BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – The deeper he got into the state tournament, the more Wes Bankus’ budding skills and confidence became tested. But he was never in over his head.
On Friday at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships, Bankus’ surprising postseason jaunt came to an end, and along with it a pretty good local grappling season reached a climax. Bankus, a junior heavyweight out of Elco, lost a pair of matches and was eliminated from the prestigious event.
In the morning, Bankus endured a 4-3 setback to Southmoreland sophomore Jake Beistel, in the quarterfinals at 285 pounds. Then in the afternoon consolation bracket, Bankus was pinned by Brett Harris, a senior from Fairfield, at the two-minute mark.
Making his initial trip to states, Bankus’ campaign ended at 44-15.
“This whole postseason, he got better and more comfortable,” said Elco head coach Chad Miller. “He was dominant all year long. He’d have bad matches, but he started out pretty strong. He definitely got more confidence the last few weeks.”
Bankus actually led 2-0 in each of his bouts at Giant Center.
Against Harris, who had also pinned him in the semifinals of the Southeast Regional tournament six days prior, Bankus used his strength to counter his opponents’ initial foray and score a takedown 19 seconds into the opening period. But after Harris registered late first-period and early second-period escapes to tie the score at two, he got Bankus into a predicament 50 seconds later.
Harris muscled him to his back, squeezed Bankus tight and wasted precious little time logging the fall.
“It’s a lot of weight,” said Miller. “He (Bankus) was aggressive on his feet. We were hoping that kid (Harris) would make a mistake. He had the weight behind him. We were at a disadvantage. He also had height. The match-up wasn’t the best for us.
“He (Bankus) has to be aggressive all the time, at least in this tournament,” Miller continued. “He’s got to be good on his feet. We wanted it to go the same way it did in the other match.”
In the second period of his a.m. match, opposite Beistel, Bankus scored a reversal from the bottom position to break a scoreless stalemate and open a 2-0 advantage. Following a couple of Beistel escapes that tied the score, Bankus attempted a throw with 45 seconds left in the third period, but was himself taken down.
Bankus did manage an escape with 15 seconds to go, but ran out of time in his bid to complete a decisive ‘shot’.
“You never know with heavyweights,” said Miller. “But we thought Wes was probably our best bet to get to states. He has a lot of experience and a lot of ability.
“I thought he really showed improvement off the bottom,” continued Miller. “A lot of that is confidence. But that’s where he improved the most.”