HERSHEY — Nobody needed to explain to Blake Barrick what the competition was going to be like at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships. The Big Spring junior has been experiencing it every day for the past month.
Barrick rolled to a quarterfinal spot in the Class 3A 195-pound bracket with a first-round win Thursday at Giant Center, and he’ll have some familiar company as he hunts for a medal Friday: Northern’s Jake Koser also earned a quarterfinal berth at 195, and Shippensburg’s Cole Forrester remains alive in the second round of wrestlebacks.
That’s par for the course this postseason, where that trio has squared off at sectionals (where Koser won), districts (where Barrick won), and more recently, in the practice room.
“We’ve been wrestling in competition, but we’ve been practicing together this whole postseason,” Barrick said. “We’re all friends, we’re all just looking to make it through together and get these District 3 guys on the medal stand. That’s the goal.”
The Bulldog secured his spot with an 10-2 victory over Connellsville’s Nate Ansell. He notched the first takedown to stake a 2-0 first-period lead, and he dominated the next two periods — including a pair of third-period takedowns — to cruise to the win.
Barrick’s fairly uneventful path to the quarters was a little different from that of Koser, who engaged in a back-and-forth first-round affair with Upper St. Clair’s Eli Grape.
The third-period seesawed between the two, with Koser ultimately getting the upper hand when he notched a takedown out of a scramble with 25 seconds remaining.
The late takedown gave Koser a 7-6 victory. His and Barrick’s wins occurred just minutes apart, and showed exactly the level of wrestling present whenever the trio of locals gets together in the wrestling room.
“It’s a battle every day,” Barrick said. “That’s really helped me get ready for this point in particular. All these guys at states are tough, and so are (Koser and Forrester).”
The pair of 195-pounders were among seven local wrestlers to advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals, with Cedar Cliff’s J.J. Wilson (113) and Francis Duggan (220), Cumberland Valley’s Wyatt Long (132) and Will Kaldes (152), and Shippensburg’s Cameron Tinner (285) also advancing to the round of eight.
There was drama to a couple of those wrestlers’ first-round matches. Wilson needed a takedown with five seconds left in regulation to break a 4-4 tie against Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith, good enough to give the sophomore a 6-4 victory and his first trip to the quarters.
Long also took it to the wire, and a little beyond.
The CV senior was in trouble late against North Allegheny’s Luke Landefeld, but he pushed the issue and secured a stalling point with five seconds left to forge a 5-5 tie and force overtime.
In the sudden victory period, Long secured a quick takedown to claim a 7-5 victory, one year after he had fallen in the same circumstances in the first round.
Kaldes, Duggan and Tinner won by bonus-point margins, including a 19-7 victory by Kaldes against Scranton’s Jacob Burgette that was the CV’s senior career win number 150.
Seventeen of the 19 local qualifiers remain alive for Friday’s competition, which will include quarterfinals and second- and third-round consolations. Wrestling in the second-round consies will be CV’s Patrick DeMark (106) and Quentin Milliken (160), Carlisle’s Rafael Portilla (113), Ship’s Chandler Olson (126) and Forrester (195), Northern’s Micah Hoffman (138), Big Spring’s Tucker Brough (145) and Britain Shields (170), Mechanicsburg’s Brayden Wills (152) and Cedar Cliff’s Emorson Wentz (182).