HERSHEY — Six years ago, the Balavage family made a decision to switch schools.
Thor Balavage transferred from Pittston Area to Scranton Prep for his high school education. Two years later, his brother Ivan made the same switch.
Both wrestled in the Patriots elementary and junior high programs and continued in the sport for the Cavaliers.
The Avoca residents not only wrestled for Prep, they set records and helped the program earn recognition.
“In the six years the Balavages have been with us, we have come on the map as far as wrestling goes,” Cavaliers coach Marty Flynn said. “People have become aware of us, wanted to wrestle us.”
Ivan Balavage wrapped up his career and the family’s six-year wrestling run March 10 in the PIAA Class 2A Championships as the best wrestler in school history. He is the school’s all-time wins leader with 135, surpassing his brother’s mark of 119, set two years ago. He also is the only state medalist in school history, winning two. Ivan Balavage concluded the 2018 state tournament with a fourth-place showing.
“All that hard work that you put in from the time I started in high school coming to fruition and all the hard work has paid off,” the Scranton Prep senior said. “We always have that family competition and joke about it, but it’s nice knowing that we both did very well here.”
Both with their trademark mullets and overpowering styles in the upper weights, the Balavages bulldozed through the upper weights in District 2 throughout their careers, combining for four district championships and eight district medals.
Not having them in the wrestling room next year is something Flynn said will be hard.
“We don’t want to go back into obscurity,” he said. “The fact that we had five guys at regionals and only lose one of them, I’m hoping the program will now be able to sustain itself even though the Balavages aren’t in the room.”
After winning his second district title last month, Ivan Balavage, who will attend and wrestlw for Newman University in the fall, got off to a rough start in the rest of the postseason. The 195-pounder dropped his opening match at regionals and had to win twice in the wrestlebacks to qualify for the state tournament. He not only did that, he won three times to finish third.
Once he got to states, Ivan Balavage won his first match before falling into the consolations. But, for the second weekend in a row, he was determined to finish as high as possible and won three consecutive matches before dropping a close 9-6 decision to Clay Verbanac from Cambridge Springs in the third-place match.
“It’s just focusing on what you did all the time in the room,” Balavage said of the mindset needed to wrestle back after tough losses. “It’s working hard, having a short memory and having a good mentality coming in every match.”
Ivan Balavage was the highest medalist from District 2 in Class 2A. The only other wrestler from the entire district to finish higher was Scranton’s Willy Evanitsky, who won a state title in Class 3A.
Both Balavage brothers were also all-state players on championship football teams at Scranton Prep – Thor as a lineman, Ivan as a fullback/linebacker.
Thor Balavage is two years into his college wrestling career. Competing at 285 pounds, he was 12-18 at a freshman and was 15-12 this season at the National Collegiate Athletic Conference Division II school in Kansas.
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