Joey King

Maplewood’s Joey King (right) works against Brookville’s Nathan Taylor in the 220 title bout at the PIAA AA Northwest Regional Tournament, Saturday.

SHARON – Last March as a junior, Titusville’s Seth Donovan sat as a Giant Center spectator cheering his friend and teammate Hunter Thompson on his way to the school’s first state medal in five years.

Although thrilled for his practice partner, he yearned for his own chance to compete on the state’s biggest stage after coming up a couple points short at the PIAA Class AA NW Regional Tournament at Sharon High School a year ago.

Now, he gets that chance after a fourth-place finish at 126 pounds, and he joins Maplewood 220-pound runner-up Joey King (220) as the only two wrestlers from The Herald’s coverage area who’s seasons didn’t come to an end in one of the strongest AA regionals in Pennsylvania that concluded Saturday.

The top four in each weight class qualified for the state tournament, set to begin Wednesday.

This marks the second trip to Hershey for King, who suffered only his fourth loss of the season in his defeat to Brookville’s Nathan Taylor in the finals. The junior Tiger fulfilled his wish to return to Hershey while Donovan did what he needed to make sure his season would not end for the second-straight season on the mats at the Mercer County school.

“He set a goal to make it here and started working on it right after last year,” Titusville coach Joel Stearns said of Donovan, who takes a 39-6 ledger to Hershey. “He did all the right things and his work paid off.”

The senior bounced back from a tough semifinal loss and punched his ticket to Chocolate Town with a convincing 7-2 win over Mercer’s Carson Filer in the consolation semifinals. With his season already extended, Donovan battled Port Allegany’s Brendon Johnson for third, but lost 3-2.  The Rocket senior almost turned the tide on the Gator, who upset Thompson here in 2019.

“It’s just about advancing, like coach told me,” said Donovan, who earlier this season eclipsed the 100-win mark. “I’m not happy about coming in fourth; wanting to get that third place. It was a tough loss.”

He hopes to be somewhat “under the radar” in Hershey as he knows he’ll face wrestlers who are ranked. “I feel better wrestling about (higher ranked wrestlers) because I like being the underdog” Donovan added. “I’d rather be in that situation than being the guy that everyone is trying to knock off.”

King entered the tournament coming off a wild match at districts, after which the Tiger needed shots in his arm to treat an injury that led to his opponent’s disqualification. The junior showed no ill effects, and used a nifty go-behind move in overtime to defeat Reynolds’ Evan Miller to win his semifinal match that ensured his return to the Giant Center.

The Tiger had his best chance in the finals against Taylor nearly hitting on single-leg takedown for back points after giving up an early takedown. Unfortunately for him, the points didn’t come and he didn’t get many more chances as Taylor, ranked as high as fourth in state wrestling publications, scored a 12-2 major. King enters states at 31-4.

“It was good for him to see that caliber of a kid right now before states. We know what we need to do for next week,” said Maplewood coach John Parker. “The score looked worse than what it was; Joey was in that match. He could have got a couple of back points (in the second). We need to stop those (low moves) from kids like that.”

King also thought he can benefit from seeing such high-caliber competition before even stepping foot under the big lights in Hershey.

“He was strong in neutral and a really good wrestler. I wasn’t on my best game,” King said. “I got taken down three times, and I usually don’t get taken down. On top, I wasn’t as good as normal.”

Like Donovan, he aims to learn from the experience before he enters the circle again later this week, adding “I’m just going to put all of my sorrows into the practice room and try to get better before states.”

Unfortunately for all the other Rockets and Tiger who trekked to Sharon for the second-straight week, their seasons came to abrupt ends.

All lost in the early semifinal rounds as Rocket seniors Jarrod Rodgers (152), Levi Nosko (182) and Gage Sutton (285) saw their last action in the Brown and Gold. Rocket Joe Jacobson (220) was the lone THS junior at the event, and his season concluded with a loss in the second consolation round.

“This is a tough AA regional,” Stearns said. “A lot of seasons end for good kids here.”

Rodgers concludes his last season in Brown and Gold at 26-13, and entered regions banged up after injuring his elbow in the D-10 tournament that forced him to default his last match. He leaves THS with a section title as a junior and a Fred Bell title his senior year.

Nosko finished 25-18 and made it to this level after a rough section tournament a year ago. “He got a lot better from last year,” Stearns said.

Sutton came up a couple wins short of a chance for a shot at states, and the senior completed his first and only year on the varsity at 23-15. Stearns said the junior Jacobson, who finished 26-16 and two wins from qualifying for states, can take many positives out of this experience.

“He can be a top guy (next year) if he puts the time in,” Stearns said.

Maplewood’s Steven Heme (285) was the other Tiger qualifier, and his season ended in the second round of consolations via a 5-1 setback to Redbank Valley’s Kobe Bonnano. Earlier, the senior rebounded from a Friday loss in the quarterfinals with a pin over Youngsville’s Jake DeSimone in his first match Saturday. The Tiger concluded his senior campaign at 26-18.

After dominating the team race at districts, state team dual champ Reynolds had six finalist and ran away with team race with 187 points. Brookville at 129.5 was second, leading a total of five District 9 teams that placed in the top 10.

Placing after the Blue Raiders were D-9 entrants Johnsonburg (3rd, 84), Brockway (4th, 71) and Kane (61) that rounded out the top five. The D-10’s next-best team finish was Saegertown (6th, 59.5), followed by General McLane (7th, 57). Redbank Valley (8th, 46) and Port Allegany (9th, 42) rounded out the D-9 teams, while Corry capped the top-10 with 41.

