WRESTLING: Ike’s Johnson, Y’ville’s Durlin punch tickets to Hershey

SHARON – Now or never.

That’s the way Eisenhower senior Jake Johnson was looking at it and, apparently, Youngsville junior Jaykup Durlin as well.

Neither were predicted to finish in the top three at their respective weight classes at the Northwest Region Class AA Tournament this weekend, which is what they had to do to advance to the PIAA tournament.

Both did.

Johnson advances to states for the first time with a huge semifinals win over Seneca’s Trevor Beiter, who he had never beaten, and a second-place finish at 195 pounds. Durlin won his third-place “blood match” over Reynolds’ Logan Rickert, 1-0, a week after he lost the third-place match at districts to Rickert.

“The confidence level was just through the roof,” said Johnson, whose remarkable post-season journey has been sparked by wanting to do better than his three older brothers did in high school.

Johnson finished fourth at the Section 1-AA tournament, then third at districts before his second-place finish at regions.

“States is what I’ve always wanted,” said Johnson. “I knew it was ‘Go Time.'”

After being pinned by Beiter in the regular-season dual match and losing a 3-2 decision to him in a tournament, Johnson “used that famous lat drop of mine to put me up five (points),’ he said.

Johnson earned a 9-2 decision over Brookville’s Taylor Cudworth on Friday before his semifinal match against Beiter, who was 27-2 entering the match.

Johnson earned his 30th win of the season and 105th of his career with a 7-1 decision of Beiter, who wrestled back to take third. Johnson’s 8-2 decision loss to Corry’s Ryan Morris in the finals isn’t going to discourage him now.

“One of my big goals has always been to be better than my brothers,” said Johnson. “Obviously they’ve been pushing me throughout the years.”

His ultimate goal for high school wrestling has been a state medal and picture on the walls of Eisenhower High School.

“Now or never,” he said.

“I have never been more confident in a kid ever in my life,” said Ike coach Kiel Woodburn. “He was wrestling at a totally different level than what he’s ever wrestled. He had a goal at the beginning of the season he wanted to get a medal at states; it just so happens that Beiter kid was standing in his way.”

Durlin had to overcome adversity to get in as well, and he also didn’t lack for confidence.

“This was always my goal as a high schooler to make it to states,” he said. “I knew I could beat him this time.”

Durlin lost a 3-1 decision at 220 pounds to Rickert at the District 10 Class AA Championships.

“What better attitude to have,” said Youngsville coach Scott Ishman.

Tied at 0-0 in the third period, Durlin (33-5) chose to start in the down position.

“We knew he couldn’t hold Jake down,” said Ishman.

“Compared from last week to this week, Jake kept his cool, kept his mind in the match, and he wrestled,” said Ishman. “There isn’t much weak on Jake… He kept a good positive attitude, and we’re going to Hershey because of it.”

Youngsville junior Stone Sivak (182), Eisenhower freshman Louie Head (145) and Sheffield junior Ricky Prosen (120) were eliminated Friday night.

The two Jakes want to keep reaching for the stars,

“(Jake Johnson) is a gamer,” said Woodburn. “He’s a special kid with something inside of him; he found it and hopefully we can ride that one more week.”

It seems their goal was always to earn a medal.

“I’m going out there to go for the gold medal,” said Durlin.

Here are the results from Saturday’s Northwest Region Class AA Tournament at Sharon High School (top three from each weight class qualify for PIAA AA tournament, March 7-9, at the Giant Center in Hershey):