WEST LAWN – Zane Heller once again displayed his Houdini-like talents.
The Northern Lehigh junior 125-pounder, who trailed 7-1 into the second period in last week's District 11 Class AA final before pulling out a 9-8 win over Jaydon Rice of Bethlehem Catholic, once again found himself working from behind.
Heller produced another magic victory out of his bag of tricks when he rallied from a 5-2 deficit to pin Tanner Coyle of Bermudian Springs in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Southeast AA Regional (featuring Districts 1, 3 and 11) at Wilson West Lawn High School Friday night.
Of the 12 TIMES NEWS area wrestlers in the AA field, six of them advanced to the semifinal round this morning at 9:30 a.m., leaving them one win away from a berth in next week's PIAA State Tournament at Hershey's Giant Center.
Northern Lehigh has three semifinalists with Heller (125), Nikko Stevens (135) and Colin Hedash (171). Also advancing to the semis were Lehighton's Anthony Farole (140), Northwestern's Bobby Clymer (152) and Tamaqua's Garth Lakitsky (215).
The TN area contingent was a perfect 8-for-8 in the preliminary round (District 11 champs Heller, Clymer, Hedash and Lakitsky received byes) and batted .500 (6-for-12) in the quarterfinals.
Heller (26-5) trailed Coyle before his work for a half-nelson finally paid off with the fall at the 3:37 mark.
"I had the half-nelson on him, but he wasn't turning over," said Heller. "He tried to rock, and that made it easier for my half to go. Once he rolled, I put him on his back."
Heller, a two-time D-11 champion, placed sixth at Regionals last year, one spot away from a State berth. He faces Saucon Valley's Paul Sload (26-12) as his semifinal opponent.
"Last year was definitely going through my head, and that's one reason I came out slow in my match," Heller mentioned. "I'm hoping to keep my head on right and come out and get a win to get to the finals, and out to States."
Lehighton junior Farole (33-6) also placed sixth at Regionals a year ago. Farole defeated Jesse Gardner of Biglerville 5-2 in his prelim bout, but like Heller, he fell behind in the quarters, losing 4-3 to Milton Hershey's Sharon Townsend late in the third period.
That is when Farole pulled a lateral drop out of his back pocket, stunning Townsend with a mat slap at 5:48 and advancing into a semifinal match with Pen Argyl's Luciano Burriesci (34-10).
"Time was running out, so I went for the lateral drop and it was there," said a relieved Farole. "It is not something that you can get that often, so you have to hit it when you can. That was big for me."
While Heller and Farole showed their ability to wiggle out of tight spots, there is no escaping Tamaqua's Lakitsky, once he gets a grappler in his clutches.
The Blue Raider senior needed just 26 seconds to pack away Schuylkill Valley's Mitch Moll with one of his powerful cradles, earning his 31st fall of the season to break his tie with Andy Breiner for the Tamaqua single season record.
Lakitsky remained unbeaten at 36-0 heading into a semifinal joust with Bermudian Springs' Matt Wolf (39-1), who he pinned at last year's Regionals.
Don't expect Lakitsky to become complacent, however. "You can't overlook anyone here," he stated.
No. Lehigh's Colin Hedash (28-2) is maintaining a more controlled demeanor these days, but that hasn't made him any less dominant, as he showed with a workmanlike 5-1 decision over Pequea Valley's Mitchell Ball in the quarterfinals.
"I've trained hard enough to just let it happen when I get out on the mat," said Hedash. "I try to keep my mind busy so that the only time I think about who I am wrestling is when I go out there."
Hedash will take on Julio Arredondo (34-8) of Wyomissing in the semifinals.
Northwestern's Clymer (29-4) gutted out a 5-3 victory over Fairfield's Kyle Flohr in his quarterfinal bout and moved into the semis to face Annville-Cleona's Dylan Killian (36-3).
As the number four seed out of District 11, No. Lehigh senior Stevens (25-7) needed a pair of wins to move into the semis. He got them, knocking of Tyler Rogers of Pottstown Pope John Paul II by a 9-5 count, followed by rolling to a 9-3 verdict over Eric Kemble of Newport.
Stevens will have a Colonial League foe in the semis when he squares off with Pen's Argyl's Mikey Racciato (42-2).
Four alive in consolations
Four wrestlers remain in contention in the consolation bracket.
No. Lehigh senior 119 pounder Lucas Dise (27-7) defeated Bryan Varra of Milton Hershey 6-0 before getting pinned by Schuylkill Valley's Nate Giorgio (38-3). Dise bounced back with a 17-2 technicall fall over Anthony Mignola of Church Farm School in the consolations.