Thanks to King’s wins, MHS edged THS in the team race at 21st. The Rockets finished 24rd as nearly 40 schools total had wrestlers in the tournament.

Team scores and key

1. Reynolds (Rey) 187, 2. Brookville (Bv) 129.5, 3. Johnsonburg (Jo) 84, 4. Brockway (Bw) 71, 5. Kane (K) 61, 6. Saegertown (Sae) 59.5, 7. General McLane (GM) 57, 8. Redbank Valley (RV) 46, 9. Port Allegany (PA) 42, 10. Corry (Cor) 41, 11. Mercer (Me) 39, 12. Eisenhower (E) 37.5, T13. Greenville (Gr) and Sharon (Shr) 35, 15. Cambridge Springs (CS) 34.5, 16. Cochranton (Coc) 33, 17. Girard (Gi) 31, 18. Harbor Creek (HC) 30.5, 19. Hickory (Hi) 30, 20. Jamestown (Ja) 29, 21. Maplewood (Ma) 25, T22. Commodore Perry (CP) and Fort LeBoeuf (FLB) 20, T24. Curwensville (Cur), Ridgway (Rid) and Titusville (T) 19, T27. Conneaut (Con), Sheffield (She), and Union City (UC) 16, 30. Grove City (GC) 15.5, 31. Seneca (Sen) 14, 32. Lakeview (L) 13, 33. West Middlesex (WM) 10, T34. Franklin (Fr) and Slippery Rock (SR) 9, 36. Coudersport (Cou) 4, 37. Youngsville (Y) 3, T38. Clarion (Cla),                  Northwestern (N), Oswayo Valley (OV);       and Sharpsville (Spv) 0.      

Championship bouts

106 – Cayden Walter (Bv) dec. Kane Kettering (Rey), 6-4. 113 – Gary Steen (Rey) dec. Owen Reinsel (Bv), 5-0. 120 – Logan Jaquay (E) pinned Cole Bayless (Rey), 4:47. 126 – Connor Pierce (HC) dec. Alex Kightlinger (Sae), 7-0. 132 – Anthony Glasl (Bw) dec. Kaeden Berger (Rey), 6-1. 138 – Kenny Kiser (Sae) pinned Zach Holland (Cur), 3:59. 145 – Ethan Wiant (RV) dec. Jackson Spires (GM), 10-5. 152 – Sully Aaron (Shr) pinned Aiden Zimmerman (Jo), 3:24. 160 – Gage Musser (CO) dec. Cole Casilio (Jo), 3-1. 170 – Teddy Race (K) dec. Cole Karpinski (Gv), 3-0. 182 – Bryce McCloskey (Rey) dec. Cameron Whisner (K), 2-0. 195 – Braydon Herbster (Rey) pinned Marshall Vantassel (UC), 5:42. 220 – Nathan Taylor (Bv) major dec. Joey King (Ma), 12-2. 285 – Colby Whitehill (Bv) pinned Jordan Schell (Gi), 2:53.

Third-place bouts

106 – Lucas Munsee (Cor) dec. Mitchell Headley (Ja), 6-3. 113 – Bryent Johnson (PA) dec. Connor Saylor (Hi), 2-1. 120 – Brayden Kunselman (Bv) dec. Chase McLaughlin (Ja), 4-2. 126 – Braedon Johnson (PA) dec. Seth Donovan (T), 3-2. 132 – Carter Gill (Hi) dec. Matt Leehan (GM), 3-2. 138 – Ayden Miller (CS) dec. Dalton Stahl (Jo), 8-2. 145 – Alex Chess (Me) dec. Joel Huck (FLB), 6-4. 152 – Owen Jefferson (Se) dec. Jack Rimpa (FLB), 6-4. 160 – Daiveon Say (GC) tech fall Noah Bash (Bw), 16-1. 170 — Cole Toy (Rey) pinned Holden Cook (Fr), 3:33. 182 – Ethan Finch (She) dec. Vito Pilosi (SR), 3-2. 195 – Eric Johnson (Bw) pinned Trevor Tursky (Con), 0:28. 220 – Cael Black (E) dec. Evan Miller (Rey), 3-2. 285 – Rocco John-Daniello (Rey) pinned Kobe Bonnano (RV), 4:12.

Fifth-place bouts

106 – Alex Bechakas (K) pinned Wyatt Shaffer (Jo), 1:40. 113 – Gunnar Gage (GM) pinned Blayke Knauf (Gre), 2:47. 120 – Jack Martinec (Coc) pinned Justin O’Neil (WM), 0:23. 126 – Carson Filer (Me) by forfeit over Liam Foore (Rey). 132 – Nolan Shaffer (Jo) dec. Jaden Reagle (Sae), 2-1. 138 – Eli Petruzzi (PA) by forfeit over Alex Ischo (Rey). 145 – Kaden Dennis (Jo) pinned Nick Dignall (Sha), 4:08. 152 – Jacob Wickett (Rid) dec. Stetson Boozer (Coc), 3-2. 160 – Landon Caldwell (Sae) major dec. Abraham Keep (Gi), 13-4. 170 – Eli Mosconi (CS) dec. James Laird (GM), 5-4. 182 – Tyler Watts (Jo) by forfeit over Elliot Park (Bv). 195 – Hayden Linkerhof (Cor) dec. Logan Conner (Me), 4-2. 220 – Isaac DeVault (L) dec. Ray Shreckengost (RV), 3-0. 285 – Gavin Thompson (Bw) pinned Jacob Kunselman (Rig), 3:38.

Herald Sports Editor Zack Borland contributed to this report.

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