BETHLEHEM — Like many wrestlers, Cole Dixon’s career didn’t start the right way.
As a freshman for Dallas, Dixon struggled with a losing record, taking his lumps along the way, dropping matches to multiple state qualifiers that season.
Slowly but surely he started to turn those setbacks into victories. As a sophomore, he turned in a third-place finish in the District 2 Class 3A Tournament and followed that with a second-place medal as a junior. He claimed his first district gold two weeks ago and then grabbed second at the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament March 4-5.
Now, the 182-pound senior finds himself needing just one win at this week’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships to reach the 100-win milestone. With wrestling tough competition throughout his career, including last weekend at regionals, Dixon knows that will help him in his first state tournament and in his quest for the career milestone.
“I needed to get to states because I’m at 99 wins and was hoping to pull that one out (the regional final) that would be pretty cool, but I guess I’ll have to get it at states,” Dixon said. “It’s very important wrestling these guys, getting great competition, going three periods. It helps you out, you’ll learn what you have to do in the third period to win.”
Dixon was the only participant of five from Dallas to advance to the state tournament, which was held Thursday through Saturday, March 10-12, at Hershey’s Giant Center. He punched his ticket early last weekend when he won his semifinal bout topping Dieruff’s Jayen Reyes, 5-4. Dixon fended off several late shot attempts by Reyes to hang on for the win after being called for a stall call and giving up a point.
In the final, Dixon and Bethlehem Catholic’s Adam Soldridge were tied at 3-3 in the third period after Dixon got a takedown with 1:12 left. But Soldridge got an escape a few seconds later then stayed away for a 4-3 win. It was Dixon’s first loss in more than two months and he starts the state tourney with a record of 39-2.
“You learn from your losses and it’s alright, it doesn’t affect me, I’ll come back from it,” Dixon said March 5. “I’m gonna come in the room on Monday and I’m gonna work and I’m gonna learn from this loss and come back at states.”
Dixon’s first round opponent at states is scheduled to be Chambersburg junior Drew Peck, who has a mark of 35-5. He needs to win two matches to win a medal and mark the third straight year that Dallas has had a medalist. Ryan Monk finished third last year and was sixth in 2014.
Mountaineers junior Xavier Barber went 2-2 in the regional event, but both of his losses were close. In the 160-pound quarterfinals, he lost to second-seeded Luke Ratchford from LaSalle, 11-6, but Ratchford hit a big move late to secure the win.
After winning his first consolation match, Barber wrestled Jesse Rocco from Bangor and lost in three overtimes, 5-4.
The Mountaineers also had three freshmen participating in the tourney, and showing promise. Steven Newell (152 pounds) won two matches, but also lost two to finish out of the running for a medal. Alec Sampson (132) got off to a good start winning his first match via fall, but lost his next two and was eliminated. Kade Kravits (113) lost his only two bouts of the tournament.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant