Wrestling: WVC State Qualifiers Use Keystone State Games As Springboard To Senior Campaigns
WILKES-BARRE — D.J. Erickson wasn’t even off the mats in Hershey when he began looking toward the future.
Then a junior, the Hanover Area product was a single victory away from getting on the PIAA Class 2A state medal podium.
One single victory.
“I’m going to medal this year. That’s my main goal,” the Hawkeye said Saturday after winning a gold medal in the Keystone State Games’ High School 157-pound bracket at Wilkes University’s Marts Center. “I want to get 100 career wins, and I’m currently at 83 right now. I would love to break the school record, which I believe is 114. It’s certainly doable. I would need 32 wins to get there, and I’ve won 33 matches in each of my sophomore and junior years. I am definitely trying for it.”
If there was one person inside the Marts Center that could relate with Erickson, it’s Shane Noonan.
While wrestling in the 3A class, Noonan was in a similar spot —one elusive win away from the state medal.
“I’ve been doing a lot of lifting. I’ve been wrestling here and there, but I know that I have to get a lot stronger,” said the Hazleton Area senior, who went 3-0 in the High School 214-pound division Saturday. “I feel like I was overpowered in some of the matches that I lost — and even in some that I was fortunate enough to win. I just have to get stronger, so I’ve been lifting a lot.”
That’s what brought both of the state qualifiers to the Marts Center to participate in the wrestling event of the Keystone State Games.
An opportunity. A chance to get better. Some quality mat time to address strengths and weaknesses in a more relaxed setting than a high school dual or pressure-packed postseason tournament.
“The summer is so important because you have to work. If you don’t, you won’t be up there with the best in the state. It’s rare that you find a kid that doesn’t work all summer,” Erickson said. “If I can wrestle some good, solid matches, I’m going to be happy with myself. It’s not like a high school tournament, but it’s one where you want to get some good work in.”
Noonan completely agreed.
That’s why he left his house early on a Saturday morning to pick up some extra bouts. The senior, a 40-plus match winner in 2017-18, doesn’t want to let any opportunity slip through his hands.
“The summer is so important. It’s the time you can make the biggest leaps, and where you can improve the most,” he said. “It’s good that I’m going to get three matches today. For me, it will serve as a good gauge to see how much I’ve improved, where I need to work and to see if I did get any stronger. Hopefully, I can learn from each match.”
Erickson, coming off a district championship and second-place finish in the region, didn’t look like he missed a step. After opening the day with a 15-0 technical fall over Meyers’ Michael Gavin, he looked sharp against Wyoming Area’s Robin Wrobleski, wrestling for the Mat Assassins. Erickson got a first-period takedown and added three near-fall points in a shutout victory.
“I learned that I have to be more aggressive. I feel that if I am aggressive, opponents are going to have a hard time hanging with me,” Erickson said. “I had a 1-0 match at regionals, and I ended up pinning the kid at states. I need to wrestle like that in every match.”
Noonan’s day was just as successful.
He needed just 51 seconds to pin Northwestern’s Adam Kehl in his first match, and managed to turn Northampton’s Jayden Bortz in the second period for the win.
His final match against Mat Warrior’s Barry Breidgan was the closest. Tied at 2-2 entering the final 90 seconds, Noonan picked up a third-period reversal and finished off the bout with 20 seconds left.
“It’s nice to wrestle some different people,” said Noonan, who was also a district champ and finished third in the always-tough Northeast Regional. “It’s good because you see some different styles. You don’t want to wrestle the same kids each week. This is what you want. This is how you become a better wrestler. Winning a state medal is my main goal. I just need to wrestle the best I could week in and week out. Every weekend, you do your best to walk out with the victory — whether it’s with the team or on an individual basis.”
Contact the writer: