Sweet Success for Future Lions

Pair of Penn State commits earn gold at PIAA AA wrestling championships in Hershey. Grapplers with PSU connections also score second- and third-place finishes.

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Jake Strayer was the last state champion from Forest Hills High (Sidman, Pa.), taking home the title in 2004 with a 125-pound victory over fellow future Penn State wrestler Brock Scott. Now in his third year as the head coach of the Rangers' program, Strayer is finally going to have company alongside his name in the Forest Hills record book, and maybe one day the Penn State one, too.

That's because one of his wrestlers, Cody Law, won the 160-pound PIAA AA individual wrestling championship Saturday afternoon, toppling Kane junior Evan Delong 5-3 in the championship round. Wrestlers with Penn State connections went 2-1 in the final round of the PIAA AA tournament.

“I'm just really happy, and excited. Last year, it didn't end how I wanted it to be,” Law said after dismounting from the top podium in the corner of GIANT Center. “I'm super happy right now. I've been working forever for this, and finally went out and wrestled pretty good, and got it.”

A year ago, Law ended his tournament on the second-place podium; a 3-2 loser to Bentworth's Francis Mizia at 160 pounds. This winter, though, Mizia was gone to graduation, meaning Law was in the driver's seat in the weight class. He took full advantage of it. The senior won by decision in all four bouts, including the championship, where a first-period takedown staked him to a 2-0 lead he grew in the second with an escape and a driving single-leg takedown, giving him a 5-2 lead and enough comfort to not have to score in the third period.

“The key was hand fighting and staying offensive, and circling and moving my feet,” Law said. “He wanted to wrestle in the open and try to hit blast doubles. The whole tournament, I had trouble getting my offense, but this time was a little bit better.”

Law will enroll in the summer at University Park, and will likely participate in the Dapper Dan Tournament if selected as well as the FLO national tournament in a few weeks. But for now, he'll savor the championship.

Strayer will too, the duo ever entrenched together in Forest Hills history.

“It all started with last year and him losing the finals match when he definitely could have won,” Strayer said. “He's been busting his butt every day since the summer working out, and he deserves this.

“He's so into it, and I think that's the main thing that separates the college guys. After last year, we just wanted to keep scoring points, and let them up and make them wrestle, and that's what he did this weekend.”

Retherford Wins in Reunion

There is little love between Benton Area 138-pounder Zain Retherford and Line Mountain, the school he transferred from two years ago. But the future Nittany Lion took the high road, literally and metaphorically, in Saturday's title bout.

Retherford won his second PIAA title Saturday with a 5-0 victory over former Line Mountain teammate Seth Lansberry, twice taking the senior down and escaping once to find himself on the top podium and with a gold medal around his neck.

“The only other better thing that could have happened was to pin my way through the tournament. That's the mind-set our coach likes to give us,” Retherford said. “I pinned my first two kids, and tried to pin my last two. It didn't happen, but the outcome was pretty good.”

The senior credits Lansberry with persuading him to take up the sport in second grade, and the two were often partners growing up in the room. But Retherford's transfer left a sour taste in both his and Lansberry's mouths, and Retherford noted they no longer talk.

There was no time to talk on the mat, though, as Retherford circled in on a single-leg takedown to take a 2-0 first-period lead. Then he escaped to start the second period to swell his lead to 3-0. Lansberry could only muster a few shot attempts in the final three minutes and change of action, as Retherford added another takedown in the second, converting a single-leg shot to a double leg, to cement the title.

“Being able to get that first two was big, and keep my motor going,” Retherford said. He was scoreless against Levanberry in the first period of district and regional bouts.

“I think I was a little more hesitant [in those], and prepared for this before the finals, and [did] not let my nerves get the best of me,” Retherford said. “I was more relaxed this time.”

Retherford is also likely to take part in the Dapper Dan next week if accepted, and will take some time off after that before heading to University Park for the second summer semester.

Smith Takes Second

Brandon Smith of Lewisburg was also involved in the AA finals. The future run-on to Bill O'Brien's football program dropped a 2-0 decision to Saucon Valley's Ray O'Donnel at 220 after O'Donnel reversed him in the third period.

Another PSU football run-on, Adam Geiger, rallied to finish third at 195. He did so by scoring a 20-5 technical fall over James Stodard of Moshannon Valley.

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