Ryan Crookham wasn’t sure what to do in the seconds after he secured his third PIAA Class 2A wrestling championship.
The Saucon Valley senior was proud of his accomplishment and mental fortitude to get back to this level after injuries wiped out his junior season and delayed the start of his final year. He also was reflective after his last PIAA match Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“I’m not much of a celebration guy,” Crookham said. “I was like, ‘Should I celebrate.’ I don’t know what to do.”
Notre Dame-Green Pond’s Holden Garcia had one that one split-second moment when he wasn’t sure if he should celebrate after his 2-1 victory over returning champion Grant Mackay of Laurel in the 160-pound final.
“It was kind of a miracle there,” the junior said. “I don’t know how I didn’t get pinned there.”
Garcia rotated his shoulders just long enough to avoid the defensive pin and make his third-period takedown stand up. After a check with the official and the score, the three-time state qualifier celebrated like a first-timer.
Wide eyes. Arms raised. Searching for coaches to hug.
Crusaders teammate Brandan Chletsos had a similar reaction after hanging on to top position for the final several seconds against Brookville’s Owen Reinsel, who nearly shook free for the tying escape.
Instead, Chletsos escaped with a 1-0 win and his first state title.
“It’s an awesome feeling finally getting to the top of the podium,” he said. “I really worked my butt off every day in the room.
“Starting in December, I started staying after practice every day to get an extra workout in, an extra lift. I think that’s what got me to where I am today.”
Chletsos leaves with four state medals and a school-record 151 career victories.
It was a banner weekend for Notre Dame-GP, Saucon Valley and Faith Christian.
The Crusaders had at least one state champion for a fourth year in a row, had five medalists and won the team title with 116 points.
The Panthers were second with 99 points and a program-best six medalists. The Lions were third with 68 points and a school-record four on the podium.
“Not a lot of nerves,” Faith Christian coach Ben Clymer said, “just have a lot of gratitude for being able to be on this stage with these guys. It’s awesome.”
Chletsos escaped with 1 minute, 16 seconds left in the second period against Reinsel, who chose bottom to start the third. That’s a bad spot to be for most against the Rutgers-bound Chletsos, who survived a stall warning with 44 seconds left and Reinsel’s late bid to shake free.
Crookham slowed down the pace against Harbor Creek’s Connor Pierce, but not until he secured the lead 20 seconds into the match. He led 3-1 entering the third period, then locked it up with a takedown with 1:21 left.
The Lehigh-bound 138-pound was feeling melancholy about his final match — until he was reminded about the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic later this month in Peters Township (Washington County).
“I’m just really thankful to be in this position,” Crookham said. “I’m thankful to my family and God and Saucon Valley. There’s too many people to thank.”
Garcia lacked confidence at the state’s highest level until he lost in last year’s state semifinal. But he believes what happened after that setback played a significant role in allowing him climb from sixth place in 2022 to the top of podium.
“I had a moment sitting with coach [Matt] Veres on the side rail there,” Garcia recalled. “We didn’t say a word to each other. We just knew that I’d get it done this year.
“I guess it was kind of a vision.”
Saucon Valley junior Jake Jones ran into a buzz saw in Frazier’s Rune Lawrence, who is a two-time state champion as a sophomore after a pin in 4:43 at 172.
Faith Christian’s Eric Alderfer lost 3-0 in the 145-pound final to Montgomery’s Conner Harer, but leaves as a three-time state medalist, the program’s first state finalist and the school’s career wins leader with 135.
Notre Dame-GP’s Ayden Smith beat Saucon Valley’s Cole Hubert for the fifth time in a row this season with a 5-3 win in overtime for third place at 106. Smith survived three back points in the third period. He escaped with 43 seconds left to tie it at 3, then scored early in the 1-minute overtime. The match was closer than the previous four, won 40-5 by Smith. Hubert pinned Smith in the first meeting at the Beast of the East in December.
