HERSHEY, Pa. -- There were more fans in attendance for Friday's early session of PIAA wrestling at GIANT Center than there were for Thursday's opening round. The action was a lot quicker, too.
Winning was a common theme for wrestlers with Penn State connections in the AA classification Thursday, and the victory train kept on moving Friday, too.
Four wrestlers with Penn State connections -- two commits to Cael Sanderson's wrestling program, and two planned run-ons to Bill O'Brien's football program -- were in action in the early morning AA quarterfinals round. All four were victorious and move on to the semifinal round Friday night.
Not Running On Empty
Lewisburg's Brandon Smith (220) and Trinity's Adam Geiger (195) were both victorious in their second bouts, proving again that they are in no rush to finish their last interscholastic wrestling tournament before running on to the PSU football team this summer.
Geiger took the mat first Friday, and the Trinity High (Camp Hill) senior wasted no time attacking Muncy's Skylar Ebner, scoring 10 first-period points with five take downs, thrice switching from an inside single to a double to complete the two-point move. He'd go on to add a pair of takedowns and an escape in the final four minutes of action to advance to the semifinals with a 15-7 win.
He'll be opposite the Southwestern region top seed and Chartiers-Houston senior Garrett Vulcanon in the semis. Vulcano won by major decision in his preliminary bout Thursday before winning by decision, 5-1, Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Smith fended off a strong effort from Ft. LeBouef's Evan Daley, winning by decision 4-2. The Lewisburg (Pa.) senior wrestled intelligently, staying away from Daley's dangerous ankle pick for much of the match while not allowing him to work from the top position, either. Smith took advantage of a brief miscalculation by the Northwest region runner-up to score the deciding takedown in the second period before adding an escape in the third.
I capitalized on some mistakes he had, and that's what made the difference in this match, Smith said. From there, it got pretty defensive, and I got a stall call so I'm going to have to watch that, and be a little more active.
But I'm just excited for the win.
Smith will wrestle Southwest region champion Jake Temple in the semifinals after the junior earned a 7-1 decision in his quarterfinal bout. He's also been keeping an eye on future teammate Geiger, too, with the Trinity senior twice taking the mat prior to Smith entering the circle for his.
He's looking good out there. I saw a little bit of his last match, Smith said. I think he has a good shot of making it to the finals.
Long Arms Can't Stop Law
Redbank Valley senior Cole Shirey presented a unique challenge for Forest Hills senior Cody Law: his long arms and lanky body are both aspects the 160-pound Penn State commit has not seen much of this season.
But as in Thursday's action, once Law got his offense going, the match fell right into order, as he moved onto the semifinals with a 9-3 decision.
At this point, everybody just tries to tie me up and slow me down, Law said. He's long and lanky, so it was different.
I haven't wrestled anybody that long in a while, but I didn't have a game plan, he added. I had to go out and get a feel for it, but I can't change my style. I just tried to stay relaxed and do whatever I could do to win.
Law opened the scoring with a swift double-leg takedown 10 seconds into the match, and proceeded to cut Shirey before taking him down again with another double-leg shot to swell his lead to 4-1. The senior then rinsed and repeated the series of moves, and took a 6-2 lead into the second period.
In the final four minutes, Law accumulated an escape and a single-leg takedown on a counter-shot, eventually slipping behind Shirey for a 9-2 win as the Red Bank grappler could only muster an escape the rest of the way.
Zain Retherford (138) gets on and off the mat in a hurry most days. Friday was no different.
The Benton senior recorded his second fall of the tournament, taking three seconds longer than Thursday to pin Burrell's Steve Edwards in 1:36, a fall that came shortly after Retherford (45-0) took down Edwards and threw legs in before tightening up a headlock and trapping the junior on the mat.
I like legs in, and I was just working on his arms, Retherford said. I mean, I just expected to wrestle, and that's what I did.
Retherford will face Brookville junior Brock Zacherl in semifinals action. Zacherl was a 13-4 winner in quarterfinal action over Richland's Nicholas Naglic.
All four wrestlers completed their action by 11 a.m. Friday, meaning a lengthy wait is in store until semifinal action begins at 6:30 p.m. None of the four are strangers to going deep into tournament action, though, meaning the wait is already planned out -- with video, food and relaxation on the horizon.
I'm going to watch a little bit of tapes, and talk about how I'm going to beat him with the coaches, Law said of semifinal opponent Ty Walter of Mifflinburg. I'm going to drink some water, and kick back and relax, while mentally preparing to win.
Smith will take a similar plan of action over the next several hours, briefly grabbing some lunch with weigh-ins completed for the day.
We're going to go get lunch, and relax, Smith said. Recoup a little bit, and then get focused.