Scranton Prep’s Thor Balavage, of Avoca, heads to states; Briggs finishes 5th in wrestling regional competition

By Tom Fox - For Sunday Dispatch | March 11th, 2016 10:30 am

WILLIAMSPORT – Thor Balavage made sure his last trip to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 2A Northeast Regional counted.

And the fans certainly were on the edge of their seats each time the Scranton Prep senior toed the Resilite.

An Avoca resident, Balavage won two heart-pounding matches Saturday, March 5 to qualify for the PIAA state tournament this week in Hershey.

After taking down Western Wayne’s Cole Fuller in overtime during a semifinal bout, Balavage needed another late score – this one a takedown with six seconds left in the championship match as he edged out Mount Carmel’s Gabe Bogutskie, 5-4, to claim gold.

Wyoming Area had four wrestlers in the event, but no grappler was able to place in the top 4 to move on to Hershey. The Warriors did have one fifth-place finisher as senior Zachary Briggs went 3-2 in the regional. He defeated Danville’s Jay Brennan, 12-7, in his final bout.

Benton won the team title with 98 points. Wyalusing, Southern Columbia, Montoursville and Lewisburg rounded out the top 5. Meyers was the top team placer from the Wyoming Valley Conference with 31 points. Wyoming Area finished with 15.

“We really don’t get much respect out here, being from District 2, but there are so many great competitors in District 4,” Balavage said. “It’s nice to get some recognition, and bring some gold back to District 2. I’m loving it.”

Balavage led 2-1 after the first period of the championship, but chose neutral to start the second.

“I talked about it with my coaches, and we kind of made an decision. He rides a lot of legs, and that’s not necessarily a style we see a lot in our area. For us, we kind of cut our losses and tried to go for the two there,” Balavage said.

But the Prep senior found himself down 4-3 late in the third period with the chances of a district title looking bleak.

That changed when he got the takedown with six seconds left.

“I knew there was a short time, and my coaches were constantly telling me how much was left. That internal clock was kind of ticking away. I knew I didn’t have much time, and I just went for anything that I could,” Balavage said. “I knew it was going to be an interesting match. I think he wrestled at 182 pounds earlier in the year, so I knew that his wrestling style wasn’t going to be the traditional 220-pounder. My little brother Ivan wrestles at 182, so it was like wrestling against him.”

Facing off with Benton’s Jeremy Walsh in his 170-pound opener, Wyoming Area’s Briggs found himself down 2-1 after the second period and 5-1 in the third. He scored three late points, but was edged out 6-4.

Briggs bounced back Saturday morning with a 14-2 major decision of Hanover’s JJ Hooper, but lost his second match of the tournament, a one-point decision to Sullivan County’s Dylan Ammerman, a Lehigh recruit.

Kendrick Beyer, the No. 2 seed at 126, ran into Hughesville’s Trevor Sones, who used two early takedowns en route to a 9-2 victory. The junior won his first match on Saturday, dominating Meyers’ Kevin Huertero, 5-0, before losing to Warrior Run’s Jeremy Hanford.

Patrick Heck, seeded third at 133, couldn’t overcome the surge of Benton junior Mike Stuart as the Warrior was pinned in the third period. He was eliminated by Milton’s talented sophomore Noah Stamm in his first-round consolation bout.

Adam Buczynski had the toughest road, and it showed — pinned by Lewisburg’s Andrew Shedleski in just 61 seconds in his 182-pound opener. The junior, though, picked up a nice win over District 2 champ Tom Williams of Lake-Lehman in the consolations before bowing out to Troy’s Zach Zimmerman.

By Tom Fox

For Sunday Dispatch

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