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Northeast Regional Wrestling: Cobb Heads to Hershey

For Wyalusing Valley's Mike Cobb, qualifying for the PIAA wrestling championships has become old hat.

After all, the Ram senior has now done it three times following his second-place finish at 171 pounds in the Class AA Northeast Regional in Williamsport on March 4.

But making the big show in Hershey without bringing home a state medal is like biting into a Reese's Cup only to find that someone had stolen the peanut butter. It might taste fine, but there's obviously something missing.

Moments after claiming his medal Saturday, Cobb set his sights on the one goal that has eluded him during a successful mat career.

"I'm just hoping to get a medal down at Hershey," Cobb said. "That's what I've been working for my whole life. It would top off my whole career."

Part of his game plan entering last weekend's tournament was to improve on the third-place regional finishes at 160 pounds he had in 2009 and 2010. Only the top three wrestlers from the Northeast Regional advance to the PIAA tournament.

With last year's state runner-up Nathaniel Brown of Lewisburg at 171, atop a talented field that also included Towanda's Garrett VanDeMark and Benton's Jake Mankey, Cobb didn't want to take his chances in a consolation final.

"I've been wrestling back from third each year and I really didn't want to put up with the nervousness," he said.

Cobb started the tournament with a flourish, pinning Lackawanna Trail's Marvess Rosiak in a quick 1:15 in Friday's quarterfinals.

Awaiting Cobb in Saturday morning's semifinals was a familiar foe—VanDeMark. The two had met twice before this season with Cobb winning each time, 8-3 and 6-3.

On Saturday, Cobb dominated, rolling up a 12-1 lead into the third period before VanDeMark added a pair of meaningless points late in the match.

After the horn sounded to end the 12-3 win, Cobb pumped his fist with the realization that he had clinched a spot in Hershey.

"That was a big match," Cobb said. "I went out and wrestled hard and dominated."

The victory also made Cobb a member of an elite group of Wyalusing wrestlers who have qualified three times or more for the PIAA tournament.

With the win, he joins a list that includes four-time qualifier Matt Fisk and three-time qualifiers Sam Bocchino, Ed Moore, Cassidy Shults, Dave Patrick, Justin Johnson and Zac Sheldon. All Cobb's predecessors on the list have won state medals.

In the championship final against Brown, who pinned Cobb in 3:17 of their District Four title bout a week earlier, Cobb wrestled better, but still came up short, 11-2.

"I knew what I had to do to make it a better match," Cobb said.

"He's a strong kid and I had to stay away and do what I could to score."

Brown, who fought off one good takedown shot by Cobb in the first period, entered the second period with a 2-0 lead.

"I almost took him down," Cobb said. "He's a really good wrestler and he scrambled out of it."

A reversal and a takedown sandwiched a Cobb escape to give Brown a 6-1 lead entering the final period.

Cobb, following his game plan, chose the top position to start the third period, but Brown escaped and controlled the remainder of the match.

Looking ahead to Hershey, Cobb hopes his experience before the large Giant Center crowds will give him an edge.

"You're always going to have jitters in front of that many people at such a big tournament, but I'll have the advantage over some of the kids down there because I've been there twice before."

Wyalusing Valley's Ryan Hart, bottom, tries to escape from East Juniata's Sean Heggs during the 130-pound consolation semifinals at the Northeast Regional tournament in Williamsport on March 5. Heggs defeated Hart, 1-0.

Hart, Clark Fall Short

Two other Wyalusing wrestlers came up short in their quest for PIAA berths.

Ryan Hart, wrestling at 130 pounds, reached the consolation semifinals where he dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to East Juniata's Sean Heggs, falling out of further contention.

Heggs had dominated Hart in their previous bout in the District Four quarterfinals, 10-5.

Their regional matchup was more competitive as they entered the final period tied 0-0. Hart made a decision to allow Heggs to escape intentionally believing he had a better chance of winning the bout with a takedown.

Heggs foiled the strategy and went on to win.

Hart, who finished fifth in the district meet, had to face Benton's Coltin Fought, the regional tournament's top seed, in his opening match.

Fought rolled to a 17-2 technical fall in 5:24.

Hart bounced back with a 4-2 win over Nanticoke's James McMoore in Saturday's consolation bracket opener.

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, Hart outscored McMoore, 4-1, for the win.

Clark, wrestling at 189 pounds, also had to face the top-seeded wrestler in the quarterfinals, Muncy's Ryan Hembury.

Hembury won a 7-0 decision, dropping Clark into Saturday's first-round consolations.

Clark opened his match with Western Wayne's Josh Harrison with a takedown, but gave up four unanswered points through the second period.

Starting down to open the third period, Clark tied the score with a reversal.

Like Hart before him, Clark opted to allow Harrison an escape in hopes of getting a takedown.

But Harrison held on for the 5-4 victory, ending Clark's tournament.

Both Hart and Clark are juniors and should be contenders in next year's post-season action.

Wyalusing Valley's Anthony Clark, right, was eliminated from the Northeast Regional tournament with a 5-4 loss to Western Wayne's Josh Harrison at 189 pounds.

Area Wrestlers Advance

Towanda, led by 125-pound champion Cody Wheeler, will take a four-man contingent to Hershey.

Wheeler, who defeated Line Mountain's Seth Lansberry, 13-7, in the championship final, will be joined by teammates Caleb Willey, VanDeMark and Aaron Schultz.

Willey, wrestling at 135 pounds, reached the final where he lost to Shamokin's Josh Lahr, 5-1.

Schultz battled Shamokin's Wes Tillett for 285-pound honors for the second straight week and came up short again, 2-1.

VanDeMark bounced back from his loss to Cobb in the 171-pound semifinals to finish third, defeating Mankey in the consolation final, 6-2.

Towanda's Zack Ripic and Kyle Blascak failed to qualify at 145 and 103, respectively.

Sullivan County's Shawn Nitcznski earned a state berth with his second-place finish at 103 pounds.

Williamson's Logan Everett defeated Nitcznski, 4-0, giving the NTL its first champion of the tourney.

Troy's Braden Calkins wrestled back at 119 pounds to finish third with his 1-0 win over Line Mountain's Mason Zimmerman.

Northeast Bradford's Jake Balchikonis, wrestling at 160 pounds, finished third with a 3-1 overtime win over North Penn's Tyler Stettler.

Balchikonis's teammate, Zack Green, failed to qualify for Hershey after losing his third-place match at 125 to Mount Carmel's Nick Dusendschine, 8-6.

At 140, Wellsboro's Brenton Acorn defeated Central Columbia's Herbie Shannon, 7-0, to finish third.

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