WEST LAWN – Regional wrestling titles are nice. But the primary goal of every grappler that enters the tournament is just to make it through and get to states.
Seven TIMES NEWS area wrestlers just made the road to Hershey a little smoother by earning their way into Southeast Regional semifinal matches. All seven need to win just one of their next three matches to advance.
"I really want to win," said Palmerton's Cody Grohotolski. "But when the day's over I really just want to make it to states."
Grohotolski won his first two matches Friday at Wilson West Lawn High School in Reading. He will face Brandywine's Pete Renda in the 152-pound semifinal.
Other area wrestlers who made it to the semifinals are Tamaqua's Colin Mashack (106), Palmerton's Josh Evans (113) and Kane Kralik (220), Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog (145) and Northwestern's Levi Veppert (182) and David Tirpak (195).
Grohotolski, who took second last week at districts after earning the No. 5 seed, won two close matches at regionals, including a 3-2 overtime win and a 5-3 decision.
"Got the first takedown in both matches, which is big," he said. "I feel like our district is one of the toughest around. Being in the finals of districts I felt confident coming into here."
Like Grohotolski, Tamaqua's Mashack was making his first trip to regionals. The District 11 runner up pinned his first opponent in 1:57 and then earned a 15-0 technical fall in the second round in just 2:32.
"I didn't know what to expect," Mashack said. "I just went out there and wrestled. I felt good. You've just got to go out there with the mindset that you're going to win."
Mashack came into the tournament just thinking about advancing, but now that he's two wins away from a regional title, he raised his expectations.
"Getting through was the goal," he said. "But now a regional title is [the goal]."
Herzog, the only returning state qualifier from the area, also cruised through his first two matches. He pinned his first opponent and got a major decision in the quarterfinals.
Herzog wants to return to states, but he also wants a title after losing last week's district final to Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora.
"I understand that if I don't end up winning the [regional] tournament I'm still moving on and I'd be happy about that," he said. "But winning the tournament would be nice."
Evans, a sophomore, came one win away from reaching states last year and is close to getting over the hump this year. He pulled out a 2-1 decision in the opening round before earning a 13-2 major decision in the quarterfinals.
"I feel like I'm in a good position," Evans said. "I only need [to win] one of three to make it to states. It would be nice to win, but as long as I get to states I'll be happy."
Evans, who is now 29-5 this year, is also one win from earning a rematch with Pen Argyl's Matt Williams. The Green Knight has beaten the Blue Bomber four times this season, including a 3-1 win in last week's district title bout.
Tirpak, a senior, is making the most of his first regional tournament, winning his first two matches on a pair of pins.
After not placing at districts last year, he made an offseason commitment to improve and it's paying off.
"I wrestled a thing called MAWA over the summer," he said. "It's a lot of mat time. That helps."
He was motivated by last year's district tournament, where he didn't place.
"It hurt," Tirpak said. "Everybody wants to go far. I kept it in the back of my mind. It was my extra drive."
Tirpak lost last week's district title bout to undefeated Ray O'Donnell of Saucon Valley, who pinned all three of his district opponents. Tirpak wants nothing more than to get back on the mat against the Panther and he's likely one win away from that rematch.
"I would love it," he said. "I've been looking forward to it."
Tirpak's teammate, Levi Veppert, won last week's district title and earned a first-round bye at regionals. Veppert pulled out a 3-2 win in the first round.
After missing regionals by one place as a junior, Veppert got stronger in the offseason. But he didn't do it in the weight room.
"I think the thing that helped me the most was I worked on a farm," Veppert said. "We threw hay. That helped me a lot with my core and stuff."
Despite never placing higher than fifth at districts, Veppert came into the season with high expectations. He lived up to them, going 31-2 thus far.
"My goal was definitely to win districts," he said. "I expected to have tough matches and I did. I really want to be first here too."
Kralik's expectations are also high, especially after pinning his first two opponents. He was behind 6-5 in his quarterfinal match when he pulled off the move that resulted in the pin.
"I knew he was going upperbody," Kralik said. "When he went to get the shot I got his leg. The half was right there. I eased it in and put him to his back."
The Blue Bomber senior was one win away from reaching states last year. Having been at regionals before helped ease his nerves this year.
"Last year was a little nerve-wracking not knowing what anything was like," he said. "Not being nervous always helps you. Now I know I have a good opportunity to take first place."
Several other are grapplers are still alive in the consolation bracket.
Palmerton's Sam Oberlander (120) and Lehighton's Anthony Farole (145) and Michael Balliet (170) are still alive.
Northwestern's Michael Ortiz, the 152-pound district champ, had to forfeit his two matches due to injury.
REGIONAL RESULTS OF
TIMES NEWS WRESTLERS
106: Colin Mashack (Tamaqua) pinned Giuliano Grazioso (Hanover) in 1:57.
113: Josh Evans (Palmerton) dec. Ted Marines (Bermudian Springs), 2-1.
120: Sam Oberlander (Palmerton) dec. Austin Tucker (James Buchanan), 6-4.
145: Ty Herzog (Northern Lehigh) pinned Cory Rank (Wyomissing) in 1:54; Sam Tascone (Delco Christian) dec. Anthony Farole (Lehighton), 3-1.
152: Cody Grohotolski (Palmerton) dec. Tyler Lieberum (Biglerville), 3-2 in OT.
170: Michael Balliet (Lehighton) dec. Ryan Daub (Northern Lebanon), 7-5.
195: David Tirpak (Northwestern) pinned Brock Snyder (Upper Dauphin) in 5:31.
220: Kane Kralik (Palmerton) pinned Ryan Vaughn (Littlestown) in 1:20.
106: Colin Mashack (Tamaqua) tech. fall Robbie McCoy (Pottstown), 15-0 in 2:32.
113: Josh Evans (Palmerton) major dec. Tyler Madina (Bishop McDevitt), 13-2.
120: Brad Farley (Bermudian Springs) pinned Sam Oberlander (Palmerton) in 3:13.
145: Ty Herzog (Northern Lehigh) major dec. Rob Galdo (Springfield-Montco), 14-3
152: Cody Grohotolski (Palmerton) dec. Darian Hain (Pottstown), 5-3; Clay Kocsic inj. def. Michael Ortiz (Northwestern).
170: Tristan Sponseller (Bermudian Springs) dec. Michael Balliet (Lehighton), 3-2.
182: Levi Veppert (Northwestern) dec. Alex Cooley (Eastern York), 3-2.
195: David Tirpak (Northwestern) pinned Marshall Hendricks (New Hope-Solebury) in 3:12.
220: Kane Kralik (Palmerton) pinned Joey Kauffman (Halifax) in 5:35.
120: Sam Oberlander (Palmerton) pinned Kyle Baker in :16.
145: Anthony Farole (Lehighton) dec. Rob Galdo (Springfield Montco), 9-5.
152: Nate Warner (Columbia) injury def. Michael Ortiz (Northwestern).
170: Michael Balliet (Lehighton) major dec. Martin Stanton (Bishop McDevitt), 13-3.