HERSHEY - Council Rock North's Dillon Sheehy was talking to a coach from another district as Sheehy paced back and forth to work off the nerves as he prepared for his first match at states inside the mammoth Giant Center.
"He said the first time he came here with one of his kids, he said to him, 'What's this?'" said Sheehy, recounting his conversation with the coach. "(The wrestler) said, 'It's a big arena.' (The coach) pointed to the mat and said, 'What's this?' The wrestler responded, 'It's a wrestling mat.' The coach responded, 'Good, that's all you need to know. It's just a wrestling mat.' It was really great advice."
Sheehy is just a sophomore, but he looked like a veteran, not a first-time state qualifier. He took the coach's advice to heart to score a workmanlike 7-1 decision over Gettysburg's Dylan Reinart at 152 pounds in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships, which began on Thursday and concludes on Saturday.
The Indians brought four wrestlers to states, and all four survived to wrestle on Friday, when the quarterfinals and more consolation rounds will be held. Sheehy will meet Bald Eagle Area's Gage McLenahan in the quarters.
Joining Sheehy in the quarterfinals are fellow sophomores Luke Lucerne at 113 pounds and Cameron Robinson at 138. Freshman Kyle Hauserman lost his first match at 106 but rebounded in his first-round consolation match.
Four other Courier-area wrestlers made it to the quarters, including a pair from Council Rock South: sophomore Kyle Waterman at 106 pounds and junior Shane Hanson-Ashworth at 120. The Golden Hawks brought an incredible eight to states, and, advanced five to Friday, as Max Mendez (113), Ben Radner (132 pounds), and Nick Korbich (170) won their first-round consolation matches.
The other two quarterfinalists, who kept their dreams of a state title alive, are Harry S. Truman junior Gunnar Fuss at 126 and Bensalem senior Nick Cooper at 285.
CR North's Lucerne, who took sixth as a freshman last year and will wrestle Hempfield's Kyle Burkholder in the quarters, needed a three-point tilt in overtime to secure a 6-3 win over Pottsville's Nick Onea. Lucerne had let a 3-1 third-period lead slip away, surrendering an escape and a penalty point for too many re-start cautions.
"That was clutch," said Lucerne, of his overtime near-fall points. "As long as I keep that mindset of continually scoring, those types of opportunities will present themselves to me and I can take advantage of them."
Robinson led throughout his bout against Hempfield freshman Ty Linsenberger, and got a clinching takedown late in the third period to score a 7-3 win.
"I was tired, but I knew the other kid was more tired than me, so I just muscled through it," said Robinson, who will wrestle Northern York's Paul Fiete in the quarters. "By the third period, I saw him looking at his coach and shaking his head, I knew I had him then. He wasn't looking to score."
Hanson-Ashworth survived a 1-0 decision, earning a second-period escape then riding out Cocalico senior Josiah Gehr the entire third period.
"I didn't wrestle particularly well," said Hanson-Ashworth, who will meet Nazareth's Sean Pierson in the quarters. "I was really sluggish. I knew I had to ride him out in the third. The coaches have been telling me all season, you're going to get to the postseason and you're going to have to be able to win those gritty 1-0 matches, that even though you're not wrestling well you still have an opportunity to just grind out the win."
Waterman also wasn't particularly pleased with how he performed on his feet, though he scored a 6-0 win over Franklin Regional's Carter Dibert and will wrestle Tunkhannock's Dave Evans in the quarters.
"Coach pulled me aside and said, 'Whatever happens, happens, just have fun, you're in the best place on earth, the best wrestling there is,'" said Waterman. "It doesn't matter how you perform all you need is a win, but I didn't perform my best."
Fuss certainly looked at home breezing to a 7-3 win and pitting him against Hopewell's Jacob Ealy in the quarterfinals.
"It's like home now," said Fuss, who made it to states the past two years but has yet to medal. "It's like home-field advantage, even though I'm two hours away."
Cooper made it to the quarters to meet Erie Cathedral Prep's Kawaun Deboe after scoring a reversal with seven seconds left to earn a 5-4 win over Easton's Jonathan Pineda.
"Was thinking escape, but, not to feel myself a little too much, there's not too many people who can really hold me down," said Cooper. "So I had to get that one."
Also moving on to Friday's consolation rounds, after losing their opener then winning later in the night, were: