Clymer comes up big at district tourney
If this past weekend's District 11 Class AA tournament proved one thing, it's that the Northwestern wrestling program is back.
The Tigers left Freedom High School with one champion, two silver medalists and a total of six wrestlers advancing to this weekend's Southeast Regional event.
One of the many highlights of the tournament for Northwestern was freshman Caleb Clymer's stunning performance to claim the 138-pound title.
Coming into the tournament as the fifth seed, Clymer's championship may have caught some off guard.
The freshman bounced top-seeded Dylan Rynkiewicz of Tamaqua in the semis, then took advantage of an opening to pin Palisades' Tyler Marsh, the No. 2 seed, in the finals.
But the performance wasn't a surprise to Northwestern head coach Jim Moll, who has seen Clymer come through in big matches all year.
"He's a finisher," said Moll. "(When) he gets a pinning combination, he knows how to use it and how to finish a match, and that's huge.
"He knows the situation and he's comfortable in that situation, and he gets the job done."
And getting it done is a feeling Clymer won't soon forget.
"The cradle just happened to be there and his hips were down, and I was able to turn him," said Clymer. "So many things were racing through my mind at that point. I was so pumped.
"I was just thinking, 'Ah, I can do this. I can actually win this.' And when the referee called the pin, it was just awesome."
The Tigers' two other finalists were Quentin Bernhard (120) and Alex Russo (195).
Bernhard, the team's only regional qualifier a year ago, lost a 3-2 decision on a late reversal to top seed Caleb Bordner of Tri Valley.
Despite the loss, Bernhard was satisfied with his improvement in the tournament, something that gives him confidence heading into the regional competition this weekend.
"Last year, I got to experience it," he said. "And knowing how that feels makes me even more excited to do it again this year."
And with that experience comes higher expectations, something Moll believes Bernahrd is more than capable of delivering on.
"It showed that he's right there with him," Moll said of Bernhard and Bordner, who became Tri Valley's all-time wins leader during the tournament. "There's no reason he can't be on the podium at states."
But perhaps no wrestler had a more impressive tournament than Russo.
The senior, who was the seventh seed at 195 pounds, defeated No. 2 Rian Shubeck of Panther Valley by a 6-3 decision in the quarterfinals. Russo followed that with an 8-5 win over Palisades' Nick Bord, who was the third seed, in the semifinals.
"I told myself that I wasn't going to stop wrestling until the clock ran out, and that was my mindset," Russo said. "I'm a senior now, and it's been four long years of a lot of hard work, and just to leave it all out there on the mat was my goal. To get those results made it so worth it."
Though he came up short against top seed Alex Hummel of North Schuylkill in the final, Russo's showing was one that Moll was more than proud of.
"He went out and wrestled tough," Moll said. "He beat a lot of really good kids to get there, and he wrestled a great tournament.
"If he wrestles that way next week, he should be going to Hershey."
Northwestern's Jarett White moved on to the regional tournament by taking third place at 126 pounds.
Matt Peters defeated Lehighton's Nate Kemmerer in the 106 pound fifth-place bout to advance, while Baily Wehr also qualified by hanging on for a close decision win over Tri Valley's Kyle Stephen to take fifth place.
Those results helped the Tigers finish fifth in the team standings with 127.5 points. Northern Lehigh won the AA team title with 167 points.