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Two Tigers make states

Six different Northwestern wrestlers took the mat on Friday when the PIAA Class 2A SE Region Tournament got underway.

By the conclusion of the final bouts on Saturday night, two Tigers punched their tickets to states. And it was a familiar duo from last year.

Quentin Bernhard and Caleb Clymer both advanced to the medal-winning rounds on Saturday at Reading’s Wilson West Lawn High School with their place in states already clinched. The only thing to decide was their place when the finals, third- and fifth-place matches began.

Bernhard won his fifth-place match at 126 pounds, picking up a 4-2 decision over Tamaqua’s Tanner McHugh. Clymer, meanwhile, forfeited his two matches in the consolation round at 145 pounds, but still took sixth place to qualify for this week’s PIAA tournament in Hershey. Both qualified for states last season.

“I’m glad that I met a goal that I could do better than the last two years when I took sixth place,” Bernhard said. “Aside from just the placement, it was a lot of excitement with how tight the whole weight class was and in the semis I was a point away.”

Baily Wehr (120), Jarett White (132), David VanBlargan (152) and Andrew Sorensen (170) also competed at regionals. Wehr, White and VanBlargan all finished a match away from medaling and qualifying for states.

Bernhard takes a step forward

After falling in the same match the previous two seasons, Bernhard admitted the experience at the regional stage certainly played a part in coming out on top this year. It also helped that he was familiar with McHugh, an opponent he defeated in the district semifinals just a week prior.

“It helped being here and having wrestled that match so many times,” Bernhard said. “I think that helped loosen the pressure a little bit this time. I know if it was my first time in that position there might have been more nerves. I had that mentality that it was my last year and I had to leave it all out there.”

Bernhard entered the third period trailing 2-1 against McHugh and chose the down position to open the final two minutes. An escape tied the match early in the period, and with roughly 45 seconds remaining, Bernhard took down McHugh for the decisive points.

“He’s pretty tough on bottom,” Bernhard said. “And on his feet, too. I took him down last time and took him down this time, but it was a real battle. Both times the takedown I think was in the third period.

“I knew he was a tough kid, but I knew I was good enough to do it. I knew I would just have to attack. I couldn’t stand back on my feet.”

While Bernhard is certainly pleased with his placement, he was two points away from advancing to both the final round and third-place match.

After pinning Boiling Springs’ Tristan Hanshaw in the first period to open the tournament, Bernhard defeated Brandywine’s Kyle Caskie with a 4-0 decision in the quarterfinals. A rematch from the district duals ensued against Palisades’ Nathan Haubert in the semifinals, but unfortunately, a 5-3 defeat sent Bernhard to the consolation round.

“The last time I wrestled him [Haubert] I lost 1-0,” Bernhard said. “I knew that I had to score on him, and I absolutely did get a takedown on him. I tried to stay confident, but I don’t know if I got a little too confident because then he took me down.”

A tough 6-4 loss to Archbishop Carroll’s Nick Poulos also kept Bernhard out of the third-place match by a slim margin.

Clymer battles through injury

Clymer, despite pinning Bermudian Springs’ Ashton West and Littlestown’s Carl Harris in his first two matches, wasn’t at full strength entering the tournament on Friday. Just a couple of days prior to regionals, he aggravated a previous injury that kept him out for much of the season.

“It was a little rough the first day, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to wrestle today [Saturday],” Clymer said. “I figured I would try to go for my semis match and see how it went. I probably could have pulled it off, [but] I had a few mistakes.”

Boiling Springs’ AJ Kostyak defeated Clymer 6-5 in the semifinals round before he decided to sit out his consolation match to get into the third-place match and then his fifth-place matchup with Pen Argyl’s James Klinger.

In fact, Clymer wasn’t certain on if he would be wrestling at regionals at all.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to wrestle at this tournament at all because when I first broke it, they said if it happens again it’s probably surgery, at worst maybe a hip replacement,” Clymer said. “I was very iffy on whether I was going to wrestle or not today.”

But like Bernhard, Clymer is moving on to Hershey with a week to rest and get healthy. And that’s what matters the most at this stage in the season.

“I’m moving on and that’s the most important thing,” Clymer said. “Regionals and all of that stuff is fun to win, and it’s a blast, and I love it, and it stinks to only take sixth out here, but states is where it matters. That’s where I have to turn it on.”

Bernhard, too, is excited to crack the state field once again. He’ll make the most of his opportunity with his final season winding down.

“There’s a lot of tough guys out there,” Bernhard said. “It’s a whole different ballpark. All kinds of people you don’t know. Everybody is out there to wrestle tough. It’s just the end. You have nothing to lose, especially being a senior.”

PRESS PHOTOs BY BOB FORDQuentin Bernhard (above, on top) will return to Hershey to compete in the state wrestling championships as a senior. Caleb Clymer (left, in black singlet) will rest and recover this week before heading to Hershey for the second state tournament of his high school career.