---- — By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- Al Fluman's family has roots in the Williamsport area, so the Mifflinburg coach has a clear understanding of the rich tradition of the Top Hat wrestling tournament. So when three of his wrestlers captured their second Top Hat titles on Saturday night, Fluman, the Wildcats' first year coach, was impressed.
Cole Walter and Nazar Mironenko claimed their second straight titles with easy wins and senior Ty Walter earned a crown for the first time since his freshman year by battling through an injury to his right ankle to pull out a gutsy decision. Four other Wildcats earned medals and Mifflinburg finished seventh in the team race with 120.5 points
Line Mountain also boasted a two-time champion as Seth Lansberry won for the second consecutive year and the Eagles also sent four other wrestlers to the medal stand and finished 12th in the team race with 88.5 points.
Using its superbly balanced lineup, Central Columbia, in its first trip to the tournament, walked away with the team title, outdistancing Class AAA Central Mountain, 163.5-150. The Blue Jays didn't crown a champion when all three finalists lost but 11 of the team's 13 wrestlers earned a medal. Central Mountain crowned one champion had six other medalists.
"(Winning two titles) is a real cool accomplishment for them," Fluman said. "My family is from the Williamsport area so the tournament and its history is not lost on me. What they did was cool. This was my first go around with them and I was very pleased with all three of those guys, the way that they wrestled and their attitudes throughout the tournament.
Cole Walter, who thumped Ryan Ramich of Schuylkill Valley, 17-2 (3:14) in the semifinals, used a six-point third period to major stubborn Dylan Graham of Clearfield in the final at 132. Leading 4-1 to start the third period, Walter, a sophomore, escaped, added a takedown, and three near fall points to get his third bonus point win of the tournament.
"My goal at the beginning of the tournament was to tech fall my way through so I came up a little short," Walter said. "I was really confident to start and I didn't get too excited for any of the matches. It wasn't too big of a deal, just a good way to start the season. I had never seen or heard of (Ramich) before so I just went at my own pace and took it to him."
Mironenko, who beat Hughesville's Derek Earnest, 3-2, to start his state championship run a year ago, used a solid 5-1 decision over Devon Ackerman of South Western to reach the 285-pound final. There, facing Central Mountain's Caleb Stover, he converted a first period takedown, escaped in the second and, after another takedown, turned the senior for a fall in 3:41.
"My pinning combinations weren't working for me earlier in the day but we fine-tuned some things and got it back to working shape," Mironenko said. "It feels great to get another championship, especially with Cole and Ty getting their second one, too. We are like brothers on our team. As soon as I came to wrestling I spent a lot of time at their house; we are a really tight group of friends.
Ty Walter showed no sign of having a gimpy ankle in the semis when he pinned South Williamsport's Justin Knee in 1:33. But he tweaked it in the first period of his 170-pound final with Schuylkill Valley senior, Joey Waack. After converting a first period takedown, Walter needed injury time and took another timeout in the second. But, instead of folding, Walter put together a five-point period thanks to an escape, a takedown, and two near fall points, for a 7-3 decision.
"I tried to keep it hidden through the tournament but I hurt my ankle pretty bad this week," Walter said. "I was frustrated (early in the match) because all (Waack) was doing was reaching right for my ankle. He wasn't really wrestling, he was just going for my ankle. It was excruciating but I couldn't quit. I think he kind of gave up when he realized it."
Also taking home medals for the Wildcats were Noah Kuba (sixth at 113), Cooper Wagner (fourth at 120), and Ryan Gessner (sixth at 160).
Lansberry picked up a tight 3-1 win over Jeremy Rivera of Elizabethtown in the 138-pound final a year ago. This time, at 145, he edged Central Columbia's Aaron Johnson, 5-3, in the semis and then turned Jersey Shore's Zak Herman for a fall in 3:23.
"After finishing seventh in the state last year, I came into this tournament knowing what I was capable of," Lansberry said. "(My big-match experience) helps a lot in situations like these. All the big matches I wrestled last year helped prepare me for situations like this."
Line Mountain coach Mike Martz agreed.
"He's a four-year starter and he has been in these types of matches for the last three years," Martz said. "I think he felt comfortable and that's why we come to tournaments like this. We want high-caliber matches that will help us in the post season."
Four other Eagles also earned medals. Cameron Newman, bounced back from an opening round loss on Friday night with three straight pins in the consolations. In the consolation semis, he dropped a 2-1 decision to South Western's Derek Wilson who had dealt Newman the loss on Friday night. Newman finished fifth after blanking Kuba, 2-0,
"Cameron came back through the wrestlebacks and almost got the guy who beat him Friday," Martz said. "He did a great job."
Also placing were Colton Zimmerman (fourth at 126), Britton Heim (eighth at 160), and Rayce Boyer (seventh at 195).