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Shore's Herman upsets state qualifier

December 7, 2012 - Mitch Rupert

Zak Herman was pretty sure he was going to lose his opening bout at the Top Hat on Friday night, but not because he didn't believe in his abilities as a wrestler.

The Jersey Shore senior was wrestling his first match since the 2011 District 4 tournament. He knew he wasn't quite in wrestling shape. And on top of everything, his first-round opponent was Tri-Valley's Hunter Harner, a returning Class AA state qualifier.

So yeah, Herman had the deck stacked against him.

And he still won.

Herman was one of 15 local wrestlers to move on to this morning's semifinals after Friday night's season-opening first night of wrestling. Herman was also one of two wrestlers to knock off a returning state qualifier in the first round.

Herman is joined in the semifinals by teammates Noah Ulmer (106 pounds) and Colton Killion (126), as well as Muncy's Angelo Barberio (106), Troy Hembury (182) and Skylar Ebner (195), Williamsport's Roshaun Cooley (113), South Williamsport's Andrew Gipe (126) and Justin Knee (170), Hughesville's Kyle Barnes (152), and Central Mountain's Cole Hanley (138), Chad Reese (152), Gavin Caprio (160), Blaze Buckwalter (195) and Caleb Stover (285).

After the first three rounds of wrestling, Central Columbia led the team standings with 86.5 points. Central Mountain, the defending champion, is tied for third with Penfield (N.Y.) with 70 points. Jersey Shore is tied for fifth.

“I was nervous. I didn't think I was going to win,” Herman said after beating Titusville's Easton Hogue with a fall in the quarterfinals. “When I did, I was relieved, but I couldn't breathe for like the last two minutes because I was so winded. But it was a good match.”

Herman beat Harner in the first round, 15-10. It's the same Harner who went 1-2 at 126 pounds in the PIAA Class AA tournament as a freshman last year. Those two losses came to Warrior Run's Jared Watson and former PIAA champion Arty Walsh of Schuylkill Valley.

Herman said he was able to tire out Harner but riding tough on top with legs. It was his goal to try and tire out his opponents last night, because he's well aware that he's not in the same kind of wrestling shape he was when he was a District 4 third-place finisher in 2011.

“I got tired and couldn't go all out (on offense) even thought I tried,” Herman said. “When I recovered, I went all out as much as I could. Making them tired before I get tired is what helps me out the most.”

The 145-pounder missed Jersey Shore's run to the PIAA Duals tournament a year ago when he decided to sit out the season. He definitely would have been a key contributor to a team that made its first-ever appearance in Hershey for the team tournament. He was coming off a 12-10 season as a sophomore which included a sixth-place finish at the 2010 Top Hat tournament.

Herman said he didn't like the atmosphere around the team last year, and although it was frustrating to miss out on one of the most successful seasons in recent memory for the Bulldogs, he doesn't regret sitting out.

“It just didn't feel right. It wasn't a family. It wasn't a team,” Herman said. “I didn't want to be a part of it, so I took the year off. Now that I cam back, everything is different and is awesome. It definitely made my passion come back for the sport.”

While he's regained his passion, he's still off on his timing, he said. It clearly didn't show last night.

He came into the tournament thinking he could probably repeat his performance from 2010 and finish fifth or sixth. Last night's results made him rethink his goals. He'll face Schuylkill Valley's Zach Homan in the semifinals this morning. Homan is coming off a 12-13 season and did not wrestle at the Top Hat a year ago.

Should Herman win, he would either face Line Mountain state seventh-place finisher Seth Lansberry, who picked up his 100th career win last night, or Central Columbia's Aaron Johnson, a District 4 sixth-place finisher a year ago.

“I'm hoping for first or second now,” Herman said. “It's amazing how fast things change. I'm loving it right now.”


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