Bulldogs' sophomore 145-pounder Ty Herzog (28-6) rolled to a 14-5 major decision of Boiling Springs' T.J. Nickel before running into former State champ Nick Hodgkins of Wyomissing and losing by a 17-2 tech fall. Herzog's resilience showed with a fall over Church Farm School's Dontae Johnson in 3:56 in the wrestlebacks.
Palmerton freshman Josh Evans (29-5) opened strong at 112 by blanking Derrick Garber of Halifax 12-0 before suffering a quarterfinal fall against Bermudian Springs' Brad Farley (37-1). Evans rebounded with a 4-1 win over Delco Christian's Isaac Moore to stay alive.
Northwestern sophomore 130 pounder Michael Ortiz (24-7) also went 2-1 on the evening, scoring a 6-1 decision vs. Roland Miller of Boiling Springs, sustaining a fall against Biglerville's Laike Gardiner (38-4), and staying in the running by blanking Bristol's Dylan Clark 7-0.
Two wrestlers had their seasons ended in the wrestlebacks.
Lehighton junior 152-pounder Mitch Moyer (26-13) started off with a 7-0 win over Springfield-Montco's Michael Honeywell before dropping his next two to Killian (a 17-0 tech fall) and Becahi PIAA silver medalist Kyle Dehaut by a 5-3 count.
Palmerton junior 215-pounder Kane Kralik (24-10) opened with a pin over Faith Christian's Chris Makowski in 5:01 before dropping a pair of tough decisions, 5-1 to Bermudian's Wolf and 6-3 to Zach Howell of Susquenita.
Consolations for third and fifth place will be held at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon, with the championship finals set for 5 p.m.
Southeast Class AA Regional
At Wilson West Lawn High School
103 – Joseph Byers (Boiling Springs) vs. Bryan Israel (Saucon Valley); Ted Marines (Bermudian Springs vs. Darian Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic)
112 – Brad Farley (Bermudian Springs) vs. Jamie Welsh (Pen Argyl); Anthony Dee (Salisbury) vs. Zeke Moisey (Bethlehem Catholic).
119 – Nate Giorgio (Schuylkill Valley) vs. Michael Fleck (Wilson Area); Robert Ritschard (Oley Valley) vs. Randy Cruz (Bethlehem Cathlolic).
125 – Mark Lentz (Boiling Springs) vs. Jaydon Rice (Bethlehem Catholic); Paul Sloand (Saucon Valley) vs. Zane Heller (Northern Lehigh)
130 – Laike Gardiner (Biglerville) vs. Drew Jackson (Pequea Valley); Arty Walsh (Schuylkill Valley) vs. Joshua Ruppert (Delone Catholic)
135 – Peter Renda (Brandywine Heights) vs. Darien Hopper (Allentown Central Catholic); Nikko Stevens (No. Lehigh) vs. Mikey Racciato (Pen Argyl)
140 – Anthony Farole (Lehighton) vs. Luciano Burriesci (Pen Argyl); Nathan Fegley (Mahanoy Area) vs. Ryan Todora (Bethlehem Catholic)
145 – Nick Hodgkins (Wyomissing) vs. Sam Scheib (Tri-Valley); Guikiano Caloiero (Schuylkill Valley) vs. John Lynch (Saucon Valley)
152 – Tristan Sponseller (Bermudian Springs) vs. Conor Myers (Pope John Paul II); Dylan Killian (Annville-Cleona) vs. Bobby Clymer (Northwestern)
160 – Raymond Ball (Pequea Valley) vs. Jonathan Blank (Notre Dame-Green Pond); Tyler Fitzkee (Bermudian Springs) vs. Elliot Riddick (Bethlehem Catholic)
171 – Adam Geiger (Trinity) vs. Ray O'Donnell (Saucon Valley); Julio Arredondo (Wyomissing) vs. Colin Hedash (Northern Lehigh)
189 – Dylan Scheidt (Schuylkill Valley) vs. Dylan Evans (Pen Argyl); Derek Wolford (Hanover) vs. Ian Gimbar (Saucon Valley)
215 – Tyler Rank (Wyomissing) vs. Scott Yagielniskie (North Schuylkill); Matt Wolf (Bermudian Springs) vs. Garth Lakitsky (Tamaqua)
285 – Tylor Unger (Boiling Springs) vs. Kirby Mutton (Pen Argyl); Marcus Fischer (Columbia) vs. Ben Ancheff (Williams Valley)