WRESTLING: Closing session: After wins Thursday, Ike’s Johnson, Y’ville’s Durlin finish short of PIAA medals Friday

HERSHEY – A day after Warren County’s lone Class AAA qualifier was eliminated, Eisenhower senior Jake Johnson and Youngsville junior Jaykup Durlin fell short of a state medal in Double-A at the PIAA Wrestling Championships.

That didn’t make them any less worthy, according to their coaches.

“All in all, a good experience down here,” said Youngsville coach Scott Ishman of Durlin, who finishes 34-8 on the season and within reach of 100 career wins next year. His first trip, he went 1-2 with the best in the state. I think he learned a lot this post-season with the mental aspect – to keep the intensity, but also keep his mind on wrestling.”

After a third-place finish at the Northwest Region Class AA Tournament last weekend in Sharon, Durlin opened at states Thursday 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.

Durlin was on the other end on Friday.

He trailed almost from the beginning against the only other junior in the division – Avella’s Jake Temple, and lost a 7-1 decision to get knocked to the consolation round. He then lost by 14-4 major decision to Moshannon Valley senior Jacob Ludwig.

Wrestling in the 220-pound division filled primarily by seniors, and a division in which Durlin will be stronger in next year, Ishman is extremely excited about Durlin’s effort and future.

“He was one of the best 16 in the state. We came up a little short of medaling,” said Ishman.

Johnson lost his first match on Thursday, but bounced back for his 106th career win in a senior season for the ages.

The Ike senior (30-9) narrowly made it out of the Section 1-AA Tournament in Union City after a fourth-place finish. He then lost his first match at districts in Sharon and was one loss from his career ending – one win short of 100 no less. He turned it on and won four in a row to finish third and advance to regions. He advanced to the finals at the Northwest Regional Class AA tourney to secure his first trip to states.

On Friday, Johnson’s high school career ended with a 31-11 season after a 5-2 decision loss to Bethlehem Catholic senior Josh Alpha at 195 pounds.

“Hershey was larger than life,” said Johnson. “Reaching that goal was a big accomplishment for me and my family.I wouldn’t say I was past the disappointment yet, but I realize there’s a next chapter in my life that’s ready to be wrote. This post-season truly was the cherry on top of my career. I’ll hopefully be remembered as one of the top 10 wrestlers to go through Eisenhower.”

Eisenhower coach Kiel Woodburn thinks what Johnson has achieved “speaks for itself,” he said. “Wins are great, but to be able (his season) around like he did, that tells you a lot about him.

“For all of our seniors this year, sooner or later you’re going to lose,” said Woodburn. It’s probably going to happen. Four kids (in each weight class at PIAA) in the entire state get to win their last match. I told Jake, ‘If you wrestled the hardest five minutes of your life right now then, win or lose, you’re not going to have any regrets. And he wrestled his heart out.”

On Thursday, Warren sophomore D.J. Fehlman was 0-2 at 126 pounds in the Class AAA tournament. Like Durlin, Fehlman has a lot of high school wrestling ahead of him.

“He’s got some time now to reflect on it,” said Warren coach Glenn Baldensperger, “and plan a path.

“We’re proud of him and thankful to have him,” he said. “He’s just an outstanding kid and he’s got two more seasons left (at Warren).”