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Next stop: Hershey

Mike Ortiz has waited a long time for the right to wrestle in the PIAA Championships.

With his second-place finish at last weekend's Southeast Regional Tournament, the Northwestern senior earned his first trip to states, which began Thursday at Hershey's Giant Center.

"It makes me feel better about missing those years in that I'm accomplishing what I set out to 13 years ago," he said. "You never know what can happen."

Ortiz has been one of District 11's best wrestlers all four years of high school. As a freshman, after earning the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at the Parkland Duals, Ortiz failed to make weight at 103.

"That eats me up every day now," he said.

As a sophomore wrestling at 130, Ortiz placed fourth at districts then finished sixth at regionals, one place away from a state berth.

Last season he won the 152-pound district title but injured his knee in his first regional match. Another knee injury in summer meant he would have to wrestle the season with a torn ACL, something that hasn't kept him from achieving his goals so far.

After winning a second straight district title, Ortiz headed to this week's regional tournament with one goal in mind: qualifying for states.

He made it to the170-pound regional championship match where he lost 11-1 to Brandywine Heights senior Pete Renda, who improved to 38-0 with the win.

"I did what I came here to do," Ortiz said of qualifying for states. "I want to win, but next week I only need to wrestle better than him one day."

Ortiz wrestles with a brace on his leg that protects the injured knee. He proved over the past two weeks that the brace doesn't bother him on the mat.

"It definitely said to, not only me, but also to everybody here that it doesn't affect how I'm going to do," Ortiz said. "I can wrestle with it."

Ortiz, who heads to states with a 32-4 record, opened the regional tournament with a 4-3 win over Hamburg's Cody Miller. He beat Bermudian Springs' Tristan Sponseller, 6-5, in the semifinal.

"Pretty much everybody has [Sponseller] ranked above me," Ortiz said. "Now I've just got to focus on beating kids as strong as Pete [Renda]."

Northwestern sophomore Jarrett White also wrestled at regionals. A fourth-place finisher at districts, White lost his first two regional matches.

The Tiger 103-pounder got pinned by Springfield's Kenny Green in his first bout then fell to Annville Cleona's Josh Renninger in a wrestleback.

White finishes the season with a 19-12 record.