HERSHEY — There was no guarantee that Donovon Ball and Blake Barrick were going to meet in the 182-pound final at the District 3 Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships.
There also wasn’t much that was going to deny the powerful duo.
Ball, the Cedar Cliff junior, and Barrick, the Big Spring senior, ensured there would be a second postseason meeting between the two after they claimed semifinal victories Friday night at Giant Center.
Ball’s victory, a 19-5 rout of Manheim Twp.’s Carter Hasson, was the more lopsided of the two; Barrick grinded out a 1-0 win over Lower Dauphin’s Brendan Shaffer.
The methods may have been different, but the two are right back where they were a week earlier when Ball claimed a win with a takedown in the final seconds at the Section III championships. Both are also bound for the state tournament, Barrick for the second time after winning the 195-pound title at districts last season.
“My freshman and sophomore year, [states] eluded me a little bit,” Barrick said. “Last year, getting there was great. But I’m not done yet. I’ve got another match [Saturday] morning against Ball, a tough competitor and a great wrestler. That will be another fun one and I’m ready.”
The only point in Barrick’s match was a second-period escape earned by the Bulldog senior. He had to ride out Shaffer in the third in order to maintain his advantage and secure the win, and he was able to do so with only a few nervous moments.
One mat over, Ball was rolling to his win over Hasson. He registered the first takedown within the first 20 seconds, and never let up from there; Ball piled up seven takedowns over the bout, showcasing the athleticism that has him posing problems to other 182-pounders.
“I always like to work on my feet,” Ball said. “That’s where I feel comfortable. I am going to try to score as many points as I can and open them up while I’m on my feet.”
Ball had fallen one win short of a state tournament berth last season, getting knocked out in the consolation semifinals by another Big Spring wrestler, Britain Shields. He got his first state berth Friday, but he kept his sights squarely on his second go-round against Barrick.
“It feels good, but coming in my goal wasn’t qualifying for states, it was focusing on winning this tournament,” Ball said. “I’m not looking forward to that next tournament yet. I’m definitely going to try to win tomorrow before I start thinking about states.”
Feite charges to final
Not much needs to be said to Paul Feite to convince the Northern senior to push the pace. Slowing him down, on the other hand, is a bit more of a challenge.
That was especially the case during Friday’s 138-pound semifinals, when Feite took the mat against Wilson’s Brandon Conner with a state tournament berth and a spot in the district finals on the line.
The hard-charging Feite was ready to roll from the opening whistle against Conner, and it paid off with a takedown midway through the first period. It pushed the senior to a 4-0 victory that put Feite in states for the second time and earned him a finals matchup with Lower Dauphin’s TJ Elhajj.
“After I got a takedown, I knew it was going to change the match,” Feite said. “It’s 0-0, and then you start thinking about this. My coaches like to strategize more than I do. When I’m out there, I’m wrestling.”
HERSHEY — There’s something about Boiling Springs’ Collin Nester.
Feite had been denied a state spot last year when he suffered an overtime loss in the consolation semifinals. While it may have been a motivating factor in his return to Giant Center, it was no longer a consideration once the district tournament started.
“I think I was over it this week probably at some point,” Feite said. “If you dwell on that, then it’s going to haunt you when you’re back in here. You just have to forget about the past and look to the future. My teammates have really helped me with that.”
Those teammates enjoyed nice nights of their own, with Micah Hoffman immediately following Feite with a well-wrestled performance to claim a 9-2 victory over Hempfield’s Christian Carr and a spot in the 145-pound final. Jake Koser then cruised to a 12-2 win over Exeter Twp.’s Michael Crane to claim a berth in the 195 final. Sophomore Liam Strouse later made it four Polar Bears in states with a win in the consolation semifinals at 106 pounds.
Survivors of the blood round
Five area wrestlers earned state berths via wins in the consolation semifinal round.
Northern’s Strouse and East Pennsboro’s Adam Jacob each rebounded from losses in the 106-pound semifinals, meaning all four qualifiers from last week’s Section III championships will advance to states. Mechanicsburg’s Nick Tewell (126), Red Land’s Bryce Brennan (126) and Carlisle’s Colton Jumper (138) also secured a return to the Giant Center in two weeks. All five wrestlers will vie for third in Saturday’s place matches.