Smith was one of three wrestlers with Penn State connections to move on to Saturday's PIAA AA individual wrestling championship finals with a semifinal victory Friday night, as he held on for a 2-1 nail biting decision.
“It was exciting, I can't even put it into words,” Smith said on the GIANT Center floor before heading to the locker room. “I have to give credit to my coaches. They worked with me on escaping when I'm down, and that's exactly what I did.
“I'm thankful I didn't have any stall calls or warnings from before, and I'm just thankful for this opportunity.”
There was not much action in this particular semifinal bout, as both wrestlers were credited with escapes but nothing more after the first six minutes of regulation plus a minute of OT. Smith rode first in the tiebreaker period, and twice reeled a nearly escaped Avella back to the mat, before getting his turn on bottom. '
On the whistle, Smith scrambled to his base and was nearly caught by Temple with a hold that would have likely resulted in a throw that led to a turning combination and back points. But instead, he bellied out, reset, and finally got back to his feet with less than 15 seconds to wrestle. He slipped away from Temple's grip. From there, he immediately scurried to the far end of the mat, where Temple drove him out of bounds with four seconds to wrestle. The Avella junior had one final opportunity to score a takedown off the re-start, but Smith fended it off, clinching his spot in the final. He'll wrestle Southeast region top-seed Ray O'Donnell in Saturday's final, after O'Donnell stopped Cochranton's Cam Cyphert with a 25-second fall in the other semifinal.
“I'm going to go get something to eat, and just hang out for the rest of the night,” Smith said. “I'll get back in here tomorrow and start getting focused a little before 2 p.m, [when finals action gets underway with 106-pound action] and really get my mind into it.”
Retherford & Law Firm
Zain Retherford scored the first points in his 138-pound semifinal with Brookville senior Brock Zacherl. In fact, he was the only one who scored.
The Benton senior advanced to the championship round with a 5-0 victory over the Northwest region champion, escaping 10 seconds into the second to take a 1-0 lead he never relinquished.
“I hit my attacks, and I wasn't letting the moves and the big crowd get to me,” Retherford said. “I'm real excited. I'm going to miss that finals match after this year, but it's still going to be awesome, and even more of a packed house.”
After coming back to neutral off the escape, Retherford scored his first takedown of the match by gaining wrist control before lowering his level and circling behind Zacherl, and then finished the scoring with a third period takedown, this time snapping down on the Brookville junior's right leg and squeezing behind him.
“The atmosphere is just awesome, and there's nothing that compares to it,” Retherford said. “A lot of kids are ready to go right away, and I felt he was feeling pretty good right away. But I was hitting my fakes and my moves and seeing what he was falling for, and toward the end of the match he started getting more tired and stuff started opening up. I sensed that and corrected on that, and as soon as he'd do that, that is when I took my shot.”
Retherford , who transferred from Line Mountain to Benton, will face former teammate Seth Lansberry in the final.
Cody Law punched his ticket to the final three weight classes later, topping Northeast region No. 1 seed Tyler Walter of Mifflinburg 5-1 in a 160-pound semifinal bout.
The future Nittany Lion recorded a pair of takedowns, both by dropping to the mat and pulling in on Walter before circling around him. He reached the margin of victory with an escape. The Forest Hills senior will face Evan Delong in the finals, after Delong beat Tri-Valley's Ty Schoffstall 7-6 in the other semifinal bout.
Geiger Can Count on Placing
Trinity High senior Adam Geiger dropped his first bout of the tournament Friday night, falling victim to a pair of Garrett Vulcano takedowns in a 5-2 loss to the Chartiers-Houston senior.
The future Nittany Lion football run-on athlete briefly led 1-0 in the second period, but Vulcano got on the score sheet shortly there after with a forceful double-leg takedown that he drove through, forcing Geiger to belly out and giving Vulcano his first lead of the bout at 2-1 in the second period.
The Southwest region champ then added to a 3-1 third-period advantage by finishing a wild flurry that saw both Geiger and Vulcano have shots to finish a scoring move, with Vulcano winning the battle and taking control with less than a minute to wrestle. Geiger would only add an escape in the dying seconds.
The loss didn't deter him, though, as Geiger won a pair of consolation bouts late Friday night to set himself up for a chance at third place. He'll meet James Stoudart of Moshannon Valley in Saturday's third-place bout.