HERSHEY — A quarterfinal victory is a sweet thing to own in the PIAA Wrestling Championships.
Chambersburg sophomore Luke Nichter and Shippensburg senior Cole Forrester now know that feeling.
A quarterfinal win obviously keeps a wrestler on track to a possible state title. But it also guarantees that the lowest place possible is sixth, so a finish on the podium is assured.
Nichter won a low-scoring thriller, 3-1, over Kyle Homet of Waynesburg at 170 pounds, securing the winning takedown with 29 seconds left in the sudden victory overtime period.
Forrester built a healthy early lead against studly Jake Slinger of Upper St. Clair, then held on at the end for an 8-6 win at 220.
Nichter’s brother, freshman Tate Nichter (pictured above on bottom), was handled in the quarters by Nazareth’s Sammy Sasso, ranked No. 1 in the country at 145. He will wrestle later Friday in a consolation bout.
Luke Nichter’s bout with Homet was played very close to the vest for the first 6 minutes. There were no good shots until Nichter got in on a single late in the third period, and two quick escapes left the score 1-1 at that point.
“I knew if I could just go for it, I could get him,” Nichter said. “I did take more shots later in the match.”
Early in the OT period, Nichter got in tight and tossed Homet to the mat, but he was judged to have landed out of bounds.
Right off the whistle, Nichter attacked again, got inside for a bearhug and tripped Homet to the mat for the winning points, this time just inside the boundary.
“They waived that first one off, so I just figured I’d go back and do it again … and I did,” Nichter said.
He had suffered a one-point loss to Homet in December at he Beast of the East Tournament, on a caution in overtime.
“He pushed me around that time and kicked my butt,” Nichter said. “This time I didn’t let him push me.”
Trojan coach Matt Mentzer said, “I feel like Luke was the better wrestler on the mat, and he needs to score more points. But, it’s a state quarterfinal and he got his hand raised, so … ”
Nichter (37-6) will take on Nazareth’s Cade Wilson (42-4) in the semifinals, which begin Saturday morning at 9 a.m. In a consy bout last year at states, Nichter defeated Wilson 13-8.
Forrester (on top, above) had a great first period, taking Slinger down twice, the first with a single shot and a switch to a double, and on the second was able to add back points for a 6-1 lead.
“He was really strong, so that 6-1 lead was really big,” Forrester said.
In the second, Slinger was able to ride Forrester out, wearing him down a little. Slinger opened the third with an escape, then scrambled to a takedown with a minute left to make it 6-4.
“I started to shut it down a little, but what hurt was that good shot I took that he ended getting the takedown on,” Forrester said. “In the end, I just wanted to make sure I won.”
Slinger let Forrester up and scored another takedown with 0:25 left, and let Forrester up with 19 seconds left. But he did not get close to scoring again and it ended 8-6.
Forrester (36-0) knows his semifinal opponent, Parker McClellan of Altoona (29-5). They met in a tournament at West Branch earlier this year and Forrester took a 9-5 verdict.
“He’s tough and he’s pretty long,” Forrester said. “I just have to make sure I do my stuff and I should be OK.”
At 145, Sasso showed why he is ranked so high, and why he is going to Ohio State. He had four takedowns and four nearfalls on his way to a 17-2 technical fall in 3:05 over Tate Nichter.
In his consolation bout, Nichter fell 5-3 to Cole Handlovic of Bethlehem Catholic. Handlovic converted a scramble takedown in the first period, then caught Nichter in a duck-under in the second.
“He got behind in a five-minute match, and that makes it tough against a kid from (Bethlehem Catholic), because they don’t make big mistakes,” Mentzer said.