May 3, 2022 Tim Birney

WELLSBORO — Wellsboro plated six runs in the home half of the sixth inning to blow open a close game en route to an 11-4 win over Athens here Tuesday afternoon in NTL Large School baseball action.

The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI single by senior Kaden Setzer, but the Hornets answered with a run in the bottom of the inning.

Athens re-gained the lead with two runs in the top of the third. Junior Carson Smith, senior Karter Rude, and junior Caleb Nichols stoked consecutive singles to make it 2-1, and Rude scored as Nichols was thrown out attempting to steal second.

Once again, however, Wellsboro answered, scoring two runs in the home half of the inning to tie the game at 3-3.

Wellsboro scored two more runs in the fourth inning to take a 5-3 lead, but Athens closed the gap to 5-4 in the fifth when Nichols scampered home on a passed ball. The Wildcats had runners on second and third with no outs, but couldn’t push another run across the plate.

The first sixth batters in the Hornets’ six reached base, with four crossing the plate to extend the lead to 9-4. They ended up scoring two more runs to make it 11-4.

Nichols stroked three singles, scored one run, and drove in one run, and junior Mason Lister singled twice to pace Athens’ eight-hit attack, while Rude and Smith singled and scored one run, Setzer singled and drove in one run, and junior Jaren Glisson scored one run.

Brody Morral stroked three singles, scored two runs, and drove in one run, and Caden Smith had three hits, including a double, scored one run, and knocked in one run in Wellsboro’s 12-hit attack.

Athens, now 10-7, returns to action Monday at North Penn-Mansfield.

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May 2, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Wyalusing built a big lead early, and took advantage of nine Athens errors in a 13-3 win here Monday afternoon in NTL Large School softball action.

For the Lady Rams, the win avenges a 21-15 loss to the Lady Wildcats last week.

Jenelle Johns, who was knocked out of the game last week in the first inning, pitched a complete game to earn the win. She allowed three runs on eight hits, while striking out nine and walking none.

Wyalusing scored one run in the first, four more in the second, and one more in the third to extend the lead to 6-0.

The Lady Rams pushed two runs across the plate in the fourth, and three more in the fifth inning to take an 11-0 lead.

Athens scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on a three-run triple by senior Macie Coyle.

Wyalusing tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh inning to provide the final margin.

Senior Aliyah Butler and sophomore Marissa Butler each singled twice and scored one run to lead Athens at the plate, while Macie Coyle tripled and drove in three runs, Cailin McDaniel doubled and scored one run, and senior Caydence Macik, and freshman Jules Pack each singled. Freshman Ella Coyle scored one run.

Athens, now 7-7, travel to Wellsboro Tuesday.

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May 2, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Unbeaten Wyalusing scored an unearned run on two Athens errors on the same play in the top of the third inning to take the lead for good on its way to a 7-4 win over Athens here Monday afternoon in NTL Large School Division baseball action.

With two outs in the top of the third inning, and the game tied 2-2, Trehnon Hugo hit a flyball that was misplayed. An errant relay throw to third bases allowed Hugo to score to give the Rams a 3-2 lead.

Wyalusing added another run in the fourth, and three more in the top of the seventh to take a 7-2 lead.

The Wildcats scored two runs in the home half of the seventh, on an RBI double by junior Mason Lister and a passed ball.

Lister doubled twice and drove in one run, and senior Karter Rude singled twice, stole two bases, and scored one run to pace Athens at the plate, while senior Kaden Setzer doubled and scored one run.

Senior Dylan Merritt doubled and drove in one run for the Wildcats, while junior Jaren Glisson doubled, junior Cam Sullivan singled, and junior Caleb Nichols scored one run.

Junior Lucas Kraft was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs — three earned — on seven hits, while striking out two and walking four in 4 2/3 innings. Sullivan allowed three runs — two earned — on three hits, while striking out two and walking none in 2 1/3 innings.

Hugo earned the win for the Rams, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out four and walking two in 5 2/3 innings. Blake Morningstar closed out the game, allowing two unearned runs on one hit, while striking out four and walking one.

The Wildcats took the early lead with one run in the bottom of the first inning.

Rude led off with a single, and stole second. Sullivan then stroked a single to right field, and Rude scored when the ball was misplayed.

