BETHLEHEM - Tamaqua had the momentum, as well as the hammer.
The result was the Blue Raiders' first-ever victory at the District 11 Class AA Team Wrestling Championships.
The sixth-seeded Raiders grabbed the early lead against third seeded Tri-Valley, then held off the Schuylkill League Division I rival Bulldogs the rest of the way.
Unbeaten Garth Lakitsky delivered the clinching fall at 215 that sealed a 39-36 Raider triumph in the quarterfinals Friday night at Freedom High School.
Tamaqua (10-5) will now face defending AA champ and second seeded Pen Argyl (13-4) a 59-7 winner over seventh seeded Pine Grove, in the District Duals semifinals this afternoon at Freedom at 1 p.m.
Top seeded Bethlehem Catholic (7-1) will take on fourth seeded Saucon Valley in the other AA semifinal.
The District Committee moved the AA starting time up from 11 a.m., while the AAA semis will now start at 3 p.m.
The championship matches will now begin at 7:30 this evening.
The other TIMES NEWS area teams in the District Duals field all suffered setbacks and were eliminated from the tournament.
In Class AA, ninth seeded Pius X turned the tables on eighth seed Lehighton, avenging two earlier losses to the Indians with a 43-25 victory in the preliminary round.
In the AA quarterfinals, Saucon Valley registered a 47-21 win over fifth seeded Palmerton.
Pleasant Valley, seeded sixth in Class AAA, was knocked out of the quarters with a 49-19 defeat at the hands of third-seeded Parkland.
The AAA semifinals pits top-ranked Easton against fourth seeded Northampton, while Parkland squares off with second seeded Nazareth.
After losing a home Schuylkill League match to Pottsville Monday night, Tamaqua was unsure of its District Duals prospects.
The Raiders managed to make the cut for the final 10, then were reseeded by the District against Tri-Valley (18-5), who they are scheduled to face in league competition next Wednesday.
The Raiders made the most of the opportunity, jumping out to a fast 18-0 lead on a forfeit to Colin Mashack 103 and pins from Derek Hill at 112 and Kyle Boyer at 119.
Those wins put the Bulldogs in catch-up mode the rest of the match.
"It was good to jump out to an early lead, because the momentum got started," said Tamaqua Coach Jim McCabe. "Even the kids who lost matches wrestled well for us.
"They bumped some people around on us, but we felt the match-ups benefited us, and our guys stuck with it and were determined to wrestle a full six minutes."
Tri-Valley got pins from Brandon Tran and Blake Bowman and a technical fall from Ty Schoffstall to pull within 18-17, but that was as close as the 'Dawgs would get.
The Raiders came up with three crucial wins from 140-152. Brandan Silkowski (17-4) moved up to 140 and decked Mitch Snyder in 4:46, and the 'Dawgs forfeited to undefeated Kolby Mashack (27-0) at 145.
Senior Philip Christman (16-11) then bumped up to 152 and jumped ahead of Alex Snyder 8-2 before Snyder turned him to his back twice in the third period to tie it at 8-8 and force overtime.
Christman then took down Snyder to his back and received three backs points as well to clinch a 13-8 decision and give the Raiders a 33-17 advantage,
"Getting Silkowski to bump up to 140 was a key, and Christman came up big," noted McCabe. "That meant guys like Travis Veronsky and Matt Edmonds didn't have to win their matches but just stay off their backs and not give up points."
Sam Scheib picked up an 11-3 major over Veronsky, and Edmonds lost a hard-fought 5-3 decision to Evan Heffron. A Lyle Troutman pin at 189 had the 'Dawgs barking within 33-30.
Lakitsky (27-0) took care of that, planting a crossface cradle on Mason White for a 33 second mat slap that put the Raiders in the District semifinals for the first time.
"We're as good a team as anybody when we can get the match-ups we want," said McCabe. "We have seven losses by six points or less this season."
Like Tamaqua-Tri-Valley, the Blue Bombers' District match with Saucon Valley is a preview of a league meet that will take place on Wednesday.
That didn't matter to the Bombers.
"We were looking forward to this tournament and this setting, and we didn't care who we had to wrestle," said Palmerton Coach Dave Lavin, whose Bombers were making their first-ever District Duals appearance.
"When you consider where we came from, I think we showed a lot of heart and gained some respect around the District."
Palmerton (10-6) was deadlocked with Saucon Valley at 15-15 after seven bouts, but the Panthers (18-3) were just too deep and reeled off six straight wins to pull away for the 47-21 verdict.
The Bombers got falls from Cody Grohotolski (14-8) and Kane Kralik (18-5) as well as decisions from Dillon Masington (20-6), Sam Oberlander (20-5) and Joey Bubble (13-9).
In a marquee match-up at 112, the Panthers' Bryan Israel held off Bomber frosh standout Josh Evans (19-4) by a 3-0 count.
"We knew going in that they were a good team with a lot of experience, and they are really strong in a couple of places," said Lavin. "I'm proud of our kids. I thought they fought hard."
Lehighton had already posted a pair of victories over Pius X, winning 33-23 at the Anthracite Duals and 36-21 at its own Indian Duals.
Their District Duals contest was another matter. The Royals (15-8) were able to drop their line-up down a weight class, and the match-ups went in their favor.
In fact, in spite of being shorthanded and having to forfeit to the Indians from 160-171, Pius had built up a 37-4 bulge by that point to make surrendering those bouts inconsequential.
Lehighton (11-10) had a difficult time scoring points, as they were blanked in four of their losses.
Josh Labar clinched the victory for the Royals with a tight 3-0 decision over Anthony Farole (24-4) at 145.
"They dropped their line-up this time, and that was the difference, but we just weren't ready to wrestle, and it showed," said Lehighton Coach Danny Williams. "We didn't wrestle to our potential, and that didn't help."
Jacob Hoats (22-5) earned a 9-0 major decision at 103 for the Indians, while Zach Coleman (19-10) was an 8-4 winner at 152.
Great start, not so great finish.
That sums up Pleasant Valley's quarterfinal joust with Parkland.
The Bears (11-5) jumped out to a 19-0 lead, only to watch the Trojans (15-5) sweep the final 10 bouts to roll to a 49-19 triumph.
Mike Dahlstrom (31-2) and Alex Yanovich (27-6) registered pins for Pleasant Valley, while Ernie Klingel (26-5) recorded a 15-4 major decision and David Gehr (20-12) had a 6-3 win.
After that, it was all Parkland.
"It was a good start, and I was pretty happy with it," said Pleasant Valley Coach Mark Getz. "We had to win the toss and get a lead, which we did, but we knew they were pretty strong in the upper weights. While we had the lead, it wasn't big enough.
"I thought Alex Yanovich wrestled the best for us. Michael Marano is no slouch. That's a really big win for him."