Montrose Area wrestler Joe Hester attained a career goal, capturing a District II Class 2A championship at 132 lbs.
Hester was joined by teammate Bryan Ryan, who also earned a district title; and seven other local wrestlers that qualified to compete at the Regional Championships in Williamsport.
Hester was selected Most Outstanding Wrestler in the tournament. In the process, he tied the career record for wins at Montrose with 127, joining 1984 state champion Mike Cole at the top of Meteor wrestling history. The feat was not lost on Hester.
“It’s super exciting to match his record,” said Hester. “Every day I see his poster on the wall at school, and to be able to pass that record would be a great honor.”
Montrose Coach Matt Hawley was excited for Hester and attributed his success to Hester’s internal motivation. “It’s been an absolute privilege to coach him,” gushed Hawley. “The self-drive he has is incredible and he’s just a good all-round humble kid.”
Hester made quick work of his first two opponents in the 132-pound weight class needing less than a minute to earn his way to the title bout. In his opening match, he pinned Elk Lake’s Todd Snyder in 9 seconds. He followed that up with a pin of Tunkhannock’s Ethan Munley in 42 seconds.
“I just wanted to get on and off the mat as soon as possible,” Hester said.
In a tight match with Lake Lehman’s Bob Long, Hester used a reversal to take a 6-5 lead and held Long off for the rest of the match to secure his first District II title. The bout featured the 18th- and 20th-ranked wrestlers in the state at 132-pound weight class, according to PA Power Wrestling,
Ryan needed just a little more time to get to his title match after receiving a bye to the semifinals. Ryan took down Tunkhannock’s Nick Marabell in 1:20 to earn his trip to the finals.
In the final, Ryan squared off against Wyoming Area’s Jaryn Polit-Moran. The two went back and forth in tightly contested match where Ryan pulled out the 1-0 decision.
The win gave the Meteors their second title of the day and helped lead the team to third place, the highest finish among Lackawanna League schools in the team standings.
“I just concentrated on staying on my feet and not getting rolled over,” Ryan said.
He attributed his success in the finals to his commitment to running throughout the season and the stamina it built.
“In the past I didn’t like to run a lot, maybe some in the wrestling room, but this year I made more of a commitment to it – getting in a mile or mile and a half every day before practice,” explained Ryan.
Hawley appreciated the sacrifices that Ryan has made in his career and the work he has done to win the District Championship.
“In Bryan’s freshmen year he filled in all over the place for us,” explained Hawley. “He did whatever we asked, he kept focused on his school work, he got better.”
“He has a real funky style as a wrestler, very unconventional,” added Hawley. “I had to learn how to adapt and work with him.”
Hawley, who battled the flu throughout the weekend, was ecstatic about his team’s performance from top to bottom.
“They exceeded my expectations,” said Hawley. “We go in with the goal of being one of the top two teams, but to finish behind two schools that are borderline AAA and to be the top Lackawanna League school says a lot about our guys.”
“It’s great that our team did so well,” added Ryan. “We got two district titles, and sent a lot of wrestlers to the semifinals.”
Montrose’s Justin Kelly finished second at 285. He lost a narrow 3-2 decision to Tunkhannock’s Jhamal Zacharias. Kelly reached the final by pinning Hanover Area’s Derek Knorr in 1:01 and Blue Ridge’s Will Clauson in 20 seconds.
The Meteors’ other regional qualifier came at 182 pounds. Marc Avila decisioned Wyoming Area’s Vincent Bowers 4-1 to capture third place.
Avila came into the tournament as the number one seed but was upset in his first match by Tunkhannock’s Jeffrey Meader who pinned Avila in 1:03. The senior rebounded in his next match earning a win over Blue Ridge’s Ben Gudykunst on an injury default to set up the consolation final with Bowers.
Blue Ridge finished with a fifth place in the team standings led by Gavin Crawford’s second place finish at 113 pounds, Nathaniel McArthur’s runner-up finish at 126 pounds, and a second-place finish at 220 pounds by Eli Aldrich.
Crawford opened with two pins to get to the championship match. He took down E.L. Meyers’ Brandon Abreu in 55 seconds and followed that up with pin of Scranton Prep’s Jack Lynett in 1:01 in the semifinals.
Crawford, the second seed in 113, faced number one-seed Matt Bluhm of Lackawanna Trail. Crawford battled Bluhm until the standout freshman overtook Crawford and pinned him at the 2:59 mark.
McArthur earned his way to the championship bout with a pin of Western Wayne’s Michael Devore-Mirailh in 3:03. He then pinned Tunkhannock’s Matt Rosentel in 1:02.
In the final, the Raider senior battled Lake Lehman’s Zack Stuart until falling in a 5-2 decision.
Aldrich opened with a quick pin of Trail’s Bryce Van Fleet in 56 seconds and earned his way to the title match in the small 220-pound class. Lake Lehman’s TJ Meehan took Aldrich down at the 2:06 mark to claim the crown.
The Raiders will send two other grapplers to regionals. Senior Adam Roe earned his trip with a 13-2 Major Decision over Scranton Prep’s Bryce Genello in the consolation finals to garner third place at 152 pounds.
Roe opened the tournament with a pin of Wyoming Area’s Vincenzo Giambra in 1:53. But Roe lost a 6-3 decision to Lake Lehman’s Jake Trumbower in the semifinal. He regrouped in his next match pinning Montrose’s Justin Craige in 21 seconds to set up the match with Genello.
At 160 pounds, Tom Gudykunst opened with a pin of Meyers’ Savon Collins in 5:08. In a high-scoring semifinal Gudykunst lost a 12-10 decision to Scranton Prep’s Alec Buttner.
Gudykunst rebounded in his next two matches pinning Tunkhannock’s Tyler Chesla at the 4:29 mark and pinning Collins in a rematch in 3:34 to capture third place.
Other local wrestlers placing at Districts were: Montrose’s Nick Harder at 106, Andrew Rosevear at 126, and Seamus Fish at 220 who finished in fourth place.
Fifth-place finishers were Elk Lake’s Codi Bomboy (126), Mountain View’s Jeremiah Schwartz (170) and Ben Gudykunst (182), while Blue Ridge’s Isaiah Valentin (120) and Clauson (285) and Montrose’s Brendan Kanna ((138), Craige (152), and Cameron Harder along with Elk Lake’s Snyder (132) finished sixth.
The Regional qualifiers will wrestle this Friday and Saturday at Williamsport High School.