WILKES-BARRE — For two seasons, juniors Colin Pasone and Jeff Bennett have seen their wrestling careers intertwined.
Hanover Area’s Bennett looking for that elusive district title. Meyers’ Pasone standing directly in the path – winning gold as a freshman and sophomore.
This season, Bennett wouldn’t have to contend with the Mohawk. He would, though, get his first taste of district gold.
The Hanover Area 120-pounder, named most outstanding wrestler, navigated through the toughest weight at the District 2 Class 2A tournament, edging Valley View’s Brandon Judge 7-4 in the title tilt. Pasone, at 113, spent less than two minutes on the mat the entire two days to claim his third straight championship – including a 67-second pin over Montrose’s Chucky Rohan in the gold-medal bout.
“This is something that I worked all year for, since the first day of practice,” Bennett said. “Colin is a good wrestler, so it was good to kind of move away from him. I still knew it was going to be tough at 120. I just entered this tournament thinking that I was the best one in the bracket. I was confident that I could win the championship.”
Meyers captured the team championship with 216.5 points and will send six Mohawks to next weekend’s regional tournament at Williamsport High School. Western Wayne was second with 170.5 points, while Lake-Lehman ended with 169.5 points. Hanover and Wyoming Area rounded out the top 5.
While the Wyoming Valley Conference and Lackawanna League will each send 21 representatives to regionals, the WVC captured gold in 11 of the 14 weight classes. Three Mohawks won titles – Pasone, Jeremy Bergold (145) and Gino Setta (160) – and Lehman also crowned three: Bob Long (106), Bob Lipski (138) and Tom Williams (182).
Hanover left the Kingston Armory with three titlists – Bennett, Noah Rakowski (152) and John Sheridan (285) while Wyoming Area’s Kendrick Beyer (126) and Zachary Briggs (170) each won gold.
Lackawanna League champs were Valley View’s Brett Uhrin (132), Trail’s Trent Phillips (195) and Scranton Prep’s Thor Balavage (220).
“We took some bad losses in the morning, but we scrambled back,” Meyers head coach Ron Swingle said. “I’m just happy that all the hard work they put in this year paid off. We brought all 14 kids back to the second day of the tournament. It’s not often that you get to do that. They kept their heads and battled back.”
Getting away from Pasone appeared to be a good thing for Bennett, a 33-match winner this season.
The negative? It landed him squarely at 120 – a weight class with five regional qualifiers including Judge, who was a defending district champ himself.
Coming off a 14-0 major victory over Meyers’ Michael Dempsey in the semifinals, Bennett found himself up 3-2 over Judge in the title bout. The Valley View sophomore would cut the deficit to 5-4 in the final two minutes before Bennett used a late takedown for the 7-4 victory.
Pasone, who won the 106-pound class the last two seasons, had no trouble at his new weight. He used just 14 ticks in the semis, and in the championship, he ran a half-nelson and stuck Rohan in 1:07.
“Honestly, it’s no different than the first two titles,” Pasone said. “I just go out and wrestle as hard as I could. Luckily, the result has been the same over the past three seasons. I just want to start to peak next weekend and hopefully, I’ll be peaking by the time the state tournament comes around. You always want to wrestle your best late in the year.”
Lehman had a pretty good day on the mats.
The Black Knights sent six to the finals – winning three. Long used a reversal with 1:05 left in his bout with Montrose’s Joseph Hester to secure the 8-6 victory. Lipski, a junior, got his first district crown via an 11-7 victory over VV’s Marc Stine, and Williams escaped the grasp of Prep’s Ivan Balavage with 10 seconds left for the 5-4 win at 182.
“We feel good. We were able to get six to the finals, and we split,” Lehman head coach JJ Konigus said. “We lost a tough one at 220 to Thor Balavage, who is a state qualifier and quality kid. Tommy wrestled a good match at 182, and our freshman at 106, Bobby Long, did awesome. We got guys on the podium. We are happy.”
Two others brought home their second district titles.
Coming in third last season at 152, Meyers’ Setta bumped up to 160 and ripped through the bracket – pinning Prep’s Tommy Carroll in the first period during the semifinal, and decking Elk Lake’s Jake Hand in 4:30 for the title.
Wyoming Area’s Zachary Briggs, who Setta beat in that third-place bout in 2015, controlled the 170-pound bracket – including a 7-2 victory over top-seeded Bruce Parola of Scranton Prep.
“Honestly, it’s a great achievement to be a district champ – especially a two-time champ – but I have other goals,” Briggs said. “I want to get to Hershey, and get my 100 wins. I am only four away. I’ve been working hard, and it looks like it’s paying off.”
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