WRESTLING: Going Gets Tough: Y’ville’s Durlin starts on top, Ike’s Johnson battles back, Warren’s Fehlman eliminated on Day 1 at PIAA tourney

HERSHEY – The opening day of the PIAA Class AA and AAA Wrestling Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center was a mixed bag for Warren County’s three participants.

One wrestler, Youngsville’s Jaykup Durlin, is alive in the Class AA championship quarterfinals. A second, Eisenhower’s Jake Johnson remains alive in the Class AA consolation bracket. A third, Warren’s D.J. Fehlman saw a fantastic sophomore season end Thursday with a pair of opening day losses.

Perhaps the biggest story of day one was the performance of the Youngsville junior 220-pounder Durlin. Entering the tournament as the Northwest Region’s third seed, Durlin opened the day with the second seed out of the Southeast in Halifax senior Joey Kaufman.

Kaufman – who was a perfect 38-0 until a loss in the Southeast Regional final one week ago – and Durlin wrestled close throughout with the match tied 1-1 midway through the third period. It was then that Durlin made his move, taking Kaufman to his back for a takedown and three back points.

The five-point move proved to be the difference in the match with Durlin claiming a 6-1 victory.

Despite taking down a kid predicted to finish higher than him at the state tournament, Durlin didn’t necessarily think his victory was an upset.

“No, it wasn’t an upset,” said Durlin. “I figured I could take him. It’s going to set me up pretty good (for Friday) and motivates me to keep the (three-match) winning streak going tomorrow.”

Youngsville coach Scott Ishman said Durlin’s win over Kaufman puts him in a nice position within the Class AA 220-pound bracket. More importantly, it keeps Durlin from facing a “win or go home” scenario for at least one more match.

“Jake put himself in a great position with the win today,” said Ishman. “He wrestled a good, clean match and broke things open with a five-point move in the third period. Because of the win, he enters tomorrow with at least two chances to secure a medal for himself. That allows him to wrestle a little looser and with not as much pressure. Most importantly, he still has his lifeline by winning today. His next loss wouldn’t eliminate him and that’s great for confidence.”

Next up for Durlin (34-6) is the Southwest Region’s top seed in Avella junior Jake Temple (37-1). A win would secure a PIAA medal for Durlin and the match is scheduled to take place during Friday morning’s 9 a.m. quarterfinal round.

Eisenhower senior Johnson (31-10) didn’t have the greatest start to his day with an opening round loss, but the winner of 106 matches bounced back Thursday evening with a consolation round victory to keep his season alive.

“We definitely wanted to win that first match, but Jake just got caught and that’s part of the sport,” said Ike coach Kiel Woodburn. “Anybody can beat anybody else on any given day. Still, it was incredibly impressive for him to bounce back in that second match. The way he won the bout (with a late third period takedown) hopefully left him feeling good at the end of the day and will allow him to get that one additional win he needs to medal (in the morning).”

Johnson entered the tournament as the second seed out of the Northwest, but was pinned by the Northeast’s third seed – Western Wayne senior Conner Rosensweet – in the second period.

The loss dropped Johnson into the first round of consolations where he was facing an elimination match against Hamburg junior Austin Bashore. Like Durlin earlier in the day, Johnson was tied 1-1 with Bashore late in the third period before taking the Southeast’s fourth seed to the mat and finishing a five-point move for a 6-1 victory.

Johnson will face the loser of Saturday morning’s match between Milton’s Ryan Solomon (36-0) and Bethlehem Catholic’s Josh Alpha (34-9) in the second round of consolations. That round of action begins at 10:15 a.m.

Despite being sent to the consolation bracket, Johnson hasn’t given up on his goal of returning home with a PIAA medal.

“Had a rough start,” he said Thursday night. “I lost to a kid I should have beat and that might be my ultimate downfall in this tournament. But, back on the horse… I haven’t taken the easy route yet this year, so I’m not going to (give up) now.”

For Warren’s Fehlman, the initial trip to the PIAA level was a rough one. However, Fehlman (32-4) has repeatedly shown the ability to bounce back from adversity and raise his game as time progresses.

The two-time District 10 Class AAA champion -once at 120 pounds and this year at 126 pounds – proved he was worthy of his inclusion in the PIAA field. Both matches he wrestled and ultimately lost on Thursday were tight from start to finish.

Fehlman opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Nazareth junior Chase Zemenak – the third seeded wrestler from the Northeast. That loss dropped Fehlman into Thursday night’s consolation round where he suffered a 6-3 loss to Dallastown junior Rodney Sunday, ending his season.

Though Fehlman ultimately fell short of bringing home a PIAA medal, he had a season to remember. After winning 33 matches and winning a D-10 title as a freshman, Fehlman won 32 matches and another D-10 title in 2012-13, winning 32 of his first 33 matches on the season.