Wyalusing answered with two runs in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly by Hugo and a bases-loaded walk to Morningstar.

Athens tied the game in the bottom of the second. Setzer led off with a double and ended up on third when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. He scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Merritt.

Robert English doubled and singled, scored two runs, and drove in one run, and Kenny Mapes singled twice, scored one run, and had two RBI to pace Wyalusing’s 10-hit attack, and Jacob Bryun belted a solo home run.

Athens, now 10-6, travel to Wellsboro Tuesday.

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March 25, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Senior Karter Rude helped Athens manufacture both of its runs, and juniors Lucas Kraft and Cameron Sullivan combined on a strong pitching performance to lead the Wildcats to a season-opening, 2-1, win over Cowanesque Valley here Friday afternoon.

“We had a plan to use our speed and really run the bases,” said Athens coach Charlie Havens. “It did move the runners really well.

“We could’ve used a few more hits, but that aggression (on the base paths) did lead to the winning run.” he noted.

Havens was pleased with his pitchers’ performance, and his team’s defense in a game that was visited by rain showers throughout.

"Lucas Kraft had a strong start, and really got tough with runners on base,” he said.

“Cam Sullivan was solid in relief,” noted Havens. “He came in with runners on first and third, and got out of the jam.”

“On a wet field, to only have three errors and give up one run, isn’t a bad start to the season,” added Havens.

After Kraft retired CV in order in the top of the first inning, Rude was hit by a pitch to lead off the home half of the frame.

Rude took second on a passed ball, and move to third on a groundout off the bat of junior Caleb Nichols. With two outs, Rude scampered home on an infield RBI single by Mason Lister to make it 1-0.

The Indians tied the game in the top of the third.

Coen Kemp and Carter Ackley led off the inning with back-to-back singles. With one out, Ackley, who was on second base following a fielder’s choice, stole third and score when the throw sailed into left field.

Kraft avoided any further damage with a strikeout, and a groundout to end the threat.

Nichols drew a one-out walk in the home half of the inning, and stole second, but was thrown out attempting to score on a single by Lister.

In the bottom of the fifth, Rude laced a line-drive, one-out single to left field. After stealing second and third bases, he scooted home on an RBI grounder off the bat of Nichols to make it 2-1.

In the top of the sixth, Kraft hit Kade Sottolano with a pitch to start the inning, then gave up a one-out single to Tucker St. Peter that advanced Sottolano to third base.

Sullivan relieved, and Nichols promptly threw out St. Peter attempting to steal second. Sullivan then struck out the next batter to end the inning.

“We put a cut play on with the steal to hold the runner on third, and it worked to perfection with a great throw to second by Nichols,” said Havens.

Senior Jaren Glisson ripped a two-out single to left field int he home half of the inning, then stole second, but was stranded there.

Sullivan struck out the first two batters in the top of the seventh inning, but with two outs CV’s Jordan Vargeson worked a two-out walk. Nick West followed with a bloop single to short right field, but pinch-runner Isaiah Bogsch was tagged out after a run-down between second and third to end the game.

Glisson singled twice and stole two bases, and Lister singled twice and drove in a run to pace Athens’ six-hit attack, while Rude, scored two runs, and stole two bases, and junior Gage Warner added a single.

Kraft earned the win for the Wildcats, allowing one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He fanned six and walked none.

Sullivan recorded the save, allowing one hit in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He struck out three and walked one.

Ackley singled twice, stole two bases, and scored one run to pace CV’s seven-hit attack, while Sottolano singled and swiped two bags, and St. Peter, McGwire Painter, Kemp and West each added a single.

Painter was tagged with the tough-luck loss, allowing two runs — one earned — on five hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked one.

St. Peter pitched a scoreless inning of relief, allowing one hit and recording one strikeout.

Athens returns to action Thursday when it hosts Canton, while CV hosts Towanda Tuesday.

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March 25, 2022 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Cowanesque Valley erupted for eight runs in the top of the third inning en route to a season-opening, 12-2, win over Athens here Friday afternoon in NTL softball action.

“First of all, take nothing away from CV,” said Athens coach Mickey Farrell.  “They played how we expect to play . Their pitcher threw strikes , they put the ball in play, with some nice timely hitting, they were aggressive on the base paths, and they played very good D. We did none of those .

