 into the second period when Route, fresh off a Northeast Regional title, finally got the fall.

“That’s a great way to get it kicked off,” Route said. “Getting that first takedown really calmed me down. I was really able to wrestle my match from there.”

Nixon’s win was equally as exciting as the three falls, even though he had to use the full six minutes. The Muncy junior scrambled off a restart with 11 seconds left in his 145-pound preliminary with Conneaut’s Taylor Ellis and escaped with just 1 second left for a 3-2 win.

Nixon tried to jump the whistle a bit on the restart because he had yet to be cautioned and Ellis had been cautioned twice. So he figured he could afford to take a chance knowing Ellis would have to wait to make sure he didn’t give up a caution point.

“It ended up working out in my favor,” Nixon said. “I think I let the nerves get to me. I didn’t wrestle my match. I was a little sluggish. To get that first win is big. Now I have to focus on getting to the semis (Friday).”

Barberio and Drick looked as comfortable as could be in their matchups despite giving up early takedowns. Barberio, a sophomore, trailed at the end of the first period but scored three points in the second. He added a takedown in the third to win, 6-2 over Reynolds’ Gage Bayless.

“I don’t like to be down, but it is what it is and you have to keep moving forward,” Barberio said. “It’s not about what the score is then, it’s about what it is when the clock hits zero. So I just wanted to keep wrestling.”

Drick, a senior who had never qualified for the regional tournament until this year, ended the first period with a lead despite giving up the first takedown. He scored a takedown in each the first and second periods and added a pair of escapes for a 6-3 win over Westmont-Hilltop’s Logan Blackburn.

Drick was the only of the three District 4 representatives to win a match at 113 pounds. Gessner and Line Mountain’s Cameron Newman each went 0-2.

“I didn’t want that first takedown to break my spirits,” Drick said. “So I wanted to keep working to get out and maybe even get a takedown of my own.”