WEST LAWN - Northwestern Lehigh's Levi Veppert admitted he was nervous.
The Tigers' 182-pounder was about to take on Bethlehem Catholic's Jose Ortiz, who he decisioned 3-2 for the District 11 AA title last week.
Veppert quickly put all thoughts aside, however, and scored a 1-0 decision over Ortiz to capture the championship at the Class AA Southeast Regionals on Saturday at Wilson West Lawn High School.
It was a pretty good weekend for TIMES NEWS Area wrestlers as nine advanced to the PIAA Wrestling Championships that begin this Thursday at 9 a.m.
Joining Veppert at Chocolatetown will be Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog (a regional silver medalist), Palmerton's Kane Kralik (a bronze medalist) and his teammates Josh Evans, Sam Oberlander and Cody Grohotolski (all fourth place finishers), Tamaqua's Colin Maschak (bronze medalist), Lehighton's Mike Balliet and Northwestern's David Tirpak (fifth place finisher).
Veppert and Ortiz battled through the first two periods scoreless. With it being Veppert's choice to start the third stanza, he chose the down position and was able to escape with 1:12 remaining and that was all he needed.
In his semifinal bout, Veppert also won by a 1-0 decision over Tri-Valley's Lyle Troutman.
"I'm use to close matches, but I was wrestling very defensively in this tournament," Veppert said. "Last week I had a lot more higher scoring matches, but this week was a lot different.
"I wanted to improve my lead on him (Cruz), hoping to try and get at least five points and make the gap wider. But he closed the gap in this one."
Northwestern head coach Jim Moll is happy with Veppert's post-season so far.
"He's been on a pretty good run at the end of the year," said Moll.
The Tigers might have had three wrestlers heading to states, but Friday's season ending injury to 152-pounder Michael Ortiz ended that hope.
"It's a shame for Ortiz," Moll added. "He had high hopes of doing well out at Hershey and was on track to get out there. He was winning the match when he got hurt and could've ended up in the finals. The bright side is that he's only a junior and hopefully he'll come back strong off the surgery and work hard towards next year."
Herzog, the Buldogs' lone wrestler to make it to regionals, had quite a weekend reaching the final against Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora at 145 pounds, only to fall by a 4-3 decision.
After a scoreless first period, Herzog chose bottom and escaped to take a 1-0 lead into the final two minutes. Todora chose to start in the neutral position and took down Herzog, but the Bulldog escaped with 1:08 left to tie it at 2-2. Todora managed to sneak in a takedown with 50 seconds left and Herzog escaped with 15 ticks on the clock, but it was a little too late.
"I think it was that last takedown that broke Ty's back," said Northern Lehigh head coach Todd Herzog. "I think he tried to turn away to try and get his foot out and he got his back ankle caught and that was critical. Todora is slick enough to hang on to you and if you make one teeny, tiny error he capitalizes on it.
"It was a repeat of last week. Both wrestled hard and are respectable kids. I know Ty is a little disappointed now, but when you look at the big picture, the key is to get to the next level and he'll wrestle next week. That's what counts."
Palmerton managed to finish tied for sixth with Biglerville in the team standings with 57 points thanks to all four of its wrestlers moving on.
Kralik held off Halifax's Allan Kauffman for a 3-2 decision in the third place bout. The Bombers' 220-pounder fell to Catasauqua's Luke Gardner on a 4-12 decision in the semifinals and then decisioned Gus Bostdorf of Camp Hill, 7-1 to lock up his trip to stats.
Evans reached the 113-pound semifinal but lost by a 16-1 technical fall in six minutes to Ryan Diehl of Trinity. Evans decisioned Bishop McDevitt's Terrence White 2-0 to earn a rematch with Pen Argyl's Matt Williams. Williams decisioned Evans, 5-1, leaving the Bomber with a fourth place finish.
Oberlander used a 7-4 decision over Phil-Mont Christian's Justin Cummings in the consi quarterfinals, gained a 6-4 decision over Grant Bond of Boiling Springs before taking on Saucon Valley's Bryan Israel for third place with Israel pulling out a 2-0 decision.
Grohotolski was pinned by Brandywine Height's Pete Renda in the semifinals and then decisioned Biglerville's Ty Leiberum 3-1 in the 152-pound consi semifinals. The Bomber senior then drew Tri-Valley's Ty Schoffstall in the third place bout and was pinned in 2:10.
"This was a great weekend for us," said Palmerton head coach Dave Lavin. "We knew it would be tough. We won all those close matches. There are some studs out there and even though we didn't win a gold medal, we won all of the matches that we should have and all of the ones that were swing matches.
"Cody went in and won by the ultimate tie-breaker and then beat that same kid again. Josh and Sam also won some close ones and got the job done.
"All of them took the attitude that being here wasn't good enough. They all went after it and they're moving on.
Tamaqua's Colin Mashack scored a 8-0 major decision over Tri-Valley's Caleb Bordner in the 106 third place match. He lost a tough 2-1 decision to Korbin Myers of Boiling Springs in the semifinal and then racked up a 13-1 major decision over Schuylkill Valley's Josh Giorgio in the consi semis.
"He's been solid all year," said Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe. "His three losses for the year show the time and effort he has put in. He loves the sport of wrestling, he's a high competitor and does not like to lose. Every match he goes out there prepared and he's ready to wrestle. I think there is good things to come next week and in years to come as well."
Lehighton's Mike Balliet took care of Tri-Valley's Evon Heffron by a 6-3 decision in the third place match at 170. A 14-2 major decision over Springfield Township's Drew Deardon in the consi quarterfinals and a 9-4 decision over North Schuylkill's Brett Paul in the consi semis solidified his trip to Hershey.
"I'm really happy with the way Michael wrestled," said Lehighton head coach Dan Williams. "He was really aggressive, very smart and just went out and did everything he needed to do to get those wins."
Tirpak, Northwestern's 195-pounder, had the toughest day of them all. After losing the semifinal when he was pinned by Logan Murphy of Boiling Springs in 4:32 and dropping a 6-0 decision to Brock Linebaugh of Bermudian Springs, came back to win the fifth place bout when he pinned Camden Stoops of Eastern York in 1:55.
"The fifth place match is a tough one to watch as a coach and a parent," Moll said. "Especially after two straight losses, mentally it's tough to come back, but he did a good job."