HERSHEY - Most times, Garth Lakitsky uses his aggression to his advantage on the wrestling mat.
In Friday night's PIAA Class AA semifinals, the Tamaqua junior 189 pounder's aggressiveness worked against him a bit.
In his battle with Towanda senior Travis Chesla, Lakitsky was hit with two penalty points, one for a head butt and another for a slam.
That was two points too many to give away to Cheslea, whose used them to pad his cushion and thwart a Lakitsky rally bid in a 7-2 decision at the Giant Center.
Lakitsky bounced back strong with a hard-fought 5-1 victory over Penn Cambria's Zak Newton in the consolation round and will wrestle for third place this afternoon.
The Blue Raiders' standout joins a trio from Northern Lehigh in earning spots on the State medal stand among TIMES NEWS area Class AA wrestlers.
The Bulldogs' Nikko Stevens (135) and the Hedash brothers, Craemer (152) and Colin (171), will each shoot for fifth place today. Colin placed fourth at States a year ago while Craemer was eighth.
"Our kids definitely wrestled through a lot of adversity," said Northern Lehigh coach Todd Herzog. "At one point we won nine straight bouts to position ourselves on the medal stand, and that's always our goal."
Lakitsky (38-4) was attempting to become the third Tamaqua grappler to advance to the State final. Andy Breiner (1999) and Matt Benza (2001) were the only Raiders to do so, with each settling for silver.
Lakitsky locked up early with Chesla (40-1), who placed fourth at 285 last year, and did get Chesla to the mat but was unable to secure the takedown.
"Garth almost got a takedown at the beginning," said Tamaqua coach Jim McCabe. "He was in a nice situation with a front headlock, but he got a little light with it and never finished it. He needed to snap him down further to get it."
"I couldn't get him by the ankle when we were down," mentioned Lakitsky. "If I had gotten that takedown, it would have been a different match."
Instead, Chesla drew first blood when he was able to cover Lakitsky on a mat scramble for a takedown with 16 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 edge.
Chesla began the second period on defense and escaped to make it 3-0, with a penalty point against Lakitsky for the head butt widening to gap to 4-0 after two.
Lakitsky was on the bottom to start period three and muscled his way to a reversal to slice the deficit to 4-2.
Needing two points, Lakitsky bearhugged Chesla off his feet, a moved that worked to Lakitsky's favor in a 6-5 overtime tiebreaker win over Octorara's Nate Ronan in the quarterfinals.
Lakitsky was looking for a favorable position when he brought Chesla back to the mat. Unfortunately, he brought Chesla down hard, shaking Chesla up and resulting in the penalty point for a slam.
"It was 4-2 and ended up 5-2 after that," stated McCabe."What Garth wanted to do is lift him up and throw a half-nelson on him as he came down, but he lost control of it."
While it can't be said the penalty points cost Lakitsky the bout, it didn't help his cause against Chesla, who recovered, then came up with a late reversal to seal the win.
Lakitsky rebounded strong in his consolation match with Newton (40-8), who beat Saucon Valley's Ian Gimbar, who edged Lakitsky for the District 11 and Southeast Region titles, to knock Gimbar out of the tourney.
Lakitsky jumped in front 3-0 and rode Newton for most of the third period, giving up an escape before muscling Newton to the mat and spinning around for the clinching takedown with 16 seconds left.
"I thought I needed to do that, so I wrestled smart, wrestled hard and beat him," said Lakitsky after receiving a hug from his father, Garth, Sr., a two-time State medal winner himself. "This is great. My goal was to reach the top four, and I've won three now."
Lakitsky will face Schuylkill Valley junior Dylan Scheidt (46-3) in the battle for bronze.
Bulldog trio medals
The 'Dawgs' threesome had a busy day in the wrestlebacks.
Stevens (33-9) gutted out a 5-3 overtime win over Shamokin junior Josh Lahr to clinch a medal, then won by injury default against Canton senior Garth Mahosky in 2:38 when Mahosky twisted his knee and was unable to continue.
Stevens then ran into Garet Pisani of Ridgway and was pinned by Pisano at the 2:27 mark.
Stevens will face Schuylkill Valley senior Mike Giorgio (44-13) in his fifth place bout.
Craemer Hedash (32-9) squeezed out a pair of tight consolation wins, edging Fairfield junior Kyle Flohr 3-1 to clinch his medal and slipping past Carlynton junior Montana Trombetta 3-2.
Craemer shot out to an early lead against Athens senior Mike Testen, who rallied and gained a deadlock at 7-7 when Craemer was hit with a late penalty point for stalling.
Testen then got the winning takedown in the sudden victory OT period for a 9-7 decision.
"I never saw such a poor call like that," said Herzog of the stalling point against Craemer. "He was standing in the center of the mat when he (the referee) called it."
In his fifth place bout, Craemer will take on Burrell junior Travis McKillop (43-7).
Colin Hedash (35-5) avenged a Regional loss to York Suburban's Ricardo Plummer with a pin in 4:31, which clinched another spot on the medal stand, then outlasted Zack Zelcs of Ridgway 5-4.
Colin came up against a familiar face in Sharon senior Lewendo Teague, who beat out Colin for third place at States last year. The action was tight, but Teague pulled out a 3-2 decision.
Colin will get a chance to avenge his preliminary loss to Burrell freshman Dakota Deslauriers (25-6) in his fifth place bout. Deslauriers won round one 10-3 on Thursday.
Two TN area wrestlers finished one win short of the medal running.
Northwestern senior 112 pounder Dylan Long dropped his second round consolation bout Friday morning to Pen Argyl junior Jamie Welsh by a 6-3 decision. Long completed his season at 30-7.
Jim Thorpe senior 145 pounder Dillon Smith also lost in the second round of wrestlebacks, falling to Muncy's Aaron Fry, who entered the State tourney at 40. Fry posted a 6-2 decision as Smith finished his season with a 35-12 mark.