Scranton Prep’s Ivan Balavage finished his high school wrestling career in Hershey by returning to the medal stand at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Wrestling Championships.
Balavage, a senior from Avoca, made history in Hershey last season when he became his school’s first state medalist with a seventh-place finish. He guaranteed himself another top-eight – and medal – finish by winning two of his first three bouts Thursday and Friday.
CLASS 2A NORTHEAST REGIONAL
Balavage qualified for the state tournament with his third-place finish at 195 pounds March 2-3 in Williamsport, but he did so the hard way.
One of five Scranton Prep wrestlers to lose in the quarterfinals the first night, Balavage was the only one to come back with wins the next day. He needed the first two to get into the top four and advance to the state tournament and wound up winning all three.
Balavage started the comeback trail with a 45-second pin of Wyoming Area’s Jaryn Polit-Moran. He reached Hershey with a 15-10 win over Line Mountain’s Ethan Long, then finished up with a 5-1 decision over Mount Carmel’s Manus McCracken.
Justin Joseph accounted for the only two Wyoming Area wins when the Warriors finished tied for 32nd out of 35 teams.
Joseph finished fifth at 182 pounds. He went 1-2 in his first three bouts, which were all decisions by five points or less, then Bloomsburg’s Jacob Mattive in 3:46 in the fifth-place match.
Corey Mruk (160), Polit-Moran (195) and Damon Barhight (285) each lost twice and were eliminated.
CLASS 3A NORTHEAST REGIONAL
Ryan Lombardo, Pittston Area’s only entry in the Class 3A Northeast Regional March 4 in Bethlehem, won twice, placing the Patriots in a tie for 35th out of 40 teams.
Lombardo opened with a 6-2 decision of Overbrook’s Zimir Rice to reach the quarterfinals. After losing by pin in the quarterfinals, Lombardo advanced with a forfeit, then was eliminated in a 12-1 decision to Bethlehem Liberty’s Travis Brown.
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
Scranton Prep’s Balavage opened the state tournament Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey with a 4-1 victory over Mount Union’s Levi Hockenberry.
Balavage suffered a loss in his first bout Friday, losing to Greenville’s Brenden Calvin, 7-4, in the quarterfinals to end his pursuit of a state title.
The medal was clinched soon after when Balavage returned to the mat and pinned Tri Valley’s Kolt Schaeffer, 1:41.
The tournament was scheduled to continue through Saturday.