WILKES-BARRE — The old adage in sports is that it’s hard to beat somebody three times in a season.
For a pair of Hazleton Area wrestlers on Saturday in the finals of the District 2 Class 3A Wrestling Championships that was proven and refused.
The Cougars’ Chris Lasecki defeated Tunkhannock’s Tommy Traver in the 126-pound final beating the Tiger freshman for the first time in three tries this season. Some time later, Carson Kinney defeated Tunkhannock’s Sam Rice for the third time this season to pick up his first district title in the 195-pound final.
“I don’t care what sport it is, I agree with it that it’s hard, especially close matches,” Hazleton Area coach Keith Maurer said. “Mentally, I know it’s tough to wrestle two, three times in a season and continually beat him, especially the caliber of kids you’re dealing with.”
The Hazleton Area duo were two of five champions from the Wyoming Valley Conference being joined by Wyoming Valley West freshman David Krokowski (106), Tunkhannock’s Bill Manley (145) and Dallas’ Cole Dixon (182).
Lasecki and Kinney also helped put a damper on Tunkhannock’s try at its first district team title in 31 years. The Tigers had five finalists, but four came up short as they finished a distant second to team champion Scranton, which scored 244 points, just a half point shy of the tournament record; Tunkhannock tallied 191 points.
Lasecki, a returning state qualifier and district champion from last season, didn’t seem to have much trouble with the freshman Traver after the first period. Being tied after the first period, Lasecki hit a four-point move in the second period to take the lead en route to the 11-6 victory.
“Not really much because I didn’t really wrestle well,” Lasecki said when he’s learned from Traver in previous losses. “But I’ve seen him wrestle a couple times in this tournament and just watched him.”
Kinney and Rice wrestled twice before during the season but both previous times were close. Saturday’s final was close as well, and Rice took a 1-0 lead into the third period. But while on bottom, Kinney escaped then quickly hit a takedown and caught Rice on his back for the fall in 4:14.
“He knows me. He knows what I like. He was prepared this time. I couldn’t get my shots going, but I wrestled him well and got the victory,” Kinney said. “I just exploded, got up to my feet and he pushed into me and then I just caught him.”
Krokowski got the WVC off to a good start by defeating the No. 1 seed in the 106-pound bracket, Abington Heights senior Noah Sirianni. The Abington standout led 2-0 after the first period, but a quick reversal by Krokowski in the second tied it up at 2-2. In the third period, Krokowski hit a takedown, then had Sirianni on his back but the Comet called for time and avoided a possible fall, but that just fired up Krokowski, who tried to stay calm.
“I just wanted to keep my head throughout the match,” Krokowski said. “He’s a senior and I’m a freshman and he had more strength than me. So I just wanted to outslick him and keep momentum on my side.
“It’s pretty cool being district champion as a freshman.”
Dixon and Wallenpaupack’s Todd Frick were locked in perhaps the most entertaining bout of the final. In a battle of two wrestlers with just one loss, Frick held a 2-1 lead in the second period, but Dixon forced overtime with the score knotted at 3-3.
That’s when Dixon fought off a few shots and nailed one of his own for a takedown about midway through the overtime period to notch the victory and his first district title.
“I just knew I had to go and that I was running out of time for it all to come down and I just got it,” Dixon said. “He’s a tough wrestler and when he countered that first move in the first period I was a little shooken up, but I recovered and came back, took him down again. And then OT came and took him down.”
Manley was part of five close championship matches for the Tigers winning 5-4 over West Scranton’s Jimmy Forsette to claim his first D2 gold. Being tied 3-3 in the third period, Manley got a takedown then let Forsette up and fended off shots for the win.
“We’ve been saying for the past month that he’s really, really picked up his game,” Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty said. “He wrestled some top-notched kids at New Oxford and he’s been wrestling really good since then.”
Joining Traver and Rice as runners-up from the Tigers were Mike Manley at 152 and Dalton Ray at 160. They were all tough losses, but Hegedty, who picked up the 3A WVC Sportsmanship Award and the District 2 Coach of the Year Award, sees the silver lining for his grapplers.
“We’ve told our kids from the beginning is that if you place in the top four you move on,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you get there cuz weird things happen as you go down that road. We get to regionals and get different styles and who knows what’s going to happen down there.”
Hazleton Area junior Jimmy Hoffman was dealt his first district setback in his three-year career losing to Scranton’s Rui Evanitsky, 1-0 in the 132-pound final. It was the second time in the span of three weeks that Evanitsky defeated Hoffman in a close match.
“That’ll be another one, if they wrestle again next week, I don’t know where we’ll be at there,” Maurer said. “I don’t think we wrestled our best, but Jimmy’s a proven champ. He’ll work hard this week and he’ll come back looking to take top four next weekend (to get to states).”