BETHLEHEM - Faced with a couple of holes in his line-up, Northern Lehigh coach Todd Herzog had to find a way to squeeze out eight wins against Pius X.
His Bulldogs responded by getting nine, enough for a 38-27 victory over the Royals in the quarterfinal round of the District 11 Class AA Team Wrestling Championships at Freedom High School.
The weekend snowstorm caused the District 11 Committee to shift the Duals from Friday and Saturday to Sunday and tonight, when fourth-seeded No. Lehigh (14-4) will face top-seeded Pen Argyl (15-0) in the semifinal round at 5 p.m. The other semifinal pits second seeded Bethlehem Catholic (10-5) vs. third-seeded Saucon Valley (21-2).
The winners will advance to the championship round at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs are the only TIMES NEWS area team still in contention. In Class AA, eighth seeded Northwestern edged ninth seeded Panther Valley 37-29 in the preliminary round, but the Tigers fell to Pen Argyl 54-13 in the quarterfinals. Lehighton, seeded sixth, dropped a 46-24 quarterfinal verdict to Saucon Valley.
In Class AAA, Pleasant Valley, seeded ninth, fell to eighth seeded Blue Mountain 37-21 in the preliminaries. The AAA semifinals this evening will feature top-seeded Nazareth against fourth seeded Easton and second seeded Parkland vs. third seeded Northampton.
The top two finalists in AAA and AA advance to the PIAA State Duals this week, beginning Tuesday.
Nolehi faced fifth seeded Pius (18-4) without 125 pounder Lucas Dise (17-8) and 215-pounder Tequanne Hunter. On top of that, the match started at 285, allowing the Royals to take a fast 9-0 lead on heavyweight Luke Texeria's 4-3 win over Brandon Loch and a 13 win over Brandon Loch and a 13 second fall by Anthony Bilotta at 103.
From that point, the 'Dawgs won nine of the next 12, including forfeiting to Justin Mazza at 125, to pull it out.
"Our line-up was not exactly the same as it's been," said Herzog. "I told our guys coming down on the bus that when faced with adversity, true character will shine, and our kids wrestled well.
"When push came to shove, we got the takedowns, won the tight one and sealed things up."
Ty Herzog (112), Connor Hedash (119), Zane Heller (130), Chris Christ (135) and Dylan Hofmann (145) ground out close decisions for the 'Dawgs, while Nikko Stevens (140) needed just 23 seconds for a fall over Anthony Franza and Zach Fleming (152) put Sam Bacon on his back for a mat slap at 152, putting Nolehi in front 28-15.
After Craemer Hedash (22-4) scored an 18-5 major over Dan Communale at 160 to push the lead to 32-15, Herzog elected not to have Colin Hedash (24-1) hook up with the Royals' state-ranked Luke DeLuise at 171. While DeLuise scored a quick fall, Colin's forfeit at 189 clinched the win at 38-21.
"As a coach, my job is to secure the win and not put us in jeopardy, and mathematically, they were still in it if they got falls," explained Herzog. "Fans will just have to wait for the Districts to see that one (Colin vs. Deluise)."
Tonight, the 'Dawgs will have their hands full with unbeaten Pen Argyl, which beat them 41-14 in a Colonial League meet on Jan. 14.
"They're seeded number one for a reason," said Herzog. "They are solid, but someone has to wrestle them, and it might as well be us."
The Tigers (13-9) have a depleted line-up without State medalist Dylan Long and former District champ Eddie Faust, but they managed to gut out a win over Panther Valley (9-8).
The match was finally decided its 189 finale. With the Tigers leading 34-29, L.J. Walker pulled out a wild 13-10 decision over Alex Lorkowski to ice the Northwestern win.
"L.J. is much improved from last year, and it came down to him there," said Northwestern coach James Moll. "Southern Lehigh was another meet that came down to L.J., too, and he delivered wins in both meets for us."
The Tigers got a key win at 119, when Ethan Keichel (18-13) picked up a fall over Brandon Gurka (20-10) with one second left in the first period.
"Gurka was in the match, and he (Keichel) hit a Gramby Roll. We weren't expecting that," said Panther Valley coach Tim Robb.
The Tigers also got falls from Mike Hontz (125), Dustin Badesso (130) and Levi Veppert (152) and a 13-0 major from Bobby Clymer at 145.
For the Panthers, who were bidding for their first District Duals win, Nick O'Donnell (112) and John Scheaffer (215) scored falls, Kevin Schaller (160) racked up a 15-0 technical fall, Devon Dillard (135) and Mike Weaver (171) won by decision and Josh Vega (140) won by injury default.
"We have just three seniors who are contributing, and our guys wrestled pretty well," said Robb, who was without 189 pounder Keith Cheadle, who was ineligible. "This should be a good experience for them."
The Tigers were heavy underdogs to Pen Argyl, which blanked them 70-0 back on Jan. 30. This time, the Tigers managed to scratch out four wins and 13 points against the Green Knights.
Clymer (22-4) avenged an earlier loss to Phil Racciato with a 9-4 decision, while Keichel scored a 10-2 major over Zach Bartleson. Veppert (152) and Kyle Sorensen (160) also scored wins.
The Knights had 10 wins, including three forfeits.
"They beat us up pretty bad last time, and when you wrestle someone again who beat you before, you want to close it down," said Moll. "If you can close that gap, you give yourself a chance to beat them. Bobby got pinned by Phil last time, so this is a good win for him."
Lehighton was also looking to close the gap against Saucon Valley, which knocked off the Indians 58-18 at the Anthracite Duals on Jan. 9.
The Tribe made a good run at it, trailing just 30-24 with three bouts to go before the Panthers closed out with a 17-7 major by Chris Rahs, a pin by Nick Edmondson and a forfeit to Ian Gimbar to pull away for a 46-24 triumph.
Lehighton (10-7) had its chances to tighten things even more, but lost three close decisions.
Jake Hoats (103) fell 4-2 to Bryan Israel, Anthony Farole (135) lost 14-13 to John Lynch and Zach Coleman (140) dropped a 15-11 verdict to Travis Buddock.
"If we could get those bouts, it would have put us where we wanted to be," said Lehighton coach Floyd Brown. "Overall, we wrestled well, and I feel we gave them a run for their money, but we are just not winning the tight ones when we need it."
Tyrone Deschler and A.J. Chernasky added pins for the Panthers, who also got a 9-5 decision by Rich York at 152.
Jason McEvoy (112) and Mike Balliet (160) registered mat slaps for the Indians, who also got forfeit wins from David Lucykanish and Briar Stern.
Pleasant Vy.-Blue Mt.
Blue Mountain (9-2) had just a little too much balance for Pleasant Valley (9-5), winning nine of 14 bouts to hold off the Bears by a 37-21 count.
Josh Kindig (140) and Brook Gosch (215) scored falls for the Eagles, while Ross Myers (171) had a tech fall and Cory Keener (119) and Tyler Rauenzahn (130) had major decisions. Brandon Choate (125) outlasted Mike Dahlstrom 11-7 for his 100th victory.
"I thought our kids fought hard and went after them," said Pleasant Valley coach Mark Getz. "It was a pretty tough seed, and coming in here, I knew we had our work cut out for us.
"We didn't match up with them the way I wanted, and we couldn't move around much, but I was pleased that we came out and wrestled the way we did."
Jordan Toledo (135) and Ryan Gouger (285) scored falls for the Bears while Sean Bianco (103), Mike Pokrinchak (140) and Jake Chamberlain (152) added decisions.