HERSHEY: Like many good wrestlers, Owen J. Roberts’ Daniel Mancini had to figure out how to deal with a loss in the right way and learn from it.
That was the biggest difference from last year to this season. Mancini stopped taking the setbacks too hard, figured out how to turn it into a positive, and became a better high school wrestler.
Mancini’s mental dedication paid off during Day 1 of the PIAA Class 3A Wrestling Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Hempfield’s Luke Kemerer, the No. 3 ranked 152-pound wrestler in the state, was the favorite, but it was Mancini with more left in the tank in a 4-2 sudden-victory triumph to earn a state quarterfinal spot.
“I learned my lesson sophomore year taking losses way to personally and being too hard on myself,” the Wildcats junior said. “This year, I was definitely more mature about my losses.
“They showed what my weak points were and what I needed to work on. It’s better that it happened earlier in the year than now.
“This win means everything … It’s what we work for all year. I tried to treat it like any other match and just stay calm and relaxed.”
The strategy worked.
There was no scoring in the first period. Kemerer, a third-place finisher in 2016 and sixth a year ago, took neutral and made it pay off with a takedown 11 seconds into the second two-minute period.
Mancini, promptly, escaped and trailed 2-1. He took bottom to start the third and evened the match eight seconds in.
Kemerer appeared to slow down as the third period progressed. He took injury time with 1:15 left, as Mancini, ranked seventh in the weight class, continued to press. There was no scoring, and the match went to sudden victory.
“He took injury time, so I could tell he was banged up and tired,” Mancini (39-4) said. “He was backing away, and in my mind, I just wanted to keep putting the pressure on, because I knew that would end up winning me the match.”
Mancini kept pushing Kemerer in the one-minute period and scored on a go-behind 19 seconds in for the victory.
“This is the last competition of the year, the biggest competition,” Mancini said. “You can’t get them back the following week.
“You got a whole year until you come back and compete. You just have to lay it all on the line.”