BETHLEHEM — Even though his hand wasn’t raised at the end of the night, David Evans was the last wrestler standing in his conference.
The Tunkhannock sophomore did what no one in the Wyoming Valley Conference, and only one other wrestler in District 2, could Saturday — win his semifinal and advance to a regional championship bout at Bethlehem Liberty.
Evans kept trying to fight back but wound up losing to Bethlehem Catholic freshman Matt Mayer, the champion from District 11, in a 14-12 decision.
That was almost beside the point, though, because the 106-pounder had already guaranteed a spot in the PIAA tournament.
Posting the top finish in District 2 along with West Scranton runner-up Jeremy Seymour, Evans was one of 13 wrestlers in the district to place top-four at the Northeast Regional Class 3A tournament and qualify for the upcoming state tournament.
Evans finished the day with the best finish of the five Tunkhannock wrestlers competing in regionals on the day.
Junior Tommy Traver (132) and senior Sam Rice (220) narrowly missed a ticket to states with a fifth-place finish, while seniors David Gavek (106) and Connor Munley (182) fell in the consolation quarterfinals.
Evans joins fourth-place finishers David Krokowski (126 pounds) of Valley West and Steven Newell (170) of Dallas, and consolation finalists Shane Noonan (195) of Hazleton Area and Shane O’Rourke (220) of Crestwood as representatives of the WVC at states.
All five are first-time qualifiers.
“I’m pumped. Really happy,” Evans said after his qualifying-round victory. “I worked out really hard during the offseason and I got what I wanted, (what) I was hoping for. It’s a great feeling.”
The regional was postponed Friday and compressed to a daylong, one-day schedule.
Wrestlers are allowed up to only five bouts in a day, though, so the majority of the third- and fifth-place matches were moved to 10 a.m. this morning.
“I don’t think that affected us too much,” Tunkhannock head coach Bob Hegedty said. “I thought our guys wrestled well down there, with all five at least winning two matches. We wrestled the best we could.”
Evans, this year’s WVC and D2 champion who lost both of his bouts in last year’s regionals, nearly rallied to add another gold medal on his way to states, which starts Thursday in Hershey.
He started the morning as the top seed and kept moving toward the night’s finals with a 9-5 decision over Bethlehem Liberty junior Tal-Reese Flemming and a 9-2 decision over Emmaus junior Peyton Brown.
“When I came here last year, I got manhandled. The kids were a lot stronger than me. I sort of realized that the hard way,” said Evans, who missed the 2017 medal stand. “My dad helped me out a lot this offseason, especially weight-wise. Whenever I didn’t want to lift, he’d say, ‘Work for what you want.’ That’s definitely pushed me a lot.”
Evans showed a bit of that strength when he dropped Mayer backward for a 4-4 tie before the first-period buzzer of their final.
But, with Mayer leading 6-5 in the second, he took down Evans and got him to his back for three near-fall points and an 11-6 lead.
It was enough to stop Evan’s third-period rally.
An escape and takedown cut the deficit to 13-9, and he let up Mayer to land another takedown and get within two points with 15 seconds remaining.
Time simply ran out.
“He wrestled really well,” Hegedty said. “He had a great tournament and beat a couple of really good kids to get to the finals. Now we’ll just be fine-tuning some of his technique, make sure he’s finishing his takedowns and is getting off bottom to score.”
And, despite the loss, Evans made some history just for making it to the final bout.
Evans became just the sixth wrestler in school history to reach the finals, and the first since Jeremy Stephens made it to the regional finals in 1992 at 189 pounds.
No Tiger wrestler has ever won gold at regionals.
The only other regional finalists in Tigers history are Dave Panek, who finished second at 105 pounds in 1977; Dick Stucky (180) and Tom Johnson (154), who finished runner-up in 1969; and Rick Rosengrant (154), who finished second along with Stucky (180) in 1968.
Tunkhannock competed in District 12 in the Suburban Wrestling League, then participated in the District 2 Class 3A tournament for two years before joining the Lackawanna League for the 1979-80 season.