“We had one bad inning, and it was too much to come back from,” noted Farrell.  “My kids never gave up, though. We just got beat by a better team — plain and simple.”

The Lady Indians took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single bu Mackenzie Surine.

CV added two more runs in the second inning by Tabbitha Piper and Huzey.

In the decisive third-inning rally, the Lady Indians sent 13 batters to the plate. Shrine singled and scored twice, and Ruby Sherman and Katie Adams each added singles,

Athens got on the board in the home half of the third inning when senior Caydence Macik reached on an error, and scored on a two-out RBI single by freshman Savannah Persun.

CV extended the lead to 12-1 in the top of the fifth when Surine led off with a single and eventually scored.

Freshman Jules Pack led off the home half of the fifth with a single, and circled the bases on passed balls to close the gap to 12-2, but Sherman retired the next three Athens batters to end the game via the 10-run rule.

Pack singled twice and scored one run to pace Athens at the plate, while freshman Ella Coyle, Persun, and sophomore Marissa Butler each singled, and Macik scored one run

Macik was tagged with the loss. She struck out three and walked three.

Sherman got the win for CV, going five innings and giving up two runs on four hits with one strikeout and one walk.

Surine collected four hits for the Lady Indians, while Adams, Sherman, Labarron, Piper and Huzey all added singles in the win.

Athens returns to action Thursday when it hosts Canton.

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March 12, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Gavin Bradley has tasted defeat on PIAA’s biggest stage, and he didn’t want to feel that way again. His takedown late in the third period lifted him to PIAA gold in the 113-pound bracket here Saturday afternoon in the Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.

Bradley scored a takedown with 21 seconds remaining to take a 4-2 lead over Montoursville’s Branden Wentzel on his way to a 4-3 decision.

“The day after last year’s final, I started preparing for States,” said Gavin Bradley.

“I took a piece of paper and wrote down all my feelings after losing in the state finals,” he noted. “I took that and taped it to the ceiling above my bed, so I wake up to those emotions every single day.

“I wake up to those feeling every single day, and I didn’t want to feel like that again,” added Gavin Bradley.

The state title is a dream come true, said Gavin Bradley.

“The only thing you can control in life is your effort, and the time you put into the things you love,” he said. “You have to figure out what you want to do in life, love that, and go after it with everything you have.

“I’ve wanted this a long time, ever since I was a little kid,” added Gavin Bradley. “I’ve dreamed of this moment.”

The state title is culmination of years of hard work, said his coach (and uncle) Shawn Bradley.

“Gavin didn’t really start wrestling until he was in fifth- or sixth-grade, so he’s a late bloomer, but he came to me and said ‘I want this,” so I said, ‘let’s do it.’

“Compliments to his father (Kyle), he took him wherever he wanted to go,” said Shawn Bradley. “He wrestled every summer, he wrestled 100 matches every offseason.

“He had the opportunities, and he took advantage of those opportunities,” he added. “That’s all we can ask of our kids.”

The match started out slowly with a pair of blood stoppages in the first minute for a cut on the bridge of Wentzel’s nose.

After a scoreless first period, Bradley deferred, then cut Wentzel when he chose to start on the bottom.

Two more blood stoppages slowed the action in the second period as well, and Wentzel maintained a 1-0 lead entering the final two minutes.

Bradley chose bottom to start the third period, and registered a reversal just 17 seconds in to take a 2-1 lead.

Following a stalemate with 1:01 remaining, Bradley cut Wentzel loose to tie the bout at 2-2.

After another stalemate with 35 seconds remaining, Bradley got in on a single-leg and kept both his feet in-bounds as he corralled both Wentzel’s legs for the takedown with 21 seconds left for a 4-2 lead.

“I was just trying to wrestle smart, wrestle my match, and execute the things I needed to do,” said Gavin Bradley. “It was a takedown. It wasn’t one of my best takedowns, but it was a takedown, and it won the match.”

After a re-start with 20 seconds remaining, Wentzel escaped with 8 seconds left to close the gap to 4-3.

Bradley was warned for stalling with 2 seconds remaining, and fended off Wentzel’s final takedown attempt at the horn to preserve the win.

The majority of the match was spent near the edge of the circle, but both Bradleys expected that.

