HERSHEY - John Crawford has not been shy about his goals for the final year of his scholastic wrestling career. The senior 160-pounder from Strath Haven has said numerous times that his plan is to be on the medals podium at the PIAA championships, preferably in the No. 1 spot.
Crawford took a step closer to his goal with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Anthony Robinson of Williamsport in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships at the Giant Center Thursday.
Crawford is one of five Delco wrestlers to advance to Friday out of eight states qualifiers. Sun Valley's Hunter Catka started the defense of his 220-pound title with a 15-4 major decision over Dylan Rodenhaber of Red Land. Crawford and Catka were the only two winners in the round of 16.
Penncrest's Brendon Stocku (145), Garnet Valley's Coltin Deery (285) and Ridley's Tommy Bramwell (285) will be in Hershey for one more day despite losing in the round of 16 in their respective weight classes. All will be in the second round of consolations starting at 2:15 Friday afternoon.
Crawford nearly had to go that route, too.
With less than a minute to go in the first period, the champion of the Southeast Regional trailed Robinson, 2-0.
"I gave up a bad takedown in the first period," Crawford said. "I wasn't myself. I didn't wrestle smart. I was a little antsy."
A first-timer may have let the pressure and the stage get to him, but Crawford is no rookie. This is Crawford's second straight trip to the state championships, and he knew he had to calm down and get something on the board to take the momentum away from Robinson.
"He was riding tough in the first period," Crawford said. "And if he rode me out there in the second, that would have been huge for him."
Crawford did not allow that to happen. With 40 seconds left, he pulled out of Robinson's grasp for an escape point that cut the deficit in half.
"That turned the match around," Crawford said.
A short while later, Crawford got the takedown he needed to take a 3-2 lead that he would not relinquish.
"I was a little more comfortable in the second half of the match," Crawford said. "I was to get to my takedowns and control the match."
Crawford's reward is a quarterfinal date with Connor Herceg of Nazareth, the No. 1 seed out of the Northeast Regional.
"I came in here knowing it was going to be a dogfight in every match and I'm not going to underestimate anyone," Crawford said. "I know that if I want to get to my goal, I have to wrestle hard every match."
Catka did not let two stoppages to remove blood from the bridge of his nose from getting to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Catka toyed with Rodenhaber before putting the sophomore away with a 15-4 major victory.
Stocku went 1-1 on the first day. He scored a 13-4 major decision over Tanner Rohaley of Canon-McMillan, but was pinned by Erie Cathedral Prep's Paniro Johnson in 3:48 in the round to 16 to drop into the second round of consolations. He takes on Luke Sainato of Gettysburg, who pinned West Scranton's Garrett Walsh to stay alive.
Deery and Bramwell both lost tough matches at 285. Deery dropped a 9-6 decision to Isaiah Vance of Hempfield Area in the round of 16, while Bramwell fell to Shawn Henniger of Dallas, 2-1, in overtime. Bramwell had a 1-0 lead, but Henniger got an escape to tie the match and another in OT to advance to the quarterfinals.
Brosko suffered the two toughest losses of all. He had an 11-7 lead on Dillon Ferretti of Hempfield Area in the pigtail round before Ferretti used an escape, a takedown and back points to rally for a 13-11 win. Brosko was within 3-2 of Gus Dellinger in the third period before the senior from Holidaysburg pinned Brosko in 4:04.
It's a valuable learning experience for Brosko, who was just the fourth freshman to qualify for the PIAA championships at 220 pounds since 2012.
"I learned that I can come back the next three years and try to win," Brosko said. "Most of the kids here are older than me, but all my coaches did everything they could to help me get through it.
Barlow dropped a 4-1 decision to fellow freshman Jared Keslar of Connellsville and fell to Owen Woolcott of State College in the first round of consolations, 2-0.
Shaw left the Giant Center with a huge smile on his face despite going 0-2 in his first state tournament. He lost a 14-2 major decision to Karl Shindledecker of Chambersburg. That set up a rematch with Coatesville's Nathan Lucier, who Shaw lost to in the consolation semifinals last week at the Southeast Regional championship. Lucier won again, 7-0.
This is just Shaw's second year of wrestling: He went 0-1 on the varsity as a sophomore and 38-11 this season.
"No one expected me to get to states so it's a blessing to be here," Shaw said. "Of course I'm disappointed, but every loss comes with a win, and this is going to make me go back and look at the film and see where I need to improve. My focus this summer is to become the best wrestler I can be."