Competition at the PIAA state wrestling championships wrapped up Saturday at The Giant Center in Hershey. Mount Union’s Jake Ryan was stopped in the heavyweight title match while Southern Huntingdon’s Kole Winfield finished seventh in the same weight class.
This was the fifth season in a row a wrestler from coverage area of The Daily News reached the state final. Ryan (39-2) turned in a dominant junior season as he wanted very badly to win the sixth state championship in Mount Union history.
“If you would have told me before high school or my freshman year that in two years I was going to make the state final I would have told you you’re on something. I didn’t exactly get what I wanted but it’s a blessing being where I’m at,” commented Ryan.
Ryan was the top-ranked heavyweight in the state for pretty much the entire season. His only loss prior to states was against Raymond Christas from Dallastown at the Panther Holiday Classic Dec. 15. It was a 4-1 tie breaker one setback and Christas ended up placing fifth in the Class 3A state tournament.
Friday night, Ryan watched the other semifinal bout to see who he would face for the state title. It ended up being Brookville junior Colby Whitehill (39-0).
Whitehill posed some challenges for Ryan. He was a little bigger and a good deal taller.
“I knew he was more of a defensive wrestler, a counterer. He’s real big and tall,” explained Ryan. “I should have waited for his mistake but I tried to generate an offense and that got the best of me.”
Ryan has always been the one to push the pace, try moves, look to score. In the second period Whitehill got to his feet for a point, then got the take down when Ryan lost hold of the head.
Ryan escaped for a 3-1 score with one period left. He got up again with a minute remaining. Whitehill scored late in the frame to secure a 5-2 decision and the title.
“He has real long arms and it was tough to get past his defense. I have to work harder and come get it next year,” Ryan remarked.
It only takes one conversation with Ryan to understand how much his brothers, Kevin and Keith, and his whole family mean to him because he always brings them up. The twins graduated in 2008 with both having wrestled at Hershey. Kevin placed fifth in 2008 and both are 100-win wrestlers for the Trojans. They were on hand to give Ryan his second place medal.
“They are a part of me. They’re the reason I’m here and I’m as good as I am. I owe them everything,” Ryan said. “They teach me about wrestling and life itself. I owe them the world.”
Winfield (33-6) was set for the seventh-place bout Saturday against Emmanuel Lawal (32-6) from Church Farm School. There was not a lot happening in this one and it ended in strange fashion.
Lawal scored in the first period but Winfield got the escape. In the third period Winfield got to his feet again, then a stall call tied things 2-2. In overtime Lawal was given another stall penalty, one point to Winfield, and that was the 3-2 final.
“He seemed to tire out,” Winfield remarked. “He kept backing up so I kept pushing the pace.”
Winfield enjoyed a fine senior season, going back to Hershey and getting a medal. Two years ago his brother Nick also returned to states and earned a seventh place medal. Those two may have one more bout between them to see who is better.
“It feels good to win my last match. There’s a lot of time put into it so it feels like it paid off,” Winfield said. “It’s not exactly what I wanted but we’ll take it. I’m happy. Not a lot of kids get this opportunity and I’m very thankful.”
Winfield wraps up his high school career with a 78-30 record. He missed his sophomore year with an ACL injury.
“Coming back from ACL surgery I knew I had to push myself and I’m happy with what I was able to do,” summed up Winfield.