Abington Heights junior Gavin Drake placed third at the Class 3A Northeast Regional wrestling tournament Saturday at Bethlehem Liberty High School to qualify for the state tournament.
Drake recovered from his semifinal where he was pinned by Nazareth's Stephen Schott, the eventual champion. That put the Comets junior in a consolation match.
"Nerves do get to you, but you kind of got to block it out," Drake said. "Keep a short memory ... and focus on the moment and wrestle."
That might be easier said than done in such a pressure-filled moment. Drake still made it look simple.
He got a takedown and two back points right away against Father Judge's Jose Lage, which he said was a huge confidence boost. More near-fall points accumulated in the second period of what became a 14-3 major decision to keep Drake's season going.
Then, he pinned Northampton's Blake Lambert to finish with a third-place medal. Not bad for a wrestler who finished on the edge of District 2's medal stand in sixth place the previous two seasons.
"Just work," is what sparked the giant leap forward, Drake said. "If you can dream it, you can do it. I worked toward everything."
Now, he'll get his first taste of states.
The PIAA tournament starts today at 4 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey and continues through Saturday.
Drake will take on Northwest Regional silver medalist Nate Schon of Selinsgrove in the round of 16.
Freshman Luke Sirianni placed sixth at 106.
He topped 100-match winner West Scranton's Austin Fashouer in the consolation rounds by a 6-1 decision en route to his top-six finish. He lost to Fashouer three times this season before breaking through at regionals.
Pittston Area beat Abington Heights, 37-35, on Feb. 24 in the District 2 Class 3A third-place game.
Abington Heights, which won the PIAA Class 5A title two seasons ago and reached the state semifinals in 2017 and 2019 with seniors Corey Perkins and Mike Malone as starters, ended the season 17-8 overall. It is the first time the Comets did not qualify for the state tournament since 2006 and the first time they did not win 20 games since the 2010-11 season.
Harry Johnson scored 18 points to lead Abington Heights.
West Scranton beat Abington Heights, 37-33, in the District 2 Class 5A championship at Mohegan Sun Arena to end the Lady Comets' four-year run as champs.
Maria Tully led Abington Heights with 13 points. Clair Marion added eight point in the loss.
Abington Heights still advances to the PIAA tournament and will meet District 11 runner-up Bangor on Saturday.
Abington Heights senior Jarred Ocwieja sprinted to a title Friday in the 50 free, finishing in 22.06, at the District 2 Swimming Championships at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center.
"I don't think there has ever been a better feeling than finishing the race, looking up to the board and it saying you are No. 1," Ocwieja said. "I have worked all 10 years of swimming to get a gold medal like this and to do it in my senior year, there is no better feeling in the world."
Abington Heights' Abby Brock came in second in the 100 breaststroke Saturday at the District 2 Class 3A Swimming Championships.