HERSHEY, Pa. -- Zain Retherford sat in the GIANT Center stands a year ago, unable to compete in the PIAA state championships (or any interscholastic wrestling, for that matter) after transferring from Line Mountain and being ruled ineligible by District 4 and ultimately the PIAA Board of Appeals for the 2011-2012 season.
That didn't stop the junior from competing, though, and he capped off a momentous independent spring and summer by winning the Cadet World Championships at 63 kg (138.75 pounds). But now, the future Nittany Lion has his eyes set on PIAA gold at 138 pounds, and he got off to a good start Thursday morning, finally on the mat at GIANT Center, rather than in the stands.
The senior from Benton High and Penn State commit stopped Camp Hill's Alex Gallaher at the 1:33 mark of the first period in his opening bout of the PIAA state championships, using a headlock to control and turn Gallaher to his back to lock up the fall for his 44th win of the season.
This is something I was looking forward to for too long now, Retherford said. But I'm still cheering my teammates on, and I'm just excited to do it with them.
The match got off to a rocky start, as Gallaher shrieked to stop the match as Retherford was inches away from control of the Camp Hill sophomore. But the stoppage didn't affect the future Penn State grappler, as he was awarded the two points for a takedown, and turned Gallaher shortly after the whistle blew on the re-start in the middle of the mat.
I don't know what he did, but he jammed his finger right when I was about to score, and the ref gave me two, Retherford said. I'm excited to keep wrestling, and I'm looking forward to next year, too
But I still have four matches left with Benton, and I'm excited to finish out the season.
The undefeated senior will resume action in the 138-pound AA winners bracket Friday morning, where he'll meet Steve Edwards of Burrell. Edwards was a 5-1 winner over Tri-Valley sophomore Hunter Harner Thursday.
Law In Order
It took two periods for Penn State commit Cody Law to fully get going Thursday morning inside a sparsely filled GIANT Center, but once he did, the Forrest Hills senior glided passed Bethlehem Catholic's Connor Hedash 5-1 in a AA 160-pound preliminary bout, scoring a takedown and two near fall points in the third period to erase a 1-1 tie that resulted after Law cut Hedash to start the third.
I wore him down. At the beginning of the match, he was clinging hard, and squeezing really hard to try and slow me down, Law said. I just needed to get one where I closed smooth and got a takedown off of it, and finish it fast. He got tired, basically.
With the bout tied at one after each wrestler was credited with an escape, Law snapped down on Hedash's right leg on the far edge and pulled the senior back toward the center on the mat before converting to a double leg to finish the takedown. He then exposed Hedash's shoulders to the mat for a brief two count, and two near fall points, before riding Hedash for the remainder of the third period.
The first match is always the hardest. He for some reason got fifth in his region, so I had a tough match, but I'll be better in my next match, Law said.
His action will continue Friday morning when he squares off with Redbank Valley's Cole Shirey, who was an 8-4 winner by decision Thursday. But Law is also thinking about his future club, and its big tournament this weekend, too.
The Nittany Lions are shooting for their third straight Big Ten title at the conference championships at Illinois.
It's nice to know I'm apart of Penn State now, and I think as this goes on I'm going to show more, Law said. I can't wait to watch it [the Big Ten tournament]. I have it DVR'd at home, but I'm excited to watch our guys kick butt down there.
It's the best opportunity all my life. I've been surrounded by great guys all my life, and now getting to be with Olympic champions, I'll be the best.
Law believes he will redshirt next fall and wrestle at 157 pounds in his first year on campus, before making the bump to 165 pounds for the rest of his career in a blue and white singlet.
Run-Ons Run Over the Comp
Brandon Smith and Adam Geiger are wrestling competitively for the final time in Hershey, before both trade singlets and head gear for shoulder pads and helmets this summer to run-on for Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lion football program. Both advanced to the quarterfinals in their respective weight classes Thursday morning.
Geiger took the mat first, and the District 3 AA champ at 195 pounds from Trinity High (Camp Hill, Pa.) showed his athleticism by steam-rolling Somerset's Jacob Nickelson in a tidy 1:52 fall. He'll take on Muncy High senior Skylar Ebner in the quarterfinals.
Smith followed his future teammate's lead by doing a little dominating of his own, overcoming an early bloody nose to pummel Berlin-Brothersvalley senior Mitchell Walker 7-0 in a match the Lewisburg senior controlled throughout.
It's a good way to start and try to get rid of a little bit of nerves, Smith said. I'm just going to go one match at a time, and see what happens.
Smith said Nittany Lions linebackers coach Ron Vanderlidnen has informed him the Nittany Lions will work him out at inside 'backer once he gets on campus, the same position he played in high school.
It feels great, and I'm really excited to get up there and work hard, and try to make an impact on the team, and work hard and see what happens, Smith said. I might be up for the spring game, but I have a track event at Shippensburg, so we'll see if my coach lets me out of it.
Smith will grapple Fort LeBoeuf senior Evan Daley in Friday's quarterfinals.