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HERSHEY — A lot of names pop out from the 120-pound bracket at the PIAA Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships.

Like a lot of people observing the proceedings at Hershey’s Giant Center, Carlisle sophomore Rafael Portilla sees those names and knows them well. He just isn’t going to let himself get awed by the parade of hammers at the weight.

Portilla threw himself right into the thick of things Thursday evening, looking sharp in a 10-1 victory over Northwest Region runner-up Matt Leehan of General McLane. The victory advanced the District 3 runner-up to Friday morning’s quarterfinals, where he’ll face Canon-McMillan’s Logan Macri, the state’s top-ranked wrestler at the weight.

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“I see them,” Portilla said. “I look at them, I don’t really care. I just want to go out and have fun, mostly. Win, lose, I’m just having fun.”

Thursday’s state opener was a departure from Portilla’s path thus far in the postseason, in which he had wrestled a long string of tight, low-scoring matches. This time the two-time state qualifier let things fly a little more, breaking open the match with a five-point move in the second period.

Portilla would register takedowns in all three periods, making things a little more comfortable in the late going than most of his bouts over the preceding month.

“I’ve just been working on certain things that I wasn’t really doing well in neutral and certain positions,” Portilla said. “I’ve just been working on keeping good position and having a good mentality, being able to prepare myself.”

Portilla is joined in the 120 quarters by the District 3 champion, Cedar Cliff’s JJ Wilson. The junior was also sharp in his first-round bout, taking control of a tight bout with Parkland’s Brandon Kassis in the second period.

Wilson chose down to open the second with the bout scoreless, and the decision proved wise. He pulled a reversal and then added two sets of back points in the period, rolling up an 8-0 advantage that allowed him to cruise to a 10-3 win.

Wilson was one of three Cedar Cliff wrestlers to advance to the quarters, with juniors Michael Cassidy (132) and Donovon Ball (182) also moving on. Cassidy was in command in a 6-1 win over Cathedral Prep’s Andrew Stark, while Ball had to go to the ultimate tiebreaker to shake Hollidaysburg’s Mason McCready with a 5-4 win.

“We talked about having a good pace for our matches, and the guys all had good pace,” Cedar Cliff coach Rob Rapsey said. “They were trying to score points all the time and they stayed aggressive. We liked how they wrestled. The results are going to be what they’re going to be, and if we do the right things I think we’ll come out all right.”

Other locals advancing to the quarters were Cumberland Valley’s Ben Monn (106), Northern’s Paul Feite (138) and Micah Hoffman (145), and Shippensburg’s Cole Forrester (220).

Big Spring senior Blake Barrick, a two-time District 3 champ, suffered a 5-3 loss to Jefferson-Morgan’s Max Shaw in the first round. He was knocked into the consy bracket, where Cedar Cliff’s Aiden Lewis (106), East Penn’s Adam Jacob (106), Red Land’s Bryce Brennan (126), and Mechanicsburg’s Nick Tewell (126) are all still alive.

Controversy finds Koser

The most controversial moment of the evening came during the first-round bout at 195 pounds between Northern’s Jake Koser and Cathedral Prep’s Dorian Crosby.

Koser, a fourth-place medalist a year ago and a title contender again this season, was ahead 2-1 in the first period of the bout when Crosby reacted loudly while being controlled by Koser. Crosby took injury time; the referee ruled the injury was caused by an illegal hammerlock, and when Crosby did not continue Koser was disqualified.

“I had his arm on his back like I always do,” Koser said. “I had my knee on his elbow. I didn’t put it past 90 (degrees). He was screaming. If they thought it was a problem, I think they should have stopped it, but they hit me with the illegal move.”

The District 3 champion Koser, a senior, can now finish no higher than third. The loss dropped him into the second consolation round.

 

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