HERSHEY — Wrestling in his first state tournament as a senior, Carson Kinney didn’t know much about performing under the spotlight of Giant Center.
Luckily, his Hazleton Area teammate Jimmy Hoffman is a four-time state qualifier and gave Kinney some advice.
“I told him before the tournament ‘don’t look at it as the state tournament look at is as you’re in your home gym getting ready for a match,’” Hoffman said.
Said Kinney about Hoffman’s much-appreciated words of wisdom: “It’s a little different stage than (wrestling at home), but you just gotta zone it all out and just stay focused and wrestle your match.”
Kinney had no problems staying away from distractions of the largest crowd he’s wrestled in front of and looked dominant in his state debut beating DuBois’ Dave Henninger 11-3 in the first round of the Class 3A PIAA Championships.
Hoffman joined Kinney as the only two championship-round winners from District 2 in the 3A tournament and both will take part in Friday’s quarterfinals, which are set for 2:15 p.m.
Tunkhannock’s Tommy Traver (132) joins the two Cougars still in medal contention from the Wyoming Valley Conference. Traver lost his first match before winning his consolation-round bout to stave off elimination.
The fourth WVC state qualifier in Class 3A, Dallas’ Xavier Barber (170), dropped both of his matches and saw his stellar career come to an end with 111 career wins.
“I was a little nervous there, but I got through the first match and I’m ready to go (Friday),” said Kinney, who picked up four takedowns in his match and will face Jake Woodley from North Allegheny in the quarterfinals. “I just have to stay focused, keep on my attacks and keep working hard and just wrestle them, and whatever happens happens.”
Coming off being pinned for the first time in his high school career his last time out in the regional final, Hoffman defeated Waynesburg’s Caleb Morris 5-0. Morris tied up with Hoffman in neutral and was tough on his feet blocking shot after shot until Hoffman finally hit a high crotch with 15 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 lead.
Getting an escape in the second period to go ahead 3-0, the two battled again in neutral for most of the third period until 10 seconds were left when Hoffman again found the high crotch and got another two points to solidify the 5-0 win.
“He was definitely a goer, but I felt like my position was a little bit better and was getting better shots, but he definitely pushed the pace towards the end, but I was comfortable with it,” Hoffman said. “There was definitely some butterflies coming in. You’re in the big arena. You’re in the big show now. Getting that first win out of the way now is just a stepping stone to where I need to be.”
With the win, Hoffman, a returning state runner-up will face Wyatt Long from Cumberland Valley in the quarters.
Traver made his state debut in the preliminary round and lost to Penn Trafford’s Job Chishko. The Tunkhannock sophomore registered the early takedown with a headlock, but couldn’t get any back points. Soon after, Chishko got a reversal and two for the near fall to take a 4-2 lead into the second period.
Traver netted another takedown in the second period, but gave up a pair of escapes to account for the rest of points. While on top in the third period, the Tigers’ 132-pounder tried to lock in a cradle, but couldn’t finish as Chishko was hit with a stall call leading to Traver letting him up to try for a takedown.
Facing elimination, Traver faced Morris, who was beaten by Hoffman. And this time, Traver got the headlock in tight twice. The first time, for a five-point move in the first period, Traver took a 5-0 lead. Then in the second period, he hit it again. This time, it was even tighter and he recorded the fall in 2:27.
“The first match, I wasn’t really getting my hips in enough for it (the headlock),” Traver said. “Now, I’m on reboot and trying for third (place). … There’s no other place I’d rather get a win. This is the best place to do it and it’s an awesome place.”
Traver will try to stave off elimination again in the second round of consolations taking on Luke Landefeld from North Alleghney in the round that’s being held the same time as the quarterfinals at 2:15 p.m.
Barber was tied with Ryan Finn of Pottsgrove 3-3 in the third period of his first round bout after getting an escape to start the frame. But about 30 seconds later, Finn got a takedown to take a 5-3 lead with 1:25 to go. Barber got another escape with about 10 seconds left, but a last-gasp shot came up empty.
In his consolation match against Brinton Simington from Altoona, a similar situation occurred when Simington got an escape in the third period to go ahead 3-2. Barber tried for a takedown at the end and ran out of time.
Also from District 2, Scranton’s Willie Evanitsky (145) and Jacob Burgette (152) lost their first round matches before winning their loser’s bracket bouts. Wallenpaupack’s Tyler Neglia (182) dropped a preliminary round bout and his consolation round match and was eliminated.