Evans cops gold
WEST LAWN - Redemption. The word by definition, is to atone for a fault or a mistake.
For Palmerton's Josh Evans, it means so much more.
After falling to Bethlehem Catholic's Mike Labriola in last week's Class AA District 11 138-pound final, the senior was determined to make amends for his loss at this weekend's Southeast Regional tournament.
Despite being tested in several of his early matches, Evans marched into the championship bout, prepared to once again square off against Labriola.
After fading near the end of their contest the week before, Evans turned the tables on Labriola and scored a late takedown to claim a 5-4 decision and a regional championship.
"I've been pushing myself in the practice room this week and I definitely wasn't as gassed as the first match," Evans said. "And I think I warmed up better this week, which definitely helped."
The new routine is certainly one he will want to keep this weekend, as he embarks on his second trip to Hershey for the PIAA Championships.
"Hopefully, I can go out there and get a few wins and maybe string some together. I'd love to be in the finals again," Evans said of his expectations. "That would be ideal, and I think I can do it, too."
Evans won't be alone in Hershey, as five other TIMES NEWS area wrestlers punched their tickets to the state tournament by earning at least a top-five finish over the weekend.
Panther Valley will lead the way with three representatives: Lenny Ogozalek (113), Richard Nase (195) and Rian Shubeck (220) will all be competing in the prestigious tournament taking place inside the Giant Center.
Like Evans, Ogozalek also got a measure of revenge in his third place match against Upper Dauphin's Coy Campbell.
After losing an 11-2 major decision to Campbell in the quarterfinals, Ogozalek reversed his fortunes by earning a solid 6-3 decision to claim third place.
"It felt great to come back confident and win that match," Ogozalek said. "I wasn't feeling as well health-wise (the first time) and I think that was part of it.
"This time, I felt much better. And winning the two (consolation) matches earlier in the day really gave me a lot of confidence. I wasn't really worried about it as much as I was the first time."
While Nase dropped his final bout against North Schuylkill's Alek Hummel, the senior still finished the tournament strong, claiming a 2-1 decision over District 11 champion Rhaine Sziy of Catasauqua to earn a spot in the third-place match.
The loss to Hummel was disappointing, but picking up an impressive win over the accomplished Sziy, who defeated him last week, has Nase looking forward to what's ahead.
"I just want to go out there and give it my all and hope for the best," the senior said. "Getting that win (against Sziy) gives me so much confidence and momentum going into next week."
Unlike his teammates, Shubeck was unable to avenge an early loss in the tournament, falling to Sam McCollum of Bermudian Springs in the third place match after also falling to the District 3 champ in the quarterfinals.
After losing his first two matches in last year's tournament, while also dealing with an illness, the experience Shubeck gained from wrestling six matches this time around should bode well for the junior heading into Hershey.
"It's always good to wrestle more kids for practice," Shubeck said. "Every match makes you better."
Like Shubeck, Lehighton's Connor Frey also got in a great deal of work over the weekend.
After losing his quarterfinal match, the sophomore battled through the consolation bracket, winning three straight to earn a spot in the third place bout against Hamburg's Cody Miller.
Even though he lost a 7-3 decision, the mat time put in over the weekend will have Frey well-prepared as he gets ready for the biggest tournament of the season.
"I think it will definitely help with my stamina," Frey said of the experience. "By the end of my last match, I could barely feel my arms. It can only make me better and stronger for next week."
Tamaqua's Colin Mashack will also be looking for a better feeling in Hershey after being forced to forfeit his third place match because of a calf strain.
The senior hopes to be ready to go when the tournament begins and is eager to get back on the mat.
"I want to place, " Mashack said. "But I don't really have any expectations and since it's my last year, I'm just going to put it all out there."
Unfortunately, for Jim Thorpe's Kevan Gentile (106) and Northwestern's Quentin Bernhard (113), the road to Hershey ended Saturday afternoon, as both finished sixth, just short of qualifying.
Gentile lost in the semifinals to eventual runner-up and district champ Sammy Hepler of Tri-Valley and fell to fourth-place finisher William Girard of Williams Valley in his next bout.
After losing to Trinity's Chase Drawbaugh in the quarterfinals, Bernhard earned a rematch with the District 3 runner-up in the fifth-place match. But for the second time in as many days, the sophomore was unable to solve his opponent, losing a 4-2 decision.
For the six that qualified, action will begin this Thursday and conclude Saturday afternoon.