HERSHEY - Getting to Saturday undefeated is no easy feat at the PIAA wrestling championships.
After Friday night at the Giant Center, three local Class 3A wrestlers - Pennridge senior Josh Stillings, top-ranked in the state by PA Power Wrestling for the 182-pound weight class, along with Souderton junior Tyler Williams (132) and Council Rock South sophomore Kyle Waterman (106) - held that distinction and advanced to the semifinals, which begin 9 a.m. Saturday.
One local representative from Class 2A, Palisades junior Nate Haubert (145), rolled to the finals, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, with a 3-2 semifinal win Friday night that raised his season record to 30-3.
On Friday morning, the Southeast regional champion Haubert won his quarterfinal match by pinfall in 5 minutes, 18 seconds.
One win away from becoming the Pirates' second state champion in school history (Andrew Povenski in 1997 at 171), Haubert remains low-key heading into the biggest match of his life so far.
"I'm just going to get a good night of sleep and to eat a good breakfast, get my mind right, hopefully go out there and win a state title," Haubert said about reaching the final match of the season. "This feels amazing: I just feel so grateful, thankful for my coaches, my family - they helped me get here."
First-year Palisades coach Bryan Smith is in his fourth season coaching Haubert, including three years in middle school.
″(Haubert) is a man of few words, until he is ready to go," Smith said. "He gets his mind right, gets it set, and ... I think he goes through the match simulations in his mind as he's getting ready, and that's why he's so quiet."
For the other standout wrestlers, their journeys have been as varied as their weight classes.
In his school-record fourth trip to states, Stillings has left himself in position for another high finish to go along with his silver medal last year and fourth-place medal in 2016.
"I'm going to hang out with (junior and also state qualifier Evan Widing) and the coaches," Stillings said after his 8-1 decision victory in the quarterfinals. "It's really fun, and we relax."
On Friday, Stillings also was comfortable as he was familiar with his quarterfinal opponent, Cedar Cliff junior Donovon Ball.
"The last time I wrestled him, I won (6-4) at Beast of the East (on Dec. 16), and that was my first match (of the tournament), so I wasn't warmed up and I felt off," Stillings said. "So I made sure I was ready, because he is a tough kid, really strong."
As for Williams, he truly appreciates his second trip to states.
A concussion cost Williams his entire sophomore season.
"This weekend, so far, has been turning out in my favor: I never expected I'd be in the semis, but I'm really happy to be here," Williams said. "Let's just keep it going. ...
"I had a lot of doubt, that I was ever going to make it back here and to get the opportunity to redeem myself, so getting here again, seeing the arena and winning that match, it was emotional for me."
In reaching the semifinals, Williams made recent school history as the first wrestler for the Indians to do so in 28 years.
After Williams' 6-1 decision victory in the quarterfinals, Souderton coach Tristan Boyd added that Tim Alderfer and Chad Clemens both reached the semifinals in 1990. Clemens finished second, and Alderfer finished third.
As recently as 2011, Joe Stolfi - the older brother of current junior Bruno Stolfi, who won a pair of consolation matches at this tournament before being eliminated in the third round of consolations - lost in the quarterfinals but wrestled back to a fourth-place medal.
Williams can finish no lower than sixth place.
"Tyler (Williams) always had the skill, and to a certain degree, it was about getting his mind in the right place and making him believe he is as good as he really is," Boyd said about Williams. "He's peaking at the right time."
By contrast, Waterman is capitalizing on his first trip to states.
"It isn't that often that we've had eight (Golden Hawks) come here, so it's kinda cool," Waterman said after his 4-3 decision victory in the quarterfinals on a late third-period escape to break the tie. "The day after tomorrow (Sunday), we can appreciate all this, but (South) has another match."
In 3A consolation brackets Friday, local competition underscored a pair of matches for survival.
At 145, Widing and Neshaminy junior Jackson Erb met in the second round of elimination matches, with Widing earning a 10-4 decision. But Widing went out in the third round, 9-3.
At 285, the top two Southeast regional finishers, North Penn senior Ryan Cody and Bensalem senior Nick Cooper, tangled in a third-round consolation match.
Though Cody had lost his opener on Thursday and Cooper had won his opener to reach the quarterfinals, when they met head-to-head, the Southeast regional champion Cody prevailed, 3-2.
Among other wrestlers still alive on Saturday, the following local competitors won their respective third-round consolation matches, assuring themselves of at least an eighth-place medal:
Harry S. Truman junior Gunnar Fuss (126), 8-4 decision;
Council Rock South senior Ben Radner (132), 3-2 decision;
Council Rock North sophomore and Southeast regional champion Cameron Robinson (138), 7-4 decision;
North Penn junior and Southeast regional champion Patrick O'Neill (160), 3-1 decision; and