BETHLEHEM - Kenny Yanovich's heart was pounding and Mike Dahlstrom's was probably pushing the same amount of adrenaline too Saturday evening in Bethlehem. The two Pleasant Valley wrestlers left their respective mats from the Northeast Regional 3A tournament heavy-winded, but also with giant smiles on their faces and hugs from their coaches.
Yanovich (103) and Dahlstrom (130) both won their consolation round bouts to each take third place at Freedom High School to secure the final spot up for grabs en route to qualifying for this week's PIAA state wrestling championships in Hershey.
Yanovich, a freshman, scored a 4-3 decision over Easton's Kyle Baker to secure his first trip to Hershey in his initial attempt, while Dahlstrom held off Williamsport's Leroy Harman 5-4 to make his first trip during his junior year.
It's the fifth consecutive season that head coach Mark Getz has qualified wrestlers to states and that feeling of euphoria never gets old.
"I'm really happy with the outcome of this weekend," said Getz. "It doesn't matter which kids make it out to Hershey, we take a lot of pride in sending kids to states. It's our fifth year in a row and it takes a lot of work to get out there. It really speaks of how hard our kids work throughout the year to make this happen."
Yanovich and Dahlstrom each worked equally hard in their third place bouts to escape with victories.
Yanovich needed a reversal over Baker with 20 seconds left in the third period to finally hold onto the victory. Baker had scored the go-ahead takedown at the 30 second mark to jump in front 3-2, but that's when Yanovich went full throttle.
"This is probably the best feeling that I've ever had after a wrestling match," Yanovich said. "Once he [Baker] got the takedown I knew I had to go. I think he got a little high and I was just able to sneak behind him. It's just a great feeling to do this because this has been my goal all season long."
Dahlstrom and Harman traded three reversals in the second period, as he trailed 4-3 entering the final period, but Dahlstrom was able to score the most pivotal reversal in the third period with 30 seconds left to take the 5-4 victory.
"With Kenny winning at  it just motivated me so much more going out there," Dahlstrom said. "I noticed that he [Harman]' struggled getting legs in on me. I knew that I had two minutes to get it [the reversal] and once I got out, I just held onto him for dear life."
Yanovich and Dahlstrom will each take on regional champions in their opening round Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center. Yanovich (35-9) will square off against Governor Mifflin's Colin Ochs (36-2), who won the South Central title.
Dahlstrom (41-5) faces Southwest freshman Solomon Chishko (42-4) of Canon-McMillan.
Even though this is their first experience in Hershey, both wrestlers are looking forward to coming away with medals around their necks.
"I want a medal," said Dahlstrom of his Hershey hopes. "I should be able to get one win out there, but the hardest part is getting the second win."