“That’s kind of (Wentzel’s) style,” said Gavin Bradley. “He’s a good wrestler, but he does stall a little bit.

“He said he was going to play mind games with me, so let’s play mind games,” added Gavin Bradley. “If you want to stall on the edge, go stall on the edge, but at some point we’re going to have to wrestle.”

“At the hotel last night, we watched the last couple matches,” said Shawn Bradley. “I asked the assistant coaches how the match would go, and I told them they were out of their mind. I thought we’d get three takedowns, but they were right.

“(Wentzel) did exactly what they said,” he noted. “David (White) said he was going to go to a knee, and Jay (White) said he was going to play the edges and run; and that’s what he did.”

Shawn Bradley said Gavin executed his game plan to near perfection.

“We knew if we shot the single-leg we’d be in trouble, so I told Gavin ‘don’t shoot the single-leg,’ and he stayed away from it, all but one time. His hands stayed down … he gave up his legs one time, but other than that he did exactly what he was suppose to do.

“One of our struggles has been him trying to adjust during the match,” noted Shawn Bradley. “It was a struggle last year in the state finals. He did exactly what he was suppose to do today … made an adjustment, got his one takedown, and stayed calm, cool, and collected.

“He had to get an escape, which we don’t … when was the last time Gavin was down?,” added Shawn Bradley. “Instead, he got a reversal, so he did everything he had to do.”

For Shawn Bradley, the win was doubly-sweet with his nephew reaching the top step of the podium.

“Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two (nephew and wrestler). That’s the biggest problem coaching your own kids and your family … it’s hard to separate.

“Much like my own sons, (Gavin) got the brunt of things, and the other kids will tell you the same,” said Shawn Bradley. “It was on Gavin more than anything.”

“I’m so proud of him,” added Shawn Bradley. “He deserves it, he really does.”

Following the win, the usually-stoic Gavin Bradley did a couple of victory laps, and pumped his fist emphatically at the Athens contingent in the stands.

Even Shawn Bradley was surprised by Gavin’s celebration.

“He such a great kid. He’s so humble … I looked at Jay (White) and almost asked what’s going on right now … but that’s Gavin,” laughed Shawn Bradley. “There’s always a surprise, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Bradley finishes his career with a 152-19 record. He is third on the all-time wins list behind David White’s 163, and Brian Courtney’s 153.

Bradley said he is deciding between four colleges, including Central Michigan, Castleton, and Delaware Valley.

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March 11, 2022 Tim Birney

v>HERSHEY — Once Athens senior Gavin Bradley caught up to Quaker Valley sophomore Jack Kazalas, it was all over — a third-period fall here Friday morning to advance to the 113-pound semifinals of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships at The Gian Center.

The win was the 150th of Bradley's career.

The Athens coaches are still waiting for Bradley, now 37-1, to cut loose and wrestle the way he’s capable.

“Gavin is just looking to advance right now, instead of performing,” said Athens assistant coach Jay White. “He just needs to go out and have fun and wrestle. When he does that, there’s not a person in this gym who is going to touch him.”

Kazalas spent the large majority of the match back-pedaling, which drew a stall warning midway through the first period.

“That kid watched a lot if film, you could tell,” said White. “(Kazalas) wrestled a smart match against Gavin.

“But Gavin kept him in the match,” noted White. “He didn’t give his best effort, and that kid is really good.”

After ore than 90 seconds on their feet, Kazalas got in deep on a double-leg for a takedown and a 2-0 lead, but Bradley escaped immediately to trim the deficit to 2-1.

Bradley registered another escape early in the second period, then scored a quick takedown after a re-start midway through the stanza to take a 4-2 lead. Following a Kazalas escape, Bradley led 4-3 entering the final two minutes.

Bradley cut Kazalas to start the third period, and scored a takedown 12 seconds later. Bradley quickly put the legs in and quickly turned him with a power-half for the fall at 4:25.

“Once he decided ‘this isn’t working, I’m going to start wrestling,’ it was no contest,” said White.

“He kept the kid in the bout by wrestling a little tentative,” noted White. “He’s thinking ‘it’s the state quarterfinals, if he wins he’s in the semifinals and guaranteed of a medal,’ but he’s not looking for a medal, he’s got a bunch of them. He’s looking to get to the top step of the podium.