The rest of Tunkhannock’s wrestlers had a tough rough en route to trying to extend their seasons.
For Traver, the 132-pound bracket was arguably the toughest in the tournament, with the eventual top-four finishers that advanced to states also ranked in the top six in the state entering the competition.
After the latest rankings, Traver is eighth.
Traver’s first match of the day came in the quarterfinals against Nazareth senior Ryan O’Grady, who finished third in District 11 and went on to take fourth in regionals.
O’Grady reversed in the second period to extend his lead to 6-0, then was able to hold off a final push from Traver and win by decision, 7-2.
“He didn’t wrestle his nest match in that first match, but that weight class was absolutely loaded,” Hegedty said. “He was in all of his matches, but just couldn’t get enough points to come out ahead.”
East Stroudsburg South junior Patrick Gould, who defeated O’Grady in the semifinals en route to becoming the tournament champion at 132 pounds, was also named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
After winning by forfeit, Traver bounced back to pin Archbishop Wood senior Max Shaffer, who finished second at districts out of District 12, in 1:28.
In the consolation semis and a trip to states on the line, Traver squared off against Easton sophomore Jonathan Miers, the District 11 champ.
Both wrestlers battled to a 3-3 tie to force overtime, where Miers would dive at Traver’s left leg, push him to his back and hit a four-point move to take a 7-3 sudden-victory decision.
It was a disappointing end result for Traver, who narrowly missed his second trip to states, but certainly will fuel the fire for his senior season, where he’ll sit four wins away from tying the school record.
That school record is now shared by Rice, who tied Bill Manley’s school record of 123 wins set in 2016 after winning fifth place via forfeit.
“I don’t think he was too concerned about that, he just wanted to get to Hershey” Hegedty said of the school record. “He worked hard to get there but unfortunately came up a match short. I think it was something in the back of his mind, but that wasn’t the main goal.”
Rice gained some momentum by opening the regional tournament with a pin over Parkland senior Nate Wieder, who finished fifth out of District 11, then followed with a pin over Archbishop Ryan senior Brett Tetlow, runner-up in District 12.
In the semis, Rice battled with Pocono Mountain West senior Greg Bensley, the district champ out of District 11.
Bensley took control early and rolled to a school record 91st career victory with a 10-4 decision.
Rice needed one more win to clinch a trip to states, which would have to come against a familiar foe in Delaware Valley senior John McCarthy, who edged Rice 8-2 in the District 2 Class 3A finals the week before.
Saturday was a similar result, as McCarthy used his strength to win a 10-1 major decision.
“We didn’t want to go on bottom against him, but Sam wasn’t able to get any takedowns from his feet, so it really didn’t end up mattering much,” Hegedty said.
For Gavek, wrestling in his second consecutive regionals, things started off well enough with a pin in 2:19 over Archbishop Wood senior Tommy Hooven, who took third in District 12.
However, Gavek would suffer a pin in the quarters to Nazareth junior Sean Pierson, who won district gold in District 11 and would go on to win the title at regionals.
Gavek would then pin Crestwood freshman Justin Sterling in 1:35 in a rematch of the District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals before having his season ended with a pin in 3:29 by St. Joseph’s Prep senior Duncan Waite, who finished second out of District 12.
Munley, who crushed his career best for wins in a season with 36, more than half of the 15 he won in an injury-riddled junior year, opened the tournament with a pin in 59 seconds of Archbishop Wood senior Justin Bates before dropping a 9-2 decision to Bethlehem Liberty junior Damen Moyer, the No. 1 seed from District 11 who went on to later win gold.
After pinning St. Joseph Prep senior Declan Donaher, Munley came up short to Parkland senior Adam Lizak in overtime, 5-2.
Rice, Gavek and Munley leave the Tigers with several individual medals, along with a District 2 Class 3A Duals tournament gold from 2016.
“David has won so many big matches for us over these last four years,” Hegedty said. “He was great to have in the room and worked really hard, and he’ll really be missed. Connor had an incredible year and almost had a shot at Hershey. I can’t say enough about his season this year compared to last.”
