Quick start helps Reynolds’ Andrew Ischo overcome tough first match in PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships

HERSHEY: Andrew Ischo gets a little worried when he takes the mat for the first time in a wrestling tournament (Photo by Aneesa Bayless).

The Reynolds sophomore isn’t always at his best. Call it a little sluggish, which could be a recipe for disappointment in the PIAA Class 2A State Wrestling Championships.

But Ischo is a grinder. Despite being young on this stage, he knows how to score points, do what it takes to hold on, and set the table for his teammates.

That’s what Ischo did in the opening round of Thursday’s championship tournament at Hershey’s Giant Center. The Raiders ace downed higher ranked Richie Markulics by a narrow 6-5 decision at 120.

Ischo (29-10) advances to Friday’s 9 a.m. quarterfinal round. He will face St. Joseph’s Zach Witmer (41-2), who defeated Biglerville’s Josh Tuckey 8-0.

“The first-round match is always the most important,” Ischo said. “Usually, you are going to be a little sluggish, a little tired, so you have to be prepared to keep pushing yourself and keep pushing.

“Especially with a guy ranked fourth like that … it was huge. For me, I think the first match is always my worst, so it’s important to get it out of the way and get the win.”

Ischo, ranked sixth in the state according to PA Power Wrestling, shook off an early shot by Markulics and scored for a quick 2-0 lead. The Notre Dame Green-Pond standout escaped in short order to close the gap to 2-1.

But Ischo kept applying pressure. He scored on another single-leg takedown and took a 4-2 lead to the second period.

“At the beginning, I want to come out and push the pace, create the tempo, and put him on his heels,” Ischo said. “By the end, I got a little defensive, which was a bad move for me. I’ve got to be more mentally prepared.”

Markulics escaped to kick off the second and started to kickstart his offensive push. Ischo was able to fight off the assault, but he was starting to struggle a bit at the end of the second two-minute stanza.

Ischo escaped in the third, but Markulics pressed and scored a takedown to even the match at 5. He cut Ischo to save time and push the pace for the winning takedown, but he couldn’t finish, and the second-year Raiders wrestler earned the decision.

“The biggest thing I learned about a match like that is to keep the tempo, keep the pace,” Ischo said. “Don’t leave off the gas and put on the brake. You’ve got to keep going.

“A win like that, it’s awesome momentum. Not just for me, but for my teammates. They can feed off that momentum. Winning the first match like that definitely propels me to a better state of mind, and we are ready to go win some more matches.”

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