“He’s worried he’s not going to get there, and he’s got to stop thinking like that,” added White. “He’ll be fine, it’s just a matter of performing like he’s capable. If he keeps performing like he did in the third period, there’s no one in this arena that can touch him.”

Bradley will square off with Faith Christian Academy freshman Gauge Botero (43-6) tonight in the semifinals.

“(Botero) is a lot like Gavin. He’s a high-motor guy,” said Whi

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March 11, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Karter Rude saw his high school career come to an end Friday morning with a setback in the second round of wrestlebacks here at the PIAA Class AA Championships at the Giant Center.

Rude, who finishes his season with a 33-9 record, dropped a 7-5 decision to Northwest Region champion Kane Kettering of Reynolds, who was upset in the round-of-16.

Rude struggled to finish his takedown attempts on the lanky 6-3 Kettering throughout the match.

“It was tough, that kid was super-long … Karter needed to finish a little bit quicker,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

“That one hurts,” noted Bradley. “(Karter) gave one away yesterday, I would have like to have seen what he could have done if he won that one yesterday, but (wrestling) is a very unforgiving sport.

“Karter kept wrestling and had a chance to win, and that’s a testament to his development over the last few years,” added Bradley. “He actually came a long way in one year. I think he wrestled with more of a purpose this year.”

After a scoreless 60-second first period, Rude cut Kettering loose to start the second period.

About 30 seconds later, Rude got in on a leg, but Kettering was able to stuff the attempt and score a takedown for a 3-0 lead.

After a Rude escape, he once again got in on Kettering, only to have the Reynolds senior counter for the takedown and a 5-1 lead.

Rude scored a quick takedown in the third period, but Kettering registered a reversal moments later to take a 7-3 lead.

Rude recorded an escape with 34 seconds remaining, and Kettering was banged for stalling with 5 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.

“This loss stinks, but (Karter) is going to do great things in life,” said Bradley. “He is a class act. I wish I had 20 more of him.

“He’s a leader on our team without a doubt, and he led by example,” added Bradley. “He’s a great kid.”

Rude finishes his four-year varsity career with a 96-42 record.

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March 11, 2022 Tim Birney

MOKIN — Archbishop Carroll used an early 19-2 run to take control, and end Athens’ season with an 83-38 win in the “Sweet 16” of the PIAA, Class 4A boys basketball playoffs here Friday night.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Athens coach Jim Lister.  “There is nothing for them to hang their heads about.”

Senior Troy Pritchard scored off a feed from junior Mason Lister to tie the game at 3-3  less than a minute into the game, but Archbishop Carroll scored the next 12 points in a 16-2 run to close the opening stanza with a 19-5 lead.

Moses Hipps knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening moments of the second quarter to extend the Patriots’ lead to 22-5.

“We came out and had some good looks, we just didn’t make the shots,” said Lister. “Archbishop Carroll is an excellent basketball team. Take nothing away from them, they made the shots.

“And Moses (Hipps) was excellent,” added Lister. “Even with two guys in his face, he was draining 3s from everywhere.”

Hipps, who finished the game with 31 points and six 3-pointers, knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and scored 12 points in the second quarter to fuel a 25-16 run that gave Archbishop Carrol a 44-21 led at the half.

The Patriots continued the onslaught in the second half, outscoring Athens 2011 in the third quarter, and 13-6 in the final eight minutes.

“I’m not taking anything away from (Archbishop Carroll) at all, but the private Catholic schools and the charter schools in Pennsylvania are just at a different level,” said Lister.

“I think we got to see that tonight,” he added.

Brown led Athens with 15 points, three assists, and one blocked shot, while senior J.J. Babcock had eight points, six rebounds, four blocked shots, and three steals, and Pritchard had six points and two rebounds.

Junior Chris Mitchell added four points and a team-high eight rebounds, while senior Nalen Carling chipped in with three points, and Lister had four boards and two assists.

The Wildcats graduate five seniors in Babcock, Carling, Carling, Pritchard and Ryan Thompson.

“I’ve been with these kids for 10 years,” said Lister. “They’ve shown the way on what you need to do to be successful in the game of basketball.

“They’ve been playing since a very young age. They played in leagues, they played AAUs, and they played in summer league,” he noted.