The PIAA tournament, weather permitting, is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Evans will get a bye in the pigtail bouts and will face Cedar Cliff freshman Aidan Lewis in the second round.
“We’ll try to find some videos of him to get some stuff on him,” Hegedty said. “We don’t really know a whole lot about him, but just have to get prepared and ready to wrestle his style.”
Class 3A Northeast Regional Team standings
1. Bethlehem Catholic (BECA) 193, 2. Nazareth (NAZ) 143.5, 3. Bethlehem Liberty (BLIB) 112, 4. Northampton (NHA) 85.5, 5. Bangor (BNG) 80, 6. Parkland (PRK) 79.5, 7. Easton (EAS) 71, 8. Stroudsburg (SDB) 70, 9. Delaware Valley (DV) 67, 10. Tunkhannock (TUNK) 60, 11. Scranton (SCR) 51.5, 12. East Stroudsburg South (ESS) 47, 13. Pottsville (PTV) 45.5, 14. Blue Mountain (BM) 35, 15. Emmaus (EMM) 31, 16. Crestwood (CRW) 30, 16. Roman Catholic (RC) 30, 18. Hazleton Area (HAZ) 28, 19. West Scranton (WS) 27, 20. Dallas (DAL) 25, 21. LaSalle (LAS) 23, 22. Wyoming Valley West (WVW) 22.5, 23. Pocono Mountain West (PMW) 22, 24. Father Judge (FJ) 20, 25. Bethlehem Freedom (BFR) 18, 25. Northeast High (NEH) 18, 25. Wallenpaupack (WAL) 18, 28. Coughlin (COU) 16.5, 29. St. Joseph’s Prep (SJP) 16, 30. Mariana Bracetti Academy (MBA) 15.5, 31. Archbishop Wood (AW) 14, 32. Archbishop Ryan (AR) 12, 33. Pocono Mountain East (PME) 9.5, 34. Abington Heights (AH) 7.5, 35. Allentown CC (ACC) 5, 35. Pittston Area (PA) 5, 37. Central High (CH) 4, 37. Southern Lehigh (SL) 4, 39. Frankford (FKD) 3, 40. Academy at Palumbo (APAL) 0, 40. Archbishop Carroll (AC) 0, 40. George Washington (GW), 0, Martin Luther King (MLK), 0, 40. Overbrook (OVB) 0, 40. South Philadelphia (SP) 0.
106: Matt Mayer (BC) dec. David Evans (Tun), 14-12.
132: Tommy Traver (Tun) pinned Anthony Mangione (Str), 1:15.
220: Sam Rice (Tun) won by forfeit over Jameel Coles (Nre).
132: Jonathan Miers (Eas) dec. Traver (Tun), 7-3 (SV).
220: John McCarthy (DV) major dec. Rice (Tun), 10-1.
106: Evans (Tun) dec. Peyton Brown (Emm), 9-2.
220: Greg Bensley (PMW) dec. Rice (Tun), 10-4.
120: Duncan Waite (SJP) pinned David Gavek (Tun), 3:49.
132: Traver (Tun) pinned Max Shaffer (AW), 1:28.
182: Adam Lizak (Par) dec. Connor Munley (Tun), 5-2 (TB2).
Consolation second round
120: Gavek (Tun) pinned Justin Sterling (Cre), 1:35.
132: Traver (Tun) won by forfeit over Nick Poulos (AC).
182: Munley (Tun) pinned Declan Donaher (SJP), 1:26.
106: Evans (Tun) dec. Tal-Reese Flemming (Lib), 9-5.
120: Sean Pierson (Naz) pinned Gavek (Tun), 1:28.
132: Ryan O’Grady (Naz) dec. Traver (Tun), 7-2.
182: Damen Moyer (Lib) dec. Munley (Tun), 9-2.
220: Rice (Tun) pinned Brett Tetlow (AR), 1:51.
120: Gavek (Tun) pinned Tommy Hooven (AW), 2:18.
182: Munley (Tun) pinned Justin Bates (AW), 0:59.
220: Rice (Tun) pinned Nate Wieder (Par), 3:32.