BETHLEHEM - After missing out on the District Duals for the first time in many years, Northern Lehigh had time to focus on the District 11 individual championships.
The Bulldogs came ready to wrestle during Friday's opening day session at Bethlehem Freedom High School.
A total of 17 TIMES NEWS area wrestlers advanced to this morning's semifinal round at Freedom, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Northern Lehigh leads the TN area pack with six semifinalists.
The action then shifts across town to Liberty's Memorial Gym, with the third and fifth place consolations scheduled for 5 p.m. and the championship finals at 7:15 p.m.
'Dawgs that have made it into the semifinals include Lucas Dise (119), Zane Heller (125), Nikki Stevens (135), Ty Herzog (145), Connor Hedash (152) and Colin Hedash (171).
Tamaqua has three in the semis with Kolby Mashack (140), Matt Edmonds (171) and Garth Lakitsky (215).
Lehighton has two semifinalists (Mitch Moyer at 152 and Mike Balliet at 160), as does Northwestern (Bobby Clymer at 152 and Levi Veppert at 171) and Palmerton (Sam Oberlander at 125 and Kane Kralik at 215).
Panther Valley's Nick O'Donnell (103) and Jim Thorpe's Brian Ohl (112) also advanced to the semis.
Pen Argyl has a slim 112-109 lead over Bethlehem Catholic in the team standings following Friday night's first round of consolations. The Green Knights and Golden Hawks each have nine semifinalists.
No. Lehigh is currently sitting in third place with 83.5 points, which is not a surprise to 'Dawgs' coach Todd Herzog.
"I think we had that fuel all year long, for the most part," stated Herzog. "Tonight we had some spark and pop in us, and we were pinning a lot of people.
"I think we came into our own as a dual meet team a little too late in the season, but they know this is a stepping stone and that we have bigger game to hunt now.
"We brought 11 guys here and getting six into the semifinals is nice," added the 'Dawgs' mentor. "They are all one win away from Regionals now."
Senior Colin Hedash (25-2), the top seed at 171, had pins over two area rivals, Palmerton's Andrew Strauss and Panther Valley's Alex Lorkowski, to advance into a semifinal match-up with a Colonial rival, Northwestern's Veppert (26-5), who is seeded fifth and edged fourth-seeded Evan Heffron on Tri-Valley 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
On the other side of the 171 bracket is Tamaqua senior Edmonds (26-9), who is seeded seventh and pulled the upset of the night when he hit second seeded Tyler Horn of Pen Argyl with a flying cement job headlock to gain a 50 second mat slap.
"He (Horn) beat me by five points at District Duals, and I gave up takedowns at the edge of the mat," said Edmonds, who will take on third-seeded Ray O'Donnell of Saucon Valley in the semis.
Dise (23-5), the number two seed at 119, pinned Northwestern's Alec Fixl and racked up a 16-1 technical fall over Catasauqua's Casey Simmons in the quarters to advance to a bout against Wilson's Michael Fleck.
Nikko Stevens (22-5) was also seeded second and picked up falls against Saucon Valley's Andre Gausling and North Schuylkill's Quentin Boyer to advance to face third seeded Damien Hopper of Allentown Central Catholic.
At 125, Nolehi's Heller is the lone returning TN area District champion. Seeded third, Heller (23-5) scored first period pins over Lehighton's Jason McEvoy and Tri-Valley's Brandon Tran to move into a semifinal joust with second seeded Kody Rittenbaugh (34-4) of Pine Grove.
Sophomore Ty Herzog is seeded third at 145 and registered falls over Panther Valley's Josh Vega and Josh LaBar of Pius X. Ty will take on second seeded Colonial League foe John Lynch (27-4) of Saucon Valley in the semis.
Sophomore Connor Hedash (17-8) is in the 152 pound bracket with two other TN area contenders, second seeded Mitch Moyer of Lehighton and third seeded Bobby Clymer of Northwestern.
Connor pinned Pen Argyl's Jeffrey Holden and outlasted Jim Thorpe's Jon Fritz 4-2 to earn a semifinal match against Becahi State silver medalist Kyle Dehaut (24-8), the top seed.
Meanwhile, Moyer (24-9) and Clymer (26-4) will square off on the other side of the bracket. Moyer pinned Central Catholic's Brian Gruzdis and then knocked off North Schuylkill's Chawn McGrath by a 6-2 decision. Clymer pinned Joey Palmisano of Pius X and scored an 11-2 major over Saucon Valley's Travis Buddock.
While Edmonds' win came as a surprise, fellow seniors Mashack and Lakitsky rolled into the semis without much resistance.
The top-seeded Lakitsky (33-0) didn't even work up a sweat in his lone match. After a preliminary bye, it took him just 27 seconds to show Dennis Atiyeh of Notre Dame the lights for his 28 pin of the season.
Next on Lakitsky's radar is a 215 pound semifinal bout with fourth seeded Josh Alpha (22-10) of Becahi,
Mashack (33-1), seeded third at 140, needed just 38 seconds to dispatch Jesus Alejandro of Notre Dame before racking up a 19-4 tech fall against North Schuylkill's Auston Hummel.
Mashack's semifinal foe will be second seeded Luciano Burriesci (31-9) of Pen Argyl.
Bomber duo advances
Palmerton junior Oberlander (25-5) used a 16-0 tech fall over Tamaqua's Kyle Boyer and a 12-0 major against North Schuylkill's Jordan Shinkus to advance to the semis against top-seeded Jaydon Rice (30-8) of Becahi.
Blue Bombers' junior Kane Kralik (22-6) entered as the third seed at 215 and decked Robert Rodriguez of Central Catholic and Northwestern's David Tirpak. Kralik will face second seeded Scott Yagielniskie (28-5) as his semifinal foe.
O'Donnell, Ohl alive
Panther Valley senior O'Donnell (33-5) is looking to advance to his second straight District final. Seeded second, O'Donnell shrugged off a battle with Northwestern's Cole Miller in the prelims, winning 8-5, before dropping an 18-3 tech fall on Dante Albanese in the quarters.
O'Donnell will square off with third seeded Bryan Israel (31-3) in the semifinals.
Thorpe sophomore Ohl (24-11) is seeded sixth and opened with a fall over Lehighton's Nick Schaeffer before stunning third seeded Patrick Antonacci of Central Catholic 10-8 in the quarters.
Ohl now faces Jamie Welsh (30-7) of Pen Argyl, a two-time D-11 champ, in the semis.
At 160, Lehighton junior Balliet (26-7), seeded fourth, pinned Thorpe's Christian Gavornik and edged Anthony Clifford of Central Catholic to move into the semis against top seeded Elliot Riddick (33-6) of Becahi.