HERSHEY – Zane Heller's plan for his first State wrestling bout was to attack.
While that tactic didn't result in many points, Heller can't argue with the outcome.
The Northern Lehigh junior 125 pounder picked up the winning point when his opponent, freshman Shane Gentry of South Side Beaver, was penalized for stalling with 38 seconds left.
That gave Zeller a 2-1 decision during this morning's Class AA preliminary round of the PIAA State Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Heller joined Northwestern Lehigh senior 152 pounder Bobby Clymer, Northern Lehigh senior 171 pounder Colin Hedash and Tamaqua senior 215-pounder Garth Lakitsky as preliminary round winners from the TIMES NEWS area.
Meanwhile, Lehighton's Anthony Farole (140) and No. Lehigh's Ty Herzog both lost their opening round matches.
Heller (29-5), a two-time District 11 and reigning Southeast Regional champion, took an aggressive approach for his opening bout against Gentry (38-10).
"I was more excited than anything," said Heller. "I tried not to look at records or brackets too much. I knew he (Gentry) was a freshman, so I tried to be aggressive.
After a scoreless first period, Gentry started the second period on the bottom and rolled away from Heller's attempt for a half-nelson for an escape and a 1-0 lead.
Gentry didn't do much offensively, however, while Zeller kept on the heat, drawing Gentry's first stalling warning before the second period was done.
Trailing 1-0, Heller opened the third period on defense and escaped with 1:48 to go to tie the score. Heller kept working for a takedown and Gentry was whistled for his second stall with 38 seconds left that was the decisive penalty point.
"I knew if I kept moving on my feet and getting in on my shots, the referee would reward me for it," said Heller.
Next up for Heller is Claysburgh-Kimmel junior Ty Dively (42-3), the third place finisher out of the Southwest Region, in Friday morning's quarterfinal round.
"I definitely got to work on finishing my shots, but I have all day to think about it and come out tomorrow," remarked Heller.
Clymer (32-5), a District 11 and Southeast Regional champ, was also making his first State appearance and controlled his bout with Lewisburg senior Curtis Schneider (27-13), posting a 6-0 shutout.
Clymer will now wrestle against David Osterberg (38-3), a senior from District 10 Northwestern, in the quarterfinal round.
Hedash (31-2), a two-time State medalist who placed fifth last year, let that experience show as he dominated Jefferson-Morgan sophomore Dustin son-Morgan sophomore Dustin Conti (37-16) with a 7-1 decision.
Hedash scored a takedown and two back points in the first period to jump ahead 4-0. He escaped and took down Conti once more in the second period, with Conti escaping to make it 7-1. Hedash rode out Conti during the third period.
"It's nice to get that first win out of the way," said Hedash, who lost in the first round last year. "I feel good. Things are falling into place for me."
Hedash will battle Fort Cherry senior Sam Guidi (32-5) in the quarterfinals.
Lakitsky continued his pinning ways. He remained undefeated at 39-0, tying the Tamaqua school record for wins in a season and picking up his 32nd fall of this season when he flattened Ligonier Valley senior Clayton Nanassy with a headlock in a swift 46 seconds.
Once Lakitsky got Nanassy (28-8) under wraps, the Blue Raider stalwart was able to stick him to the mat.
Lakitsky, who placed fourth at 189 a year ago, will face Fort LeBouef senior Brandon Bradney (32-6) as his quarterfinal opponent.
Lehighton's Farole (35-8) faced South Side Beaver senior David Demor and dropped a high-scoring affair, 14-8.
Farole, a junior in his first-ever State match, was able to get in on the legs of Demor (40-7) four times, resulting in takedowns each time.
The difference in the bout was Demor's ability to work a tightwaist tilt for nearfall points, which he did twice, for a total of six points.
Demor also scored two takedowns, one on which he countered a Farole single leg attempt, and two escapes.
Farole was scheduled to face senior Justin Miller (37-8) of Penn Cambria in the first round of consolations this afternoon.
No. Lehigh's Herzog (30-8), a sophomore and another first-time State wrestler, was blanked 12-0 by Muncy sophomore Troy Hembury (41-4) in his prelim bout.
Hembury took a 5-0 lead in the first period when he registered a double leg takedown, then used a half-nelson to tilt Herzog to his back for three nearfall points.
In the second period, Hembury scored a backdoor reversal and once again went to the half-nelson for three backpoints to gain a 10-0 cushion, Hembury added a third period takedown as well.
Herzog was scheduled to take on Keystone junior Tanner Hannold (19-7) in the first round of wrestlebacks.