If you need any further proof that Palmerton's wrestling team is making strides, their performance at the Tony Iasiello Christmas City Tournament last Thursday and Friday is evidence that the program is moving in the right direction.
Bethlehem Catholic, which crowned seven champions in the event, ran away with the team title with a total of 308 points, but Kane Kralik's 2-1 overtime rideout decision over Wallenpaupack's Victor Steffen in the 220-pound finals helped clinch second place for Palmerton.
The Bombers walked away with 125.5 points to hold off Wallenpaupack (114.5) in the battle for second place and Kralik's victory was vital towards achieving that result.
"I knew going into the bout that my team needed me to win to help us get second place," said Kralik. "I didn't want to let anyone down. It was a tough match, but I was glad to get the win."
Kralik and Steffen traded escapes through the first three periods en route to a 1-1 draw. Kralik then held the taller Steffen down in the first rideout session and escaped in the final thirty-second round to gain the decisive point and gold medal.
"I just knew that since he [Steffen] was taller than me, I had to work on getting some shots," said Kralik, who pinned his first three opponents en route to the finals. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to ride him out in overtime, but I felt like he was getting tired and I wasn't, so that helped."
Kralik may have been Palmerton's only champion, but he wasn't their only finalist. Sophomore 113-pounder Josh Evans reached the championship round, but took on Becahi junior standout Darian Cruz and lost by a 12-4 major decision.
"It really was just a great experience wrestling against one of the best guys in the state," Evans said. "I need to get more offensive. Against a guy like Cruz, it's tough to get any offense going, but that's one thing I'm taking away from that match. I just need to work more on my shots."
Palmerton medaled six wrestlers in total as Sam Oberlander (120, third), Dillon Masington (126, fourth), Zachary Graver (145, sixth) and Cody Grohotolski (152, fourth) joined their aforementioned teammates as medalists.
Head coach Dave Lavin didn't put out a full lineup last week, which makes the finish even better for the Bombers, but he's also being realistic about what their second place finish means in the long run.
"This is the only individual tournament we do before districts and I'm very happy with how we performed," said Lavin. "We finished ninth as a team a year ago and it just shows that when everyone does their job on the mat that we can be successful.
"I know we're going to take away confidence from the tournament, but we still have a long way to go this season, but taking second here was definitely a good sign for us."
Panther Valley also competed in the tournament. The Panthers' top showing was recorded by Richard Nase, who took sixth place.