Local trio embarks on state wrestling championships with high expectations
Three Warren County wrestlers will take the mat at the Giant Center in Hershey today with a chance to win the ultimate prize in high school wrestling.
A state championship.
Sheffield’s Ethan Finch and Eisenhower’s Logan Jaquay and Cael Black are all headed back to the PIAA AA State Tournament for the second consecutive season-Jaquay’s third straight trip. All three are hoping their previous experience pays dividends this weekend.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s just another tournament,” Jaquay said. “So you can’t look up. You’ve got to focus center mat and just wrestle how you wrestle every other match. We’ve prepared all year for it. I think we’re ready.”
Both Finch and Black said it’s easy to get caught up in the size of the state tournament for first-time qualifiers.
“(You’ve got to) focus on not getting distracted by the big stage,” Finch said.
“It’s a big place when you walk in,” Black added. “You’re on the floor and you kind of get star struck looking at everything. Looking at all these guys that are top-ranked guys in the nation and they’re wrestling right next to you. But you’ve got to keep your focus and get your job done.”
The trio has certainly gotten the job done so far this season. All have amassed at least 30 wins thus far and made it to their respective district title matches. Jaquay enters the state tournament as the Northwest Region AA champion, while Black and Finch each took third at regionals.
Still, they know the state tournament has a way of getting to even the best wrestlers.
“It’s the state tournament, so a lot of people look at it as this big ol’ thing,” Jaquay said. “And the next thing you know, they’re nervous and they’re wrestling different and they’re not focused. I went to states when I was little and it always star struck me. But my sophomore year, there was something about it that it felt like I was meant to be there and I think the result showed.”
Jaquay found himself on the podium that year. Both he and Finch were a win away from earning a state medal last season, and having been so close a year ago has had a driving influence this season.
“Its driven me a lot,” Finch said. “Knowing you are that close only to fall short gives me the confidence and the desire to get on the top of the podium this year.”
In addition to striving to reach their own goals, the three will also be keeping an eye on what the others are doing as well.
“I try to watch as much of them as I can,” Finch said. “I want them to succeed just as much as myself. If wrestling remains strong in the county everybody benefits.”
That mindset, they said, speaks to the uniqueness of the wrestling community.
“The wrestling community is the best community to be a part of,” Black said. “It’s a brotherhood. You meet so many people and you all have the same mindset. You’re going to go out there and wrestle tough and you want to be there and you want to be competing, especially at the state tournament.”
“Doing all the traveling that we’ve done, the guys that we’ve met, it’s unique because half of my friends I probably wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for wrestling,” Jaquay added. “You’re with these guys every week, you’re training with them all the time. You create a bond.”
For Finch, a junior, and Black, a sophomore, they’ll be looking to add a state medal to their resume for the first time with the hopes of adding more. Jaquay already has one state medal to his name, but knows this is his last opportunity to shine at the high school level and wants to go out on a high note.
“It’s my last tournament,” he said. “I’ve got to leave it all out there and just wrestle the best that I’ve ever wrestled.”
Here’s a brief look at each of their brackets:
120: Logan Jaquay (SR, Eisenhower, 37-1, Northwest Region champ)
Jaquay draws a bye into the first round and will face the winner between Line Mountain’s Blake Wirt (SR, 39-10, Northeast-4) and Saucon Valley’s Travis Riefenstahl (FR, 28-18, Southeast-5). If Jaquay advances to the quarterfinals, he’ll face the winner of the first round match between Huntingdon’s Roland Mills (SR, 38-6, Southwest-2) and Faith Christian’s Eric Alderfer (SO, 35-6, Southeast-3). Troy’s Sheldon Seymour (SR, 35-1, Northeast-1) is the defending state champion and looms as a potential semifinal matchup.
182: Ethan Finch (JR, Sheffield, 30-9, Northwest-3)
Finch will open with a first round match against Quaker Valley’s Patrick Cutchember (SO, 37-9, Southwest-2). The winner moves on to the quarterfinals where they’ll face the winner between Dylan Bennett (JR, Montoursville, 36-0, Northeast Region champ) and Alec Snyder (SR, Wilson Area, 32-9, Southeast-4)/Myles Baney (JR, Huntingdon, 30-10, Southwest-6). On the other end of the bracket is Southwest Region champ Austin Walley (SR, Ellwood City, 41-1) the No. 15 wrestler in the country according to Intermat and a Bucknell commit.
220: Cael Black (SO, Eisenhower, 34-7, Northwest-3)
Black has a first round matchup with Wyalusing’s Jackson Chilson (SR, 30-7, Northeast-2). The winner gets a quarterfinal match with either Duane Knisely (SR, Chestnut Ridge, 39-3, Southwest Region champ) or Devyn Clair (SR, Bishop McDevitt, 25-11, Southeast-4)/John Wolfe (JR, Jefferson Morgan, 25-14, Southwest-6). Knisely is a Penn State track and field commit. Black is one of just two underclassmen in the 220-pound bracket. The other is Pen Argyl freshman Aiden Compton (27-10, Southeast-5).