HERSHEY - Council Rock South sophomore Max Mendez provided a big Day One highlight Thursday during the three-day PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships at the Giant Center.
In his first trip to states, Mendez reached the quarterfinals of the 106-pound weight class by earning a pair of victories, in a preliminary match (4-0 decision) and a first-round match (8-4 decision).
For the Golden Hawks, the Southeast Regional team champion, all five wrestlers at states are still standing heading into the second day: Mendez, plus seniors Zack Trampe (132), Cary Palmer (138), Riley Palmer (145) and Joe Doyle (220). Cary Palmer is alive in the consolation bracket, but the other four are still in the hunt for a title.
Similarly, all three Council Rock North wrestlers won matches Thursday in advancing to Friday: senior Aidan Burke (120) and a pair of freshmen, Luke Lucerne (106) and Cameron Robinson (132). Burke and Lucerne are both still in the championship hunt.
Other quarterfinalists include Harry S. Truman sophomore Gunnar Fuss (126), who recorded a pin just 1:30 into his first-round match.
Bensalem junior Nick Cooper got to Friday the hard way.
In the third period of his first-round heavyweight consolation match, Cooper was trailing Hatboro-Horsham junior Nick Chapman by a point before Cooper rallied for the pin in 3:58.
"I really wanted to move on," Cooper said about extending his first trip to states. "I lost my first one (by fall, in 1:15, of a preliminary match), and I was down about it for a little bit. But my coach (Jake Thierjung) said to forget about it and to get the next one. It's down to who wants it more.
"It's defining where I'm at as a wrestler. Am I just qualifying (for states), or do I really have the skills and potential to move on?"
For Mendez, while he is looking forward to more competition in the state tournament, he also was able to realize the goal he had set before the season.
"As a freshman, I didn't qualify for regionals and made it only to districts, so this year, I wanted to get to states," Mendez said. "Now I really want to place."
The newness of a preliminary match fueled Mendez.
"This year, I hadn't wrestled a pigtail (preliminary) match, but I liked this one," he said. "It got me going, it got my blood flowing and my adrenaline going. That's what got me to dominate my second match."
Robinson's first-round consolation victory, an 8-5 decision that was technically a matter of survival, after a 3-1 decision loss in his preliminary bout.
But Robinson, who picked up his 35th win against 10 losses, didn't approach his second match as do-or-die, but seemingly more as a bonus.
"This is my freshman year, so I didn't think about anything but giving it my max effort," Robinson said. "Coach (Tom Vivacqua) always talks about max effort, so I did that. I wanted to prove to people that I can win a couple of matches up here, too, and, as a freshman, make a name for myself."
Burke had to wrestle both a preliminary match and a first-round match last year on the first day of states. On Thursday, he could appreciate being a high enough seed, as the Southeast Regional runner-up, to have only one first-day match this year if he could win it. He did win his first-rounder by a 4-0 decision.
"I always take it one match at a time, just focusing on the next match," Burke said. "The fact that I had only one match, it gave me more time to spend with my coaches and teammates."
As North's lone senior at states, Burke also was glad for Lucerne, who scored late in the third period for a 5-4 decision victory.
"(Lucerne) is going to go far in his career," Burke said. "As a freshman, it's awesome for him to win his first match here."
Other experienced wrestlers, such as South's Palmer brothers - Riley was making his third appearance at states, Cary his second - this was more about enjoying their last go-round together with teammates, and their second time together, in back-to-back years.
"We didn't do as well as wanted to last year ... we figured we have to leave everything out there," said Riley Palmer, who won his first-round match this year with a 6-3 decision.
Cary Palmer is the lone South senior whose next match Friday is to stay alive in the tournament. Palmer won his preliminary match 9-6 before dropping a 9-3 decision to Bald Eagle junior Seth Koleno, the Northwest Regional champion, in the first round.
In other South matches, Trampe advanced with a 9-2 decision. By contrast, Doyle overcame a third-period injury timeout and earned a 7-5 decision victory.
Two local seniors went two-and-out: Neshaminy's Kyle Ousterhoudt (285) and William Tennent's David McCoy (170). But McCoy made a memorable exit from his first, and only, trip to states. He got to overtime before a 5-3 decision capped his career.