- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) - When three-time state champion Thomas Haines drew oohs and aahs from the PIAA wrestling crowd on Thursday, it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

The senior heavyweight from Solanco, who is seeking to become a rare, four-time Pennsylvania state wrestling champion, ended up on his back after an early botched takedown attempt against Sean Snodgrass of Downingtown East.

Having won 170 of 175 matches in his career, Haines was able to quickly roll through the predicament and went to work. He defeated Snodgrass 8-2 and became one of 10 returning champions to record wins in the Class AAA preliminary round of the state championships.

With three more victories each, Haines and Chance Marsteller of Kennard-Dale can become just the 11th and 12th four-time champions in Pennsylvania history.

“I think I wrestled horrendously,” said Haines after a sprint out of the arena and a five-minute cool-down. “I tried to do something stupid and shouldn’t have even thought of doing that at states; you can’t be doing stupid things.”

Haines (39-0), an Ohio State recruit, said he attempted an overhook throw and failed to apply the proper pressure. Snodgrass got the takedown but couldn’t hold Haines on his back for more points.

“I only gave up the takedown, but still it shouldn’t have happened and I’m glad I made up for it,” Haines said.

Marsteller was even more dominant. The Oklahoma State recruit with three more wins can become the state’s first undefeated four-time champion since Jefferson-Morgan’s Cary Kolat (1989-92).

He pinned Connor Martinez of Dallas Area in just 1:23. Now 162-0, Marsteller wasn’t certain what he used to stop Martinez.

“I’m not really sure,” he said. “I came off a turn and kind of stepped over and I had an arm. I came off another turn and had him on his back and just kind of worked in a grapevine and got the pin.

“That’s the plan, go out and get off the mat,” said Marsteller, who is wrestling with a sore back. “Just another day, just do what a wrestler does. I’m just excited to be at the state tournament again.

“I always feel confident. That’s the plan, to come out a state champ.”

The two four-time prospects have plenty of prospective gold-medal company.

Ethan Lizak of Parkland is seeking his third title, even though each match for him is literally a headache. Lizak (42-3) has five stitches in the back of his head from a cut suffered in his regional semifinal bout at Bethlehem Liberty.

His head was taped beneath his headgear but it didn’t affect his offense. Lizak shut out Kevin Kinyua of Mt. Lebanon 13-0.

“I feel a lot better,” said Lizak, who will attend Minnesota. “A lot of different shots; varying up on my feet. I was a little upset I didn’t get the tech (technical fall), but 13-0 is pretty good.”

Other returning champions who notched victories were Devin Brown (Franklin Regional) at 106, Luke Pletcher (Latrobe) at 120, Sam Krivus (Hempfield) at 126, Tyler Smith (Franklin Regional) at 132, Solomon Chishko (Canon-McMillan) at 138, Joe Galasso (Father Judge) at 138 and Garrett Peppelman (Central Dauphin at 160). Peppelman won a title in 2012 and placed second to Marsteller in 2013.

If Galasso and Chishko each win their next two matches, they’ll set up a battle of two returning champs in Saturday night’s finals at 138 pounds. The same goes for Lizak and Pletcher at 120.

Galasso and Chishko each scored 25 points in their first-round victories.

“I’m pretty pleased,” Galasso said. “I try, actually, to forget about that (defending his title). Anything can happen here in the first round. I just forget about everything, about how my success last year doesn’t mean anything to anyone now.

“I just come out with the same mentality to score points and win.”

That’s exactly what all six wrestlers from Franklin Regional, this season’s PIAA Team Wrestling Championships titlist, did on Thursday.

Defending champs Brown and Smith each won one-point matches but unbeaten freshman Spencer Lee (46-0) needed just 2:19 to score a 16-1 technical fall win over Dustin Steffenino of Upper Perkiomen.

“He’s (Lee) just a kid who goes after it; he wants to dominate everybody he wrestles,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said.

“He tries to go out and his ultimate goal is to pin everyone, but he wants to put some points on the board, too, and he’s doing that this year.”

Smith defeated Alex Smith of Cumberland Valley 2-1 and was ridden by Smith the entire third period. “We were never really in danger of giving up back points,” Mausser said. “Tyler wrestled a smart match and won to move on to the next round.”

Brown needed a takedown with eight seconds remaining to upend Zurich Storm of New Oxford 8-7.

“Devin went after him,” Mausser said. “I was happy with it. You’re going to have those tight ones every once in a while.”

NOTES: The combined two-session crowd was 10,068. . Three sessions are scheduled for Friday: Class AA quarterfinals at 9 a.m., Class AAA quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. and Class AA semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Consolation bouts follow each of those rounds.

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