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HERSHEY — There was no panic, no wholesale changes, no rethinking of strategy after Blake Barrick suffered a loss a week ago in the sectional finals.

The Big Spring senior simply affirmed that wrestling to his style, for a full six minutes, would be enough to ascend one spot on the medal podium during the District 3 Individual Wrestling Championships.

That steady course proved to be the right one Saturday at Hershey’s Giant Center, where Barrick picked up his second straight district title by claiming a tough 3-2 win over Cedar Cliff’s Donovon Ball in the 182-pound bracket in Class 3A.

Ball, a strong wrestler from neutral, had gotten the best of Barrick at sectionals with a late takedown; this time, Barrick closed off the on-the-feet opportunities.

“I just had to keep him tied up,” Barrick said. “Last week, I had him tied up for five-and-a-half minutes. Then he scored in the last 20 or 30 seconds. I just knew that I had to keep him tied up and he wouldn’t be able to score on me.”

The key for the Bulldog was scoring the opening takedown, something he had been unable to do in the duo’s first meeting.

He was able to circle and drive in the opening minute of the bout, setting up a lead that allowed him to dictate pace. Of the next two periods, only six seconds would see one wrestler with control. The physical pair slugged it out in close quarters over that time, neither coming close to a takedown.

“He’s a tough guy,” Barrick said. “They’re grinders. I’m physical, he’s physical, and we were throwing some clubs out there and we were getting into each other’s faces. It’s fun, it’s rough, and it’s wrestling.”

Both wrestlers will move on to the state tournament, where they will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket. Barrick will be making his second trip to states and is hunting his first medal.

“It’s the goal right now,” Barrick said. “Nothing else matters. The top of the podium at states is where I want to be. That’s what I’m working for these next two weeks. I’m ready to go.”


Wilson defends title

JJ Wilson has heaps of postseason experience and an excellent big-match track record.

That doesn’t mean the Cedar Cliff junior was taking anything for granted while hunting his second straight district title.

“Everybody was like, ‘What are you going to do when you win?’” Wilson said. “I was like, ‘You gotta wrestle first, guys.’ Everybody’s tough now, everybody’s a good kid to wrestle.”

It turned out Wilson and his friends were both right.

The Colt veteran did indeed snare that second district gold with a win at 120, and to get it he had to beat Carlisle sophomore Rafael Portilla, a returning state qualifier riding a hot streak over the tourney’s first two days.

Wilson was up 1-0 midway through the match, but things turned quickly once he took down Portilla early in the third period. Wilson packed him up and finished the pin in 4:17, using his top skills to neutralize Portilla’s skilled hand-fighting.

“I try to get to my hand fighting, stay on my attack,” Wilson said. “Try to get a couple of stall calls in, move forward the whole time.”

Perfect run for Monn

Cumberland Valley’s Ben Monn immediately became a wrestler to watch when he dropped in the 106-pound weight class for the postseason. His three days in Hershey certainly had their share of must-see moments.

The CV sophomore wrapped up his first district title Saturday with no-doubt 9-0 victory over Cedar Cliff freshman Aiden Lewis, the fourth time in four district matches that Monn shut out his opponent. He left Giant Center having outscored the opposition 38-0.

“I feel very good about it,” Monn said. “It helped boost my confidence and beat every single one of my opponents.”

Monn didn’t enter the tournament as a section champ, having fallen to East Pennsboro’s Adam Jacob in the second tiebreaker period in the sectional final.

He looked the part of the favorite on Saturday, though, racking up takedowns in each of the three periods to cruise to the win against Lewis.

“It helped me realize that I do indeed need to work a lot harder,” Monn said about the sectional loss. “It helped me be back in my place to train hard and succeed.”

Golden trio

A year ago, the trio of Big Spring’s Blake Barrick, Northern’s Jake Koser and Shippensburg’s Cole Forrester left Hershey with a total of one gold medal — which was all that was possible, because they were all in the 195-pound weight class.

The band broke up for this postseason, and the result was gold medals all round for the frequent practice mates.

In addition to Barrick’s win at 182, Koser claimed his first district title with a win at 195 and Forrester did likewise at 220.

Koser was jubilant after his win by fall against Cocalico’s Ben Fromm, the wrestler who had dealt him a loss in the district semifinals a year ago. This time Koser registered the first takedown and rolled from there, pinning Fromm in the second when a cradle attempt went awry for the Eagle senior.

“Have fun, wrestle hard, not think about it and let my nerves get into it,” Koser said. “That was basically the game plan. My coaches kept telling me to have fun, and I did.”

Koser’s win was part of a big day for Northern, which finished tied for third in the team standings with Cedar Cliff.

The Polar Bears also got championships from senior Paul Feite (138), who threw a jolt into the crowd by hitting a headlock on Lower Dauphin’s TT Elhajj for a first-period pin, and senior Micah Hoffman (145), who claimed a 3-1 win over Chambersburg’s Tate Nichter to join his father, Randy (Cumberland Valley), and grandfather, Earl (Mechanicsburg), on the list of district champions.

Return to Hershey

In addition to the seven district champs, nine local wrestlers will be back at Giant Center in two weeks for the state championships: Carlisle’s Portilla and Colton Jumper (third, 138), East Penn’s Jacob (third, 106), Northern’s Liam Strouse (fourth, 106), Mechanicsburg’s Nick Tewell (third, 126), Red Land’s Bryce Brennan (fourth, 126), and Cedar Cliff’s Michael Cassidy (second, 132), Ball and Lewis.


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