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Eight from WVC move to semis

Three sets of teammates among those who’s title hopes are still alive.

Tyler Cowman of Wyoming Valley West wrestles David King of Nazareth in the 285-pound match at Freedom High School on Friday.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

Kris Gratalo of Pittston Area wrestles Robert Yocum of Pocono Mountain in the 171-pound match at Freedom High School on Friday.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

BETHLEHEM – Believe it or not, Shane Gavrish and Dave Ryncavage used to be drill partners in elementary school.

Now, separated by nearly 80 pounds, that seems highly unlikely.

Whoever the two practice with now in the room is irrelevant. The only stat that matters is that the Vallley West duo has advanced to the semifinals of the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament at Freedom High School.

“It’s exciting to be moving on with Dave because we have been wrestling together for so long,” Gavrish said.

Gavrish (130) and Ryncavage (215) are one of three pairs of teammates from the Wyoming Valley Conference to move on to the semis.

Hazleton Area’s Pat LaBuz (152) and Jared Kay (160) also advanced, as did Pittston Area teammates Matt McAndrew (119) and Kris Gratalo (171).

Crestwood’s Jake O’Hara (145) and Coughlin 160-pounder Josh Popple round out the eight from the WVC in today’s semifinals at 11 a.m.

Gavrish advanced and won just his second match at the tournament in his career by defeating Easton’s Patrick Corpora, 3-2 in the quarterfinals. He now faces reigning PIAA champion Cortland Choate (45-6) in the semis.

“I have to give it my all and give it everything I got. I have to make him earn everything he gets,” Gavrish added. “I am a little nervous but it’s a double-elimination. So even if I lose, I still have a chance to get to states by taking third.”

LaBuz, Gratalo and Ryncavage are the only three in the elite eight to advance by getting a fall in the quarters. And all were in the first period with Ryncavage’s being the quickest in 56 seconds.

“This is the part of season I worked all year for so you have to go all out and give it 100 percent,” LaBuz said when asked about his quick fall.

Possibly the most exciting match of the quarters, consisting of WVC participants was Popple’s bout against Allen’s Justin Quaye.

The Coughlin sophomore was trailing 4-3 afer two periods. But he had his choice to start the third and, like he always does, he chose top.

From that point forward, he knew the match was his since he wrestles best in the top position.

“I’m always a late start. I don’t know why. I always seem to get off to a slow start. But I try to keep my head in it because I start late and just know I got a lot more time and have to catch up,” said Popple, who went on to scored seven points in the final period to pull out a 10-4 win. “I was so happy to get on top. I love being on top and then that turned things around.”

McAndrew advanced by defeating Shikellany’s Joe Zoda, 10-6 in the quarters after a 6-4 overtime win versus Northampton’s Jason Stephen in the preliminary round.

Gratalo was the only other WVC grappler to win twice on Friday. He beat Pocono Mountain West’s Robert Yocum, 11-5 in the pigtail round, before pinning Williamsport’s Steve Eck in 1:26 in the quarters.

O’Hara, who along with Gavrish are the only two from the conference with just one loss, defeated Ryan Kisslinger, from Liberty, 9-2 to move on.

An upset from the first day had Valley West 285-pounder Tyler Cowman fall in the quarters to Easton’s Justin Grant, 3-2 in a thrilling last-second scramble. Hazleton Area’s Mark Uliano (119), who was a state qualifier last season and entered as the top seed in his bracket, also fell in the quarters.

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