WILLIAMSPORT — Derek Reber can’t see the future but he can see potential. There were plenty of skeptics a few weeks ago when he predicted that Emmanuel Ulrich would be in the finals of the Tom Best Memorial Top Hat wrestling tournament at Williamsport on the opening weekend of the season. Even Ulrich, Mifflinburg’s freshman heavyweight, doubted his coach’s pre-season prognostication.
Turns out that Reber’s crystal ball was accurate. Ulrich pinned his way into the finals with three straight falls against upperclassmen but dropped a 4-1 decision to two-time state qualifier Nick Warneke of Saucon Valley and settled for second place at 285 pounds. Ulrich’s outstanding effort capped an up-and-down weekend for the Wildcats.
Gabe Gramly, the top seed at 126, re-injured his knee in a 5-4 overtime loss to Central Mountain’s Taylor in the semifinals and then was pinned by Line Mountain’s Blake Wirt on the consolation semifinals before defaulting in the fifth place match. Clayton Reed, a runner-up Top Hat last year, lost to Suacon Valley freshman Jake Jones in the morning quarterfinals and then went 3-1 through the wrestlebacks to get fifth at 132. Trevor Bingaman lost a 6-1 decision to Saucon Valley’s Chris Arciuolo in the semifinals but followed with two victories for fifth place at 132.
Quinton Doane lost to eventual champion Cameron Wood of Montoursville in the quarterfinals but strung together three consecutive wins in the wrestlebacks to reach the consolation final at 220 pounds. He was pinned in that bout by Oliver Billotte of Clearfield and settled for fourth place. Cosy Rokavic matched place of a year ago when he finished sixth at 145.
“I thought we wrestled well but there were a couple of spots we could have improved on,” Reber said. “It’s just the first tournament so it’s things we can work on. Gabe never has tears in his eyes but he did today so I knew he was in some pain. He was only cleared to wrestle two weeks ago after having his meniscus removed and he chose to wrestle.”
Saucon Valley won its second straight team title (259 points) with 13 medalists, seven finalists, and two champions. Central Mountain was a distant runner-up with 200 points while host Williamsport was a solid third with 177. Mifflinburg settled for 10th place and 106.5 points.
Ulrich put together a superb tournament for a freshman at the final weight. He dispatched Montoursville’s Lane Stutzman in 1:23 in his first varsity match Friday night and then pinned Williamsport’s Ethan Williamson in the second period of their quarterfinal bout. He pinned South Western senior Tommy Morris in 1:42 for his finals berth.
After a scoreless opening period against Warneke, Ulrich was turned for three back points by the Saucon Valley senior. But he fought off his back for an escape. After Warneke escaped in the third, Ulrich pushed the pace but couldn’t get a take down.
“He is gritty and he doesn’t like losing,” Reber said. “Warneke was a good test for him. If he doesn’t get caught on his back there, it’s a 1-1 match and who knows what happens. He could have given up when he was on his back but he got out and then was the aggressor. That’s good. Even though he’s young he’s got a lot of maturity.”