Faith Christian’s Gauge Botero beat West Perry’s Deven Jackson 7-2 for third place at 113. Botero picked up three near-fall points with 45 seconds left to secure the bronze medal. He finishes his freshman season at 45-7.
Teammates Max Stein (sixth at 132) and Leo Muzika (fifth at 285) rounded out the Lions’ medalists.
Notre Dame-GP’s Evan Maag took fifth at 145 and Garrett Tettemer seventh at 172.
Saucon Valley’s Cael Markle (145), Ty Csencsits (189) and Dante Mahaffey (215) took eighth.
Saucon Valley’s Chad Shirk was named Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association’s Class 2A coach of the year. The Panthers were 24-2 this season with nine state qualifiers, including a program-best six medalists. … Larry Dieter, Danny Gonzalez and C.J. Grammes represented District 11 officials this week and did a stellar job. They are three of our region’s best. … Bishop McDevitt junior Riley Robell won the 285-pound title for his 100th career victory. … Unbeaten finalists were 5-2. Pierce’s first loss came against Crookham. Greenville’s Cole Karpinski lost to Montoursville’s Isaac Cory at 189.
Returning state champions
Returning state champions were 5-3 in the finals.
Northern Lebanon freshman Aaron Seidel knocked off defending champion Louie Gill of Hickory in the 106-pound final.
Wyoming Area’s Jaden Pepe won his second consecutive state title with a dominant 15-4 victory at 120. The junior’s only state loss was in the 2020 quarterfinals to Notre Dame-GP’s Evan Maag.
Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington won his third state title, pinning Bishop McDevitt’s Andrew Christie in 1:45 at 152.
Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer won his third state title with a fall over West Perry’s Brad Morrison. Pitzer had four first-period pins, the last being his 100th of his career among 130 victories. He was voted by the media as the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award. He also won the pinner award (4:13 total time).
Saturday’s PIAA Class 2A Results
Outstanding Wrestler Award – Dayton Pitzer, Mount Pleasant.
Team Scoring 1. Notre Dame Green Pond 116, 2. Saucon Valley 99, 3. Faith Christian 68, 4. Wyoming Area 60, 5. Bishop McDevitt 58, 6. Muncy 55.5, 7. (tie) Montoursville 49.5, Hickory 49.5, 9. Brookville 45.5, 10. (tie) Chestnut Ridge 44, Jersey Shore 44, Saegertown 44.
106 – Aaron Seidel, Northern Lebanon dec. Louie Gill, Hickory, 4-2.
113 – Gavin Bradley, Athens dec. Branden Wentzel, Montoursville, 4-3.
120 – Jaden Pepe, Wyoming major dec. Brock Weiss, Jersey Shore, 15-4.
126 – Scott Johnson, Muncy dec. Mark Palmer, Brockway, 9-2.
132 – Brandan Chletsos, Notre Dame Green Pond dec. Owen Reinsel, Brookville, 1-0.
138 – Ryan Crookham, Saucon Valley dec. Connor Pierce, Harbor Creek, 5-1.
145 – Conner Harer, Montgomery dec. Eric Alderfer, Faith Christian, 3-0.
152 – Jackson Arrington, Forest Hills pinned Andrew Christie, Bishop McDevitt, 1:45.
160 – Holden Garcia, Notre Dame Green Pond dec. Grant MacKay, Laurel, 2-1.
172 – Rune Lawrence, Frazier pinned Jake Jones, Saucon Valley, 4:43.
189 – Isaac Cory, Montoursville dec. Cole Karpinski, Greenville, 5-1.
215 – Dayton Pitzer, Mount Pleasant pinned Brad Morrison, West Perry, 1:07.
285 – Riley Robell, Bishop McDevitt dec. Austin Johnson, Muncy, 5-0.
106 – Ayden Smith, Notre Dame Green Pond dec. Cole Hubert, Saucon Valley, 5-3 SV.
113 – Gauge Botero, Faith Christian dec. Deven Jackson, West Perry, 7-2.
