HERSHEY — For a guy who already has three PIAA medals and is a big favorite for a fourth, you would think Luke Nichter would have the hang of this tournament.
But it goes to show the magnitude of the PIAA Wrestling Championships that Nichter, a Chambersburg senior, found himself in an unusual situation Thursday evening as the first round approached.
“Honestly, I was really nervous before, and I haven’t been like that all year,” Nichter said. “So I just took a little nap and then I was all right. That was strange.”
It was definitely not strange to see Nichter pick up a victory — the 152nd of his stellar career. He defeated Dillon Sheely of Council Rock North, 5-1, at 160 pounds and moves into Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals.
Shippensburg had two qualifiers compete Thursday — senior Dylan Ramsey (132) lost his first bout, but came back with a win in the consolations. Freshman Dom Frontino (138) was defeated twice and eliminated.
Trojan coach Matt Mentzer said, “Luke wrestled a very good match against an experienced, smart and well-coached kid. Sheely is a West Point commit and we knew it would be a battle.”
Nichter grabbed an advantage very quickly, countering a Sheely attack with a takedown in the first 10 seconds of the match.
Nichter: “I heard he was really strong and hard to move around. I was talking to one of my coaches and he told me the guy would try to push forward right away, so I was ready at the start. I wanted to go for it right away myself anyway.”
Sheely got out for an escape, but Nichter put some huge points on the board with a takedown with five seconds left in the period for a 4-1 lead.
“The takedown at the end of the first period was the key,” Mentzer said.
It also helped that Nichter rode Sheely the entire second period, never in danger of giving up any points.
Nichter escaped to open the third, then fended off Sheely’s strategy of pushing hard.
“In the third, he was just trying to drive me out (of bounds),” Nichter said.
The win sets up a quarterfinal meeting for Nichter (40-5) against Nazareth’s Connor Herceg (41-4).
Shippensburg’s Ramsey dropped his opener 9-3 to Trent Kochersperger of Kennett. Ramsey used his tough leg ride to control his foe for the entire second period, but still trailed 4-1 after Kochersperger scored earlier on a takedown and pull back.
In the third, Ramsey, a senior, escaped twice, but was taken down both times.
Facing State College’s Owen Woolcott in the wrestlebacks, Ramsey used his tough leg ride to score a nearfall with a power half and a 2-0 lead just seconds before the second period ended. Woolcott tried the same move in the the third, but Ramsey held him off and scored a late reversal for a 4-0 win.
Ship coach Tony Yaniello said, “I think Ramsey deserved that win, but that kid was tough. It’s nice to see him get to the second day. He just didn’t get to wrestle his match in his first one.”
Ramsey (32-11) will face Jordan Watters of West Allegheny (31-8) in the second round Friday.
Frontino ran into a stronger opponent in John Altieri of Norwin and was defeated, 7-2. Off the opening whistle, the Greyhound freshman got in deep on a single, but a counter by Altieri kept it scoreless. He then converted a takedown to lead 2-1 after one.
Altieri scored two more takedowns and an escape to Frontino’s late escape for the 7-2 victory.
Frontino met up with Central Dauphin’s Bryce Buckman in the wrestlebacks and Buckman used two takedowns to lead 5-1 after two. But Frontino escaped, took Buckman down with 0:31 left and let him right up.
Trailing 6-4, Frontino got in on a single and tripped Buckman to the mat near the edge as time ran out. Buckman was able to keep his whizzer to avoid the tying takedown.
“I think the biggest thing Dom will learn is he’ll need to get stronger,” Yaniello said. “He just got horsed in his first one. He’ll be disappointed with two losses, but we’ll talk later about what he learned.”
Frontino finished with a 32-10 record.