WILKES-BARRE — It doesn’t happen too often when a top seed in the District 2 Class 3A Wrestling Championships loses in the quarterfinal round.
It’s even more rare when a defending district champion and No. 1 seed falls in the quarters.
The stars were aligned perfectly on Friday night at the Kingston Armory for Dallas freshman Thad Mead, who took out Tunkhannock’s Gavin D’Amato in the 138-pound bracket with a 5-4 win in the round of eight. The eighth-seeded Mead was let up with 30 seconds remaining in the bout for the final point then fended off a few shots from the sophomore D’Amato to hang on for the victory.
“I knew I had to fend him off and try to keep him off my legs,” said Mead. “I knew he was going to try to take me down to try to win it. I just had to stay away and do whatever I can to keep him off my legs.”
D’Amato, who was battling a sickness, is the first returning district champion in Class 3A to fall in the next year’s quarterfinals in at least a decade.
Meanwhile, Mead picked up the biggest upset of the tournament.
“I know he was a little sick and gassed, still though, he was the Number 1 seed and I was eighth and I still came out on top,” Mead said. “I’m pretty happy because now I have a good chance to place well in the tournament. That’s pretty good for a freshman.”
Mead’s win was one of several surprises on the day in the event, but was by far the biggest as half a dozen No. 4 seeds fell and a pair of two-and-three seeds also dropped in the quarters.
Sticking with the surprise theme is Dallas, which leads all Wyoming Valley Conference teams with six semifinalists tied with Hazleton Area. Tunkhannock and Wyoming Valley West are next with five apiece, while Division 1 winner Coughlin equals Crestwood with four in the semis.
Joining Mead in the semis from Dallas are Kade Kravits (145 pounds), John Betzko (152), Steven Newell (170), Taylor Bolesta (220) and Shawn Henniger (285).
Leading the way for the Cougars are Christian Kislin (120), Charles Everdale (132), Jayson Brielmeier (152), Jake Marnell (170), Shane Noonan (182) and Michael Fuchick at 285.
“I’m very impressed,” Dallas coach Mike Richards said. “We wrestled well and had some close losses that could have gone either way. Overall, I’m happy.”
For WVW, the team finished near the bottom of the standings in the division this season, but has some of the toughest lightweights in the district. That showed on Friday with three of their semifinalists coming from the lowest weights. Cadden Kucek pulled off an upset at 106 ousting the No. 4 seed Bandon Grogan from Abington Heights. J.J. White and David Krokowski, top seeds and defending district champs from Valley West at 113 and 126, cruised to wins. Spartan senior Landon Stanislow at 145, and junior Jaylon Brunson at 160 also reached the semis.
“Honestly, we’re wrestling really tough and I believe it has to do with wrestling close to home. It makes the guys more comfortable,” Spartan coach Ryan Vassello said. “People believe Cadden is an underdog, but he’s just as good as any of these top-seeded kids. He can go with anyone. When he sets his mind to it, he can go with anyone.”
Meanwhile, Coughlin is showing is depth. Even though the team has four semifinalists, it is sitting in second place in the team standings with 60 points, 27 behind leader Delaware Valley. But the race for the team title is far from over as the top 10 teams are within striking distance of the leader, and within 20 points of the Crusaders. Dallas is in third place with 58.5 points, while Hazleton Area (58) and Scranton (50) round out the top five.
“There’s no outstanding team. There’s a bunch of equally-talented teams wrestling each other and you’re not gonna see one team run away with this,” Richards said. “I think it’s gonna be a tight team race all the way through. Whoever wins it, there’s not gonna be a blowout this year.”
Wrestling begins this morning at 10 at the Kingston Armory with the semis. The parade of champions should be held at approximately 2 p.m. with the finals and medal matches to follow.
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