HERSHEY — St. Marys senior Tyler Dilley opened the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships with a bang Thursday, while Clearfield freshman Mark McGonigal found the going tough in his first trip to Hershey.
Dilley (33-5), who made states as a sophomore but missed all of last year due to injury, made his return to the Giant Center in impressive fashion as he scored a 5-4 win against seventh-ranked Gunnar Fuss of Harry S. Truman in his first round bout at 132 pounds. Fuss is a three-time state qualifier who placed eighth a year ago.
And, it was Fuss (35-5) who jumped out to the early lead with a first-period takedown on the ninth-ranked Dilley. Fuss took a 2-1 lead into the second, where he rode the Dutchman for most of the period. However, Dilley reversed Fuss with 26 seconds remaining, then collected two backpoints in the closing moments before Fuss escaped to put Dilley up 5-3
Fuss chose bottom in the third but struggled to get out from under the Dutchman senior. Dilley nearly rode out Fuss, who eventually escaped with 16 seconds left to go. It wasn’t enough though, as Dilley held on for the one-point win to reach today’s quarterfinals, where he faces an even larger task against two-time defending state champ Sam Hillegas (39-0), a junior from North Hills.
As for McGonigal — Clearfield’s first freshman state qualifier since his older brother Luke in 2014 — he put up a valiant effort in a pair of matches. However, he suffered the same fate as Luke did as a freshman and finished 0-2 in his first taste of the state tournament. Luke McGonigal captured his first state win as a sophomore, then placed second as a junior before capturing a state title at 195 pounds last year.
As for the younger McGonigal, he opened his day Thursday against Neshaminy senior Jackson Erb (38-7), a returning state qualifier who came in ranked seventh in the state at 152 pounds.
Erb opened the scoring with a first-period takedown, then added to that lead with a quick reversal after choosing bottom in the second. McGonigal, ranked 20th, earned an escape just past the midway point of the period and trailed 4-1 after four minutes.
McGonigal chose bottom in the third but never got out. Erb rode the Bison for most of the period before turning him for three nearfall points with 16 seconds remaining to come away with a 7-1 victory.
The loss dropped McGonigal into the consolation bracket, where he met another returning state qualifier in Council Rock South junior Cole Flanagan (36-14). The matchup was back-and-forth until Flanagan hit a late five-point move to put things away in an 11-4 victory.
Flanagan, ranked No. 12, used a leg sweep to score a takedown midway through the 1-minute first period to grab a 2-0 lead. Flanagan then chose down in the second but struggled to get from under the Bison as McGonigal rode him hard.
The Bison freshman finally managed to turn Flanagan for two backpoints on the edge of the mat to even things at 2-2. However, Flanagan promptly escaped in the restart then scored a takedown with 10 seconds left to go up 5-2.
McGonigal wasn’t done though, as the Bison needed just a handful of seconds to reverse Flanagan to open the third to get back within a point at 5-4. Flanagan worked free for an escape with 38 seconds to go.
Needing a takedown, McGonigal went for a big move but was caught by Flanagan and pancaked to his back for a five-point move in the final 10 seconds to set the final score.