HERSHEY – The region will have a finalist at 113 pounds in the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships – and could have a half dozen others, as eight local wrestlers advanced Friday morning to the state semifinals.
Forest Hills freshman Jackson Arrington staged a furious rally to beat the top-ranked wrestler in the state and Chestnut Ridge's Nate Holderbaum scored a third-period reversal to pull out another win in his surprising run. Now, the two local wrestlers will meet each other in the semifinals, which begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Arrington has beaten Holderbaum twice this season – by major decision and by technical fall – but this is a different wrestler than he has been facing. After stunning Southeast Region champion Adam Jacob of East Pennsboro on Thursday, Holderbaum – the fifth-place finisher in the Southwest Region – kept it going on Friday by beating Bald Eagle Area's Cooper Gilham. After giving up a takedown and three nearfall points, Holderbaum came away with a cradle for a reversal and three back points of his own. The Chestnut Ridge junior won it with a third-period reversal.
Arrington's victory was even more dramatic. He trailed top-ranked Gable Strickland of Benton 5-1 entering the third period, but scored two takedowns, a reversal and an escape to send the bout to overtime. With the momentum clearly on his side, Arrington scored a takedown to win it.
The quarterfinal victory by Erik Gibson, Arrington's 138-pound teammate, wasn't nearly as dramatic. The freshman dominated Wilson Area's Marckis Branford in a 13-0 victory and will face Kenny Kiser of Sagertown – who beat him twice earlier this season – in the semifinals.
Jared McGill of Chestnut Ridge continued his dominant run at 170 pounds with a technical fall over Notre Dame Green Pond's Isaiah DeJesus. McGill will face Valley's Noah Hutcherson, whom he pinned at the regional tournament, in the semifinals.
Penn Cambria's Derek Brown is in the semifinals on the opposite side of the 170-pound bracket, meaning there is the potential for a McGill-Brown final. First, Brown would have to avenge a regional loss to McGuffey's Christian Clutter. The two split a pair of matches last season.
Brown pulled away from Littlestown's Carl Harris for a 10-3 victory in the quarterfinals.
Chestnut Ridge's Kai Burkett also made the semifinals with a 4-2 victory over Matt Vulakh of Pope John Paul II, who upset returning state champion Gary Steen of Reynolds on Thursday. Burkett will face undefeated freshman Levi Haines of Biglerville in the semifinals.
Bedford's Kaden Cassidy picked up three sets of nearfall points in his 12-3 victory over Northwestern's John Wheeler at 132 pounds. Cassidy will face top-ranked Joshua Jones of Saucon Valley – who, like Cassidy, is a George Mason recruit – in the semifinals.
Berlin Brothersvalley's Tristan Pugh built a 6-0 lead, then saw it nearly vanish as Saucon Valley's Nicholas Rosengrant came up with a five-point move, but Pugh escaped and held on for a 7-5 victory.
Pugh will face unbeaten Gabe Miller of Peaqua Valley in the semifinal round.
Westmont Hilltop's Hudson Holbay (152 pounds) and Meyersdale's Jalen Stephens (285) each dropped quarterfinal matches. They'll wrestle again Friday in the “blood round,” where a victory guarantees a state medal.
Penn Cambria's Chase Proudfit (126), Portage's Cole Sossong (160) and North Star's Alec Supanick (152) and Hunter Tremain (195) will also look to earn a medal in the Friday afternoon round.