4 Burrell wrestlers, Valley’s Schuffert advance to medal round at PIAA Class AA tournament
Friday, March 9, 2018 | 11:15 PM
HERSHEY — Ian Oswalt works on spin moves sometimes as a joke during Burrell wrestling practices.
Given how well it worked when he pulled it out for real, he might consider folding it into his repertoire more often.
Sometimes it takes pulling out all the stops to advance at the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships, and Oswalt's spin move — one that Le'Veon Bell might be proud of — helped him score the winning takedown in sudden-victory overtime Friday night at Giant Center, helping Oswalt climb the medal ranks in his first appearance at the state Class AA tournament.
That win ensured him at least a top-six finish at 113 pounds, and he followed with another overtime win in the consolation semifinals — this one over Montoursville's Wyatt Lutz — to earn a spot in the third-place match Saturday afternoon against Reynolds' Beau Bayless.
“We don't do anything too crazy too often, stick to fundamentals, but sometimes you just have to go for it,” Oswalt said. “You can't hold anything back. I'd already placed then, so I was just like, I might as well go for it. You can't do it halfway.”
Burrell brought five wrestlers to the state tournament, all of whom were making their debuts at the individual championships. Four of them will come home with medals Saturday, as will Valley junior David Schuffert.
“This is what I've been working for towards my entire wrestling career,” said Burrell senior Shaun Gates, who will wrestle for seventh place at 160 pounds. “From the beginning of the season, I wanted to place.”
With Pennsylvania holding a reputation as one of the best wrestling states in the country — and possibly the top spot — earning a top-eight finish and a spot on the podium is a major motivator.
Burrell senior Corey Christie clinched his medal in the 152-pound quarterfinals Friday morning by beating Northwest Lehigh's Jackson Bernhard by major decision. He fell to Chestnut Ridge's Justin McCoy, the top seed and a returning state champion in the semifinals, then fell to Juniata's Tyler Wileman in the consolation semifinals as a furious third-period rally came up short. He'll wrestle for fifth place Saturday.
The other Burrell medalists didn't have it so easy, but sometimes it seems Burrell relishes accomplishing things the hard way. Gates, Oswalt and freshman A.J. Corrado (132 pounds) needed to earn their wins with victories in the third round of the consolation bracket, also known as the blood round.
Oswalt fell in the quarterfinals to Bayless, a returning state champion, but came back for a 1-0 decision over Brandywine Heights' Nate Smith in the blood round. Then came the wins over Smith and Lutz on Friday night to give him another shot against Bayless.
“After my loss, I came back pretty well,” Oswalt said. “I didn't let that get to me. I feel pretty confident going into the (third-place) match. I'm excited to get a rematch.”
Corrado and Gates both lost first-round matches Thursday but came back Friday.
Corrado secured his medal with a major decision over Northwest Lehigh's Matt Peters in the blood round before falling to Reynolds' Rocco Bartolo in the consolation quarterfinals.
Gates needed three overtime periods to outlast Portage Area's Cole Sossong in the blood round, with an escape in the second tiebreaker period providing the winning point. He lost to Mifflinburg's Tyler Stoltzfus in the consolation bracket but will come back for the seventh-place match Saturday.
“Just battling back just makes it so much more special, too,” Gates said. “It just really lifts my spirits knowing I can do something like that. It's a huge accomplishment for me.
“(The blood round) was very exhausting. After it all went away at the end of the match, I really couldn't think of a better way to do it. That's probably the hardest I've worked in a match all year.”
Schuffert's day ended in some controversy, as the Valley junior heavyweight was called for an illegal slam in his consolation quarterfinal against Southern Columbia's Connor Fulmer and lost by default. He'll wrestle Brookville's Colby Whitehill, whom he beat in the first round Thursday, for seventh place.
Earlier Friday, about an hour after falling to top-seeded Danny Scheib of Tri-Valley in the quarterfinals, Schuffert came back for a hard-fought 3-0 win over Central Cambria's Nate Martin to clinch a medal, even enduring a bite from his opponent late in the third period.
“It was a tough kid, I lost by two, and I don't know, (I'm) just battling back by now,” Schuffert said after the Martin match. “Same thing, keep it rolling.”
The PIAA tournament will conclude with the championship and consolation finals at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
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