Three from area finish third

HERSHEY – A flash of his trademark smile looked like a front. Deep down – and he was willing to admit it – Milton’s Ryan Preisch was angry Saturday.

The senior 160-pounder walked out of his final tournament in the Giant Center with a third-place medal after a dominating win over Bermudian Springs’ Briton Shelton. It wasn’t nearly good enough, not for a wrestler who believed before the PIAA Wrestling Championships started he should be the wrestler standing atop the podium.

“I’m completely unsatisfied. I don’t feel good at all,” Preisch said. “Last year, when I lost, Austin Matthews was better than me. I don’t believe that (South Fayette’s Jared) Walker was better than me (Friday) night. I believe firmly I’m the best wrestler in the weight class and I just didn’t get my stuff going and he capitalized on it.”

Preisch’s loss in the semifinal round Friday night in rideout to Walker was devastating. He was able to regroup quickly and win his consolation semifinal over Benton’s Jeric Kasunic – his third win over the senior in as many weeks – Friday night before winning again to take third Saturday afternoon.

The place wasn’t ideal. In fact, classify it as a disappointment, you won’t get any argument from Preisch. He classified Friday night’s loss as more on himself than anything else.

Walker was a stout opponent, strong and stocky, who didn’t allow Preisch to get in deep on shots. Preisch shot time after time only to be stonewalled before getting to a leg. His only points came from an escape in the second period, and another in the first 30-second tie-break session.

“I didn’t move him much, and it would have been a lot different than shooting into a brick wall if I would have gotten my angles and stuff that I had to do,” Preisch said. “I didn’t underestimate him or give him too much credit, it just didn’t end up the way I wanted it to.”

Walker lost in the 160-pound state final Saturday, 9-3, to Coudersport’s Kyle Bova, the one wrestler who has been ranked ahead of Preisch all year. Bova needed overtime Friday morning to beat Kasunic, and had lost his only previous meeting with Preisch, 8-0, in the 2012 state tournament.

Preisch will now look to the next step in his career as he’ll wrestle at Lehigh next year. As disappointing as the weekend was for the two-time state bronze medalist, he can see what’s still ahead of him.

“I have goals I want to complete that are beyond high school wrestling,” Preisch said. “And I think I can do it, so I have to start focusing on what is beyond high school.”

Then there was Canton’s Garrett Wesneski, a wrestler, who like Preisch, suffered the disappointment of losing in Friday night’s semifinal round. He left the Giant Center on Saturday content with his third-place finish. He had gotten his shot against the state’s No. 1-ranked 195-pounder, Tristan Sponseller, and came up a point short.

So he turned Saturday’s third-place match into an opportunity to prove a point. He wanted to show he was the second-best wrestler in the weight class, and he did so resoundingly, scoring a fall over Valley’s Marcus Davenport in 2 minutes, 23 seconds. Sponseller won the 195-pound championship with a 9-1 win in the final.

“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” Wesneski said after winning his second state medal. “My goal was to be a state champ and be in the state final after a good match with Sponseller. It didn’t work out that way, but I went out with a bang.”

Wesneski’s season, which finished with a 42-2 record, renewed his love for the sport and pushed him to declare he’ll wrestle collegiately despite having other offers as a pitcher in baseball.

It’s easy to see why teams like Maryland, Bloomsburg and Appalachian State have taken notice of the senior after the show he put on in the top position all weekend. He did it again in Saturday’s third-place match. He was caught slightly off guard when Davenport scored the first takedown of the match. But then Wesneski got a reversal and went to work on top to score his first fall of the tournament.

“That first takedown startled me a bit, but I refocused once I got on top and I was fine,” Wesneski said. “I think how I wrestled down here this weekend, being mentally prepared like I was, it makes me want to wrestle in college for sure.”