120 – Coen Bainey, Bald Eagle dec. Cooper Hornack, Burrell, 1-0.
126 – Kaden Milheim, Warrior Run major dec. JoJo Przybycien, Fort LeBoeuf, 9-1.
132 – Conner Heckman, Midd-West dec. Mason Barvitskie, Southern Columbia, 1-0.
138 – Anthony Evanitsky, Wyoming dec. Cade Wirnsberger, Meadowbrook Christian, 3-1 SV.
145 – Kaiden Wagner, Lewisburg major dec. Carter Gill, Hickory, 8-0.
152 – Michael Duggan, Boiling Springs dec. Cooper Price, Wyoming, 2-0.
160 – Gannon Smith, Newport dec. Zeke Dubler, Glendale, 3-2.
172 – Nolan Lear, Benton dec. Suds Dubler, Glendale, 2-1.
189 – Haydn Packer, Jersey Shore dec. Patrick Cutchember, Quaker Valley, 3-1 SV.
215 – Nick Woodruff, Wyalusing Valley dec. Abraham Keep, Girard, 4-2 SV.
285 – Emmanuel Ulrich, Mifflinburg pinned Kade Sottolano, Williamson, 1:52.
106 – Parker Sentipal, Burgettstown dec. Carter Beck, Saegertown, 3-1.
113 – Lucas Fye, Bald Eagle dec. Landon Bainey, West Branch, 5-2.
120 – Chris Vargo, Bentworth major dec. Hunter Gould, Conneaut, 12-0.
126 – Dylan Granahan, Benton dec. Charlie Robson, Conwell-Egan, 6-4.
132 – Calan Bollman, Chestnut Ridge dec. Max Stein, Faith Christian, 1-0.
138 – Connor Saylor, Hickory dec. Ambrose Boni, Central Valley, 5-2.
145 – Evan Maag, Notre Dame Green Pond pinned Ty Watson, Penns Valley, 3:15.
152 – Devon Deem, Montgomery dec. Justin Richey, Quaker Valley, 3-0.
160 – Robbie Schneider, Lackawanna Trail major dec. Aiden Zimmerman, Johnsonburg, 12-3.
172 – Garrett Garcia, Southern Columbia pinned Riley Parker, Canton, 2:36.
189 – Landon Caldwell, Saegertown pinned Seth Stewart, Brockway, 1:43.
215 – Hayden Linkerhof, Corry dec. Bryce Rafferty, Brookville, 5-3 SV.
285 – Leo Muzika, Faith Christian pinned Josh Perrine, Saegertown, 2:35.
106 – Major Lewis, Trinity (D-3) dec. Elijah Brosius, Cranberry, 2-0.
113 – Hunter Robison, Saegertown pinned Jack Kazalas, Quaker Valley, 1:55.
120 – Cole Householder, Brookville dec. Logan Richey, Quaker Valley, 3-2.
126 – Eli Bounds, Boiling Springs dec. Gaven Suica, Burgettstown, 5-4.
132 – Jack Martinec, Cochranton dec. Kyle McCollum, Beth-Center, 7-2.
138 – Cameron Milheim, Warrior Run dec. Easton Toth, Forest Hills, 5-4.
145 – Trevor Weyandt, Chestnut Ridge major dec. Cael Markle, Saucon Valley, 11-3.
152 – Hunter Hohman, Grove City dec. Tyler Berish, Beth-Center, 1-0.
160 – Bryant Green, Towanda pinned Christian Hirak, Derry, 4:45.
172 – Garrett Tettemer, Notre Dame Green Pond dec. Caleb Close, Bald Eagle, 3-1 SV.
189 – Jacob Scheib, Tri-Valley major dec. Ty Csencsits, Saucon Valley, 9-0.
215 – Cael Black, Eisenhower dec. Dante Mahaffey, Saucon Valley, 10-7.
285 – Xavier Reyda, Corry pinned Charles Sheppard, Hamburg, 1:52.