HERSHEY — Opening day of the 2016 PIAA Class AA Championships was a good one for the two Curwensville Area High School wrestlers who took to the Giant Center mats Friday.
Senior Shae Bloom, the Northwest Region 152-pound champion who is striving to better his fifth-place finish at 138 last year, won his only match to move into the quarterfinals.
Freshman 106-pounder Blake Passarelli split two bouts, averting early elimination with a shocker of a fall after trailing 8-0 in the consolation first round.
“I’m pretty proud of both boys,” Golden Tide coach Dean Swatsworth said. “We got them through to the second day, and that’s all we could ask.”
Bloom (33-1) had to grind out a 7-0 victory over Saucon Valley senior Nathan Harka, who had advanced out of the pigtail round by defeating South Fayette senior and Southwest Region sixth-placer Ben Previte 5-2.
“Shae had a tough match,” Swatsworth acknowledged. “It was nothing-nothing for quite a while.”
On a restart with 26 seconds left in the second period, Bloom finally made Harka pay for taking the down position by running a bar for a two-point nearfall.
The Golden Tide’s four-time District 9 king reversed in the third period but still found it difficult scoring back points.
“The kid would stand up and Shae would go to a claw-and-crotch lift and return him to his back,” Swatsworth said. “He had him on his back four or five times, but the kid rolled through it.”
Bloom was able to work his bar series for a late nearfall to close out his 25th win in a row.
His opponent in Friday morning’s quarterfinals that get under way at nine o’clock will be Burrell senior Damon Greenwald (40-8). The SW Region runner-up placed seventh last year.
Awaiting the winner in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinals will be Biglerville senior and Southeast Region champ Nate Newberry (37-2) or Huntingdon senior and SW Region third-placer Jon Wagner (42-6). Newberry was seventh at 145 while Wagner was sixth at 160 last March.
Two other NW Region qualifiers are in the bottom of the quarterfinal bracket, Brookville sophomore Caleb Hetrick (29-9) to meet Jeannette junior Gio Vonne Sanders (28-6) and Saegertown senior Nick Monico paired against Ligonier Valley sophomore Robert Patrick (37-2).
Patrick lost in the finals at 145, and Sanders placed sixth. The latter handed Hughesville senior Zach Fry his first loss in 31 matches, 3-2, after winning 12-8 in the pigtail round.
Just when it appeared Passarelli (29-9) might be heading for an early exit, the Golden Tide bantam extended his season with one of the wildest finishes of the 5½-hour session.
Cochranton junior Devan Davis seemed on his way to avenging this season’s three losses to Passarelli by building an 8-0 cushion late in the second period of their consolation first-round match.
“The kid took us down to our back, but he kind of relaxed with about 20 seconds left,” Swatsworth said. “Blake got one arm through, got up to his base, rolled through and caught the kid with a deep half.”
His fall beat the buzzer by one second, but it became official only after the Cochranton coaches challenged that time had run out.
“Words can‘t explain some of the stuff that happens in wrestling,” Swatsworth said. “We kept telling him going into it, ‘You‘ve got to keep wrestling all five minutes. One move and you‘re right in it.
“He didn’t give up.”
Passarelli never got into his offense in his pigtail bout against Benton sophomore Joe Klock as the NE Region runner-up recorded a 17-1 technical fall in 5:38.
“Every time he would stand up and push back, he put his head down, and the kid was so long and lanky he would just cradle him,” Swatsworth said. “It happened three times.
“We told him, ‘Two more wins and you place, but you’ve gotta get that first one before you can get the second one.’”
To secure a medal, Passarelli will have to get past SW sixth-placer Byron Daubert (29-13) of Forest Hills and the loser of the quarterfinal between NE champ Jaret Lane (44-1) of Southern Columbia and SE third-placer Chase Shields (34-7) of Bishop McDevitt.
All but two of District 9’s 22 qualifiers, who combined for a 20-8 record, survived the long session.
Winning their lone bout to reach the quarterfinals along with Bloom were NW Region champions Gavin Park (113) and Taylor Ortz (132) of Brookville, James Duffy (145) of Smethport and BryLee Shumaker (285) of Redbank Valley, runners-up Keelan Kunselman (106), Cole Aaron (138) and Caleb Hetrick (152) of Brookville, Paul Zacherl (160) of Cranberry at 160, Zach Sintobin (195) of Clarion and Ethan Budd (220) of Port Allegany and third-placers Ryan Carlson (120) and Mason Lindenmuth (126) of Brockway.
Still in the medal hunt with Passarelli going into the second round of consolations are NW Region third-placers Mac Tanner (160) of Port Allegany and Noah Cieleski (182) of Brookville and fourth-placers Mitchell Overbeck (113) and Dustin Jamison (138) of Brockway and Tyler Cook (220) of Brookville.
In the team chase, District 9 titlist Brookville emerged as the leader with 28.5 points, three ahead of Huntingdon.
Both teams have five quarterfinalists while the Raiders have two contenders in the consolations to the District 6 champion Bearcats’ one.
Reynolds still is very much in it with three wrestlers in the quarterfinals and four in the consolations. With 20.5 points, the District 10 and NW Region champs are fifth behind Boiling Springs (24.5) and Chestnut Ridge (22).
Eight wrestlers at each weight will return Saturday for the gold medal and place matches starting at 2 p.m.
Complete bracket results courtesy PA-Wrestling.com.: