Wallenpaupack Area hosted its first-ever Lackawanna League tournament and now set for individual districts
Of the four teams battling for this year's tournament title, one was by far the crowd favorite.
And, why not?
After all, Wallenpaupack Area was hosting its first-ever Lackawanna League event and the Buckhorns were making a run for the podium at just about every weight class.
Delaware Valley, West Scranton and Scranton may have been slightly favored, but the hometown fans were roaring their support as each Paupack wrestler strode onto a mat.
By the time it was all over, the Bucks had battled their way to a solid third place finish.
They trailed only the Warriors and Invaders in the overall team standings.
“It's been a pretty good day,” veteran head coach Steve Krushnowski said with a smile. “It could've been better, but third place is nothing to sneeze at.”
Honesdale and Western Wayne also competed at Sunday's tournament, which had been postponed 24 hours due to yet another spate of wintry weather.
The Hornets wound up sixth with 66 points, while the Wildcats closed out the day eighth (61 pts).
As has been the case for the majority of the 2013-14 season, Chase Gallike and Jared Wehrmann paced the Paupack attack.
Gallik earned an opening round by at 132 pounds, then posted back-to-back pins en route to the finals and a much-anticipated showdown with Delaware Valley's Jalen Palmer.
“I was really fired-up because we had so many people here cheering for us,” Gallik said. “It was an awesome feeling out there. I knew it was going to be a great match.”
And, so it was.
Palmer took Gallik down four times during regulation, but had to let him up each time because he simply couldn't hold him there.
So, when Chase tallied a takedown of his own, the score was tied and overtime an inevitability.
“I knew he was getting tired,” he said. “Every time I'd pick up the pace, he would go right to the out of bounds line. He was just out of gas and I wasn't.”
Chase wasted no time in the extra period.
He went on the offensive right away and ... before the crowd even had a chance to react ... Gallik had another takedown.
That wasn't enough, though. Chase wanted the pin and he went for it.
“Once I got him on his back, I could feel him just give up,” Gallik said. “I knew I had it.”
The fall came just :27 into OT and Paupack fans erupted in pandemonium.
“What a great match!” Coach Krushnowski exclaimed. “This is going to be Chase's year. I can feel it.”
On the Dais
Wehrmann was every bit as impressive on his way to the gold medal at 182.
Jared also drew a first round bye, then clamped two straight opponents on his way to the final.
There, Wehrmann ran roughshod over Scranton's Isaiah Burgette, hammering out an 11-5 win and earning a gold medal.
These two wrestlers have trained together in the off-season and squared off during the regular season.
Despite this familiarity, Wehrmann had no illusions about his on-mat mission.
“You have to put aside your emotions and just go out there and take care of business,” Jared said.
“He's good on defense and I expected that we'd be wrestling a lot of neutral. I wish I'd done a little bit better on top, but I guess I'l take it.”
Both Wehrmann and Gillik are rapidly closing in on 100 wins for their varsity careers. However, the raw numbers pale in comparison to their ultimate goal.
“Getting to states and possibly placing is all I'm thinking about,” said Jared. “That's why we work so hard all year.”
Over & Out
Six other Buckhorns also found their way to the podium Sunday evening.
Todd Frick battled his way to a silver medal at 170, losing only to DV's Colin Irwin in the final.
Jake Haupt posted a runner-up finish at 195, falling to Matt Wagner of DV in the title tilt.
Kyle Hartman advanced all the way to the 220-pound final before coming up just short against Jason Manning of West Scranton.
Kenny Roman bounced back from a loss to capture bronze at heavyweight. The senior pinned Blue Ridge's Evan Aldrich in the consolation match.
Andrew Demchuk copped a third place finish as well, dealing Brett Toth of Western Wayne a 6-5 loss in the 120-pound final.
Chad Sives claimed fourth place at 152, losing to Valley View's Matt Judge in his last bout.