BY JEFF FALK
NEW HOLLAND – Adam Gilson is a man with a plan, and his goals are fairly clear cut. All Gilson wants to do is a little better than he did last year.
And the way Gilson has it figured, a rare Lancaster-Lebanon League championship is a pretty good jumping-off point.
On Saturday evening at Garden Spot High School, Gilson opened what he hopes will be a very profitable wrestling postseason by claiming the title of the 195-pound weight class, at the L-L League meet. The Cedar Crest senior edged the wrestler he lost to at last season’s league tournament, Tommy Bennett of Hempfield, 5-3 in overtime of the final bout.
Gilson’s piece of hardware was one of a slew of medals brought home by Lebanon County competitors, but the only one gold in color. Two other local grapplers, Northern Lebanon’s Evan Daub and Zach Kelly, reached championship bouts, at 160 and 113, respectively, before being denied.
“It was definitely my biggest win,” said Gilson, who reached the finals with an 8-4 semifinal defeat of Carson Snavely of Warwick. “I was always a consy wrestler. Now I’m at the top of the bracket.
“I just had to get to that (final) match,” Gilson continued. “I was the number-one seed. I had a little pressure on me. That’s (getting to the state tournament) my goal, for sure. I was one match short last year.”
“I think he really felt that that was only his only objective,” said Cedar Crest head coach Barry Spohn of Gilson and the 195-pound title. “I think he definitely had that feeling. They (Gilson and Bennett) were the two clear-cut guys at the weight.”
After Gilson had surrendered three relatively easy points in regulation, he redeemed himself with a circling takedown 24 seconds into the extra session to win it. Gilson had established a 3-2 edge early in the third period, but was later hit with a one-point penalty for stalling.
“I didn’t give up,” said Gilson, who improved to 23-2. “I just dug down deeper and did it. I didn’t feel any pressure.
“To start the third period, I was on the bottom, and I got right out,” Gilson continued. “I was really winded in the third, but I sucked it up. I took a shot, and didn’t finish. It went to overtime, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to lose it.’ I feel relieved. I really deserve it.”
“Tactically, he didn’t wrestle his best match,” said Spohn. “The stalling hurt. That (Bennett) was a full-sized 195-pounder, and Adam is a little smaller 195.”
Gilson’s takedown with 36 seconds left in the second period gave him a 2-1 lead, but he couldn’t ride Bennett out for the remainder of the stanza, and the resulting escape tied the score. Gilson returned the favor with his escape 10 seconds into the third period.
“I was playing it smart in the first period. I was feeling him out,” said Gilson of a scoreless opening stanza. “‘Top’ is my weakest position, so I knew he was going to get out. I got a crappy stalling call. But he was more aggressive.”
“He’s had a good season,” said Spohn of Gilson. “He’s had a couple of good tests. He’s there. Now we’ve got to make sure he peaks in three weeks. The goal is to get him to states.”
Like Gilson, Daub also reached the final of his weight-class bracket as a number-one seed. But unlike Gilson, the Viking junior just couldn’t get the job done. He suffered a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Manheim Central’s Jared Siegrist.
“It didn’t go as planned,” said the 25-3 Daub. “He got an early takedown. And there were a couple of early takedowns I should’ve had.”
“He had a good tournament. He had some tough kids along the way,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace of Daub. “There were one or two mistakes in the final that cost him. But this is all practice for the end of the season. He doesn’t get rattled. He’s not afraid of anyone. He just wrestles hard.”
Siegrist used a second-period escape and takedown to build a 3-0 cushion. Daub answered back with an escape 30 seconds into the final period, but that was all the offense he could muster.
“I just wanted to do better than I did last year,” said Daub. “I wanted to win it. There’s a lot of mistakes I have to work on. Once I fix those things, I want to go as far as I can go.”
Kelly, a 25-7 freshman, defeated Cedar Crest ninth-grader Trevor Leonard 9-5 in the semifinal of the 113-pound bracket. But in the final, he ran into a buzz-saw by the name of Devin Schnupp of Warwick, who pinned Kelly at the minute-mark of the opening period.
“He got to the finals as a freshman, and knocked off two seeds along the way,” said Wallace. “Zach’s a great kid. He put a lot of off-season work in. He’s getting tougher and stronger. Each week he gets a little better.”
A third Viking, Caleb Blatt, earned the consolation prize at 132 pounds, as did Annville-Cleona’s Tanner Pyles at 152. Meanwhile, an injury in the semifinals curtailed Annville-Cleona junior Jeff Inman, a state qualifier a year ago, and his quest for a title at 138 pounds.
Earning fourth-place hardware were Joey Emborsky of Northern Lebanon at 138, Pasang Sherpa of Cedar Crest at 170, Wes Bankus of Elco at 285 and Northern Lebanon freshman Luke Funck at 145. Fifth-place honors went to Elco’s Chad Puglio at 120 and Cedar Crest’s Austin Butts at 126.
“There were positives and negatives,” said Wallace of his team’s overall performance. “One of the positives was we had seven guys in the top eight of their weight classes. That’s the most we’ve ever had. We had two in the finals. We have a lot of stuff left to do. We have the district duals on Wednesday, and we want to try to make some noise in them.”
“We had a good performance,” said Spohn. “We had six kids in the top seven, and that’s the most we’ve had in my six years as the head coach. Coming in, we had the most wins we’ve had in my six years, and we’re going to get the most pins since I’ve been here. We really achieved our goals. The goal here was to have the best tournament we’ve ever had, and I think we did that.”