First Posted: 3/2/2014
Ryan Monk was a spectator at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Wrestling Championships as a Dallas freshman and sophomore.
“I was there my freshman year and I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to make it here one day,’” Monk said. “Then last year, I said, ‘I’m going to be there next year.’”
As he watched, however, Monk realized how strong the competition was and what it would take to be among those competing in Hershey.
Monk did not need a ticket this week because of his performance at the Class AAA Northeast Regional Feb. 28 and March 1.
Once he secured his spot at Giant Center, there was still work to be done.
Monk, who clinched his state berth by reaching the regional final, went out and added a title to leave Liberty High School in Bethlehem as the only champion from District 2 in an event dominated annually by District 11 wrestlers from the Lehigh Valley.
“You can’t substitute anything for gold,” said Monk, who set himself up with more favorable state pairings by landing the higher seeding that goes with being a regional champion. “I wouldn’t have been happy with second.
“It was good to know I was going to Hershey but I wanted to take that extra step.”
After reaching the final with consecutive second-period pins, Monk won the title with a 3-2 decision over Nazareth’s Brandon Lance.
Monk held on at the end, wrestling conservatively over the final 1:20 to protect what had been a 3-1 lead.
“At that point, I wrestled smart,” said Monk, who took a 2-1 lead late in the second period with a takedown and added to it with an escape in the third. “I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.”
Monk ultimately gave up a stalling point but never feared he was close to giving up another.
“I thought he had a chance to win the tournament,” Dallas coach Mike Richards said. “But thinking it and doing it are two different things.”
Teammate Connor Martinez had a more dramatic conclusion in a bout he had to win to give Dallas state-qualifying teammates for the first time in a quarter century.
Needing a win in the 170-pound consolation final for third place and a state berth, Martinez was awarded a takedown over Noah Klingborg of Bethlehem Liberty with about a second left for a 3-1 victory. Match officials then conferred, leaving Richards thinking they might overrule the call and send the bout into overtime, only to confirm that Martinez had scored in time for the win.
Martinez finished 5-1 in the tournament and saved himself a potential grueling Saturday by pinning three straight consolation bracket opponents to finish with four pins in 10:26. His only loss came in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Monk and Martinez led a strong effort by Dallas, which was ninth in the 49-team field and second-best among District 2 entries behind only Wyoming Valley West. Monk arrived in Hershey needing one win for 100 in his career.
Dallas wrestlers went a combined 12-5 at the tournament with all four qualifiers winning at least twice. Cole Dixon (182) and Dominic Oliveri (195) each went 2-2. Dixon’s two losses were both by decision. Oliveri was eliminated by injury default.
Lake-Lehman also returned from the Class AA Northeast Regional in Williamsport with a champion and a second state tournament qualifier.
The District 2 champion Black Knights tied for ninth out of 37 teams and led all teams from the district.
Austin Harry won his third straight regional title putting him in Hershey for the fourth time. The West Point Prep recruit spent this week trying to add a third state medal to the fourth-place finish from last year and eighth-place finish from 2012.
Harry won the 132-pound title while junior Derek Dragon earned the chance to join him at states by taking third at 170 pounds.
Three straight decisions over District 4 opponents led to Harry’s title. After a major decision on opening night, he fought past Wyalusing’s Collin Edsell, 4-1, and Montoursville’s Keith Batkowski, 4-2.
Dragon finished third at 170 by beating Danville’s David Burke in the quarterfinals and the consolation finals. After starting the tournament with a 6-2 win, Dragon clinched his state berth by taking the rematch, 5-4.
Bobby Wright (160) and Brady Butler (182) each went 1-2. Wright’s bouts were all decided by pins and Butlers were all decided by decisions.
Freshman Rodney Driscoll lost in the first two rounds at 113.
Tunkhannock joined Dallas at the Class AAA regional but was unable to get any of its three wrestlers through to states.
Ben Siegel won twice at 145 pounds before being eliminated. Sophomores Jake Richards (120) and Dakota Quick (126) each lost their first two bouts.