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Three wrestlers advance to Class 2A finals

Mar. 8—HERSHEY — Death, taxes and championship bouts featuring Mason Barvitskie and Reagan Milheim.

Barvitskie and Milheim will square off for the fourth consecutive week, but this time it's for the ultimate prize — a gold medal in the PIAA state championship.

Barvitskie and Milheim are set to meet for the final at 145 pounds today while Southern Columbia senior Garrett Garcia will also compete for a gold medal at 189 after winning his semifinal match on Friday night at the Giant Center.

Garcia pulled off one of the more dramatic matches of the night. He defeated Caleb Close of Bald Eagle Area, who came in the match as top seed, in a 5-3 decision that was decided in overtime. It was just the third loss of the year for Close.

After giving up a point due to a caution penalty, Garcia sent the match to OT with a takedown right before the clock expired. Garcia then punched his ticket to the final with a takedown 42 seconds into the overtime. Garcia improved to 33-0 and will look to complete his undefeated season with a win against Huntingdon's Andrew McMonagle in the final bout.

"The delayed whistles were kind of killing me because there was whistles going everywhere," Garcia said. "I just wanted to get on him as fast as I could because I knew I was in pretty good shape to take him down, but it happens. Then I knew we went into overtime if I took him down."

Garcia will look to follow in his brother, Gaige, and father, Mike's, footsteps. Gaige won two state titles for the Tigers in 2019 and 2020, while Mike Garcia won three titles for Mount Carmel.

As for Garcia's teammate Barvitskie, he had a much less stressful path to his final. Competing against Brookville's Cole Householder, Barvitskie picked up six early points with a takedown and a four-point nearfall. Barvitskie eventually won the match 7-1.

It's the first time that Barvitskie, a West Point signeee, will appear in a state final after securing his fourth career medal.

"It's just crazy," Barvitskie said. "This is my last time here getting to go out and represent Southern in the finals. It's just awesome. I'm excited. Ready to go let it fall."

Milheim took down top seed Ryan Lawler of Bishop McDevitt in his semifinal bout. Milheim defeated Lawler in a 3-1 decision after picking a takedown with 55 seconds left in the match.

Milheim is seeking his first gold medal. Milheim fell short of earning a state title last season when he lost to Wyoming Area's Anthony Evanitsky in the final.

"I have respect for (Barvitskie)," Milheim said. "He's a good kid, and he's really nice. We told each other that we'd see each other in the state finals." Milheim edged Barvitskie in the Southern section and District 4 finals before Barvitskie won last week's regional meeting.,

Five more Class 2A wrestlers from the Valley will also appear on the medal stand after getting through Friday's matches. They are Line Mountain's Brock Rothermel (114), Mifflinburg's Bradley Wagner (121), Upper Dauphin's Jonah Peterson (127), Midd-West's Matthew Smith (139) and Warrior Run's Cameron Milheim (152).

Rothermel, Smith and Cameron Milheim lost in the semifinals. Rothermel, who's ranked second in the state, fell to top-ranked Ayden Smith of Notre Dame-Green Pond in a 7-2 decision. Rothermel scored the first point of the match via a second-period escape, but Smith rattled off seven consecutive points to advance to the final.

Smith fell to Littlestown's Cameron Mingee in a 5-1 decision to fall to the consolation semifinals. Before that Smith defeated Burrell's Cooper Hornack in a 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals. Hornack is a returning state champion and a two-time state finalist.

Cameron Milheim dropped a 5-3 decision to Bishop McCort's Melvin Miller in overtime in the semifinals. Milheim led 3-1, but gave up a takedown with 30 seconds left in regulation. Miller secured another takedown in overtime to clinch a spot in the final.

Wagner, a freshman, will compete in the seventh-place match today against Sullivan County's Colton Wade. Wagner and Wade are familiar with each other as the two met during the district and regional finals. Wade won the district while Wagner avenged the loss a week later at regionals.

Peterson, who was Upper Dauphin's lone entrant to the state tournament, eliminated Mifflinburg's Ben Straub with a 6-5 decision in the consolations. After losing in another blood-round match, Peterson fell to a seventh-place bout, where he'll take on West Perry's Jackson Rush today.

"It's great — my whole school was cheering me on," Peterson said. "They were all watching today at school, which is pretty cool. It just feels great to bring a medal back."

Line Mountain's Nolan Baumert (139) and Dalton Schadel (152), Warrior Run's Max Wirnsberger (133), Milton's Alex Hoffman (172) and Straub all saw their seasons come to an end on Friday with losses in the consolations.