“They were always working on their game, and they played together. They were always a team, it was never a bunch of individuals.

“I’m so proud of them, and so happy for them. They are a great bunch of kids, and I have no doubt they will be extremely successful in life,” he added. “I could not be happier about how their final season went.”

Lister knows his seniors will be tough to replace, but he believes he has plenty of talent returning.

“I told the underclassmen after the game … I hope they learned from our seniors, and what it takes to be successful because they have some pretty big shoes to fill.

“Mason (Lister) is our only starter returning, but Chris Mitchell improved tremendously,” said Lister. “I think he’ll be pretty dominant underneath for us next year.

“Lucas Kraft got some experience and will be a senior next year, and we have some really good under classmen,” noted Lister. “Korey Miller will be able to handle the ball, and Xavier Watson and Kolsen Keathley will play huge parts in our program starting next year.

“There’s no reason we can’t make a pretty good run next year. I think we’ll have all the tools — we’ll have kids who can score, we’ll have size, and we’ll have guards.

“We’ll put the time and work in to see that they’re ready come November,” he added.

Athens wraps up the 2021-22 campaign with a 21-8 reco

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March 11, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Gavin Bradley executed his game plan and pulled out a 4-1 decision over Faith Academy Christian freshman ace Gauge Botero Friday night to advance to the 113-pound finals of the PIAA, Class AA Wrestling Championships here at The Giant Center.

“We had a game plan, and Gavin stuck to it,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley. “He did what he needed to do.

“(Botero) is good,” noted Shawn Bradley. “We went back in between sessions and watched 10 or 15 matches and that kid was wrestling hammers the whole time. He had a great schedule, and he was ready to go.

“Gavin did what he to do,” added Shawn Bradley. “It was a great performance.”

Bradley got in on a single-leg about 10 seconds into the match. With 24 seconds remaining, following a 86-second scramble, the match was re-started due to a stalemate call.

“That was one of the best scrambles I’ve seen from Gavin,” said assistant coach Jay White.

“That was great because in the quarterfinals, the coach behind us was yelling ‘he can’t scramble, make him scramble.’ Well, I guess he can scramble after that one,” laughed Shawn Bradley.

After the re-start, Bradley got in on another single-leg, and finished this one to take a 2-0 lead after the first two minutes.

Botero chose bottom to start the second period, but Bradley, who is very strong on top, chose to cut him, closing the gap to 2-1.

Bradley scored another takedown with 21 seconds remaining in the second period to take a 4-1 lead heading into the final two minutes.

Bradley chose neutral to start the third period, instead of taking top.

“That kid scores a bunch of his points from bottom,” said Shawn Bradley. “He almost beat the No. 1 kid in the country from the bottom … turned the kid, scored five and almost beat him.

He’s dangerous on bottom.

“We had two takedowns and were up 4-1, we didn’t need to prove anything,” he noted. “We just needed be smart and get another takedown.”

Midway through the third period, Bradley was in on a single-leg, but the official whistled for blood time for Botero before he could finish it off.

“When we had the blood time, I told Gavin ‘don’t shut down, get another takedown,’” said Shawn Bradley. “He didn’t get one, but he wrestled hard. They both wrestled hard … there weren’t any takedowns in the final minute, but it was action-packed.”

Bradley, who recorded his 150th career win in the quarterfinals, is 38-1 on the season.

Prior to the season, many pundits expected Bradley to win a state title, or at least reach the state finals.

Shawn Bradley said those same thoughts were on the mind of Gavin Bradley prior to the quarterfinals and semifinals.

“That’s what I spent the last two hours (before the match) trying to do, was simplify that.

“I told Gavin, ‘it’s not about the state finals. It’s a wrestling match.’ If that match is in the summer, I expect the same outcome,” he said.

“I told Gavin ‘just wrestle six minutes,’” noted Shawn Bradley. “In the quarterfinals, he’s thinking ‘what happens if I lose?’ … you can’t do that, this is too big of a stage, and these kids are too good.

“You just have to score points, and if you score points, good things will happen,” he continued. “If not, you could leave it up to the referee, or a freak takedown. 

“You’ve seen him wrestle 100 times, he goes a millions miles an hour — it’s all go, no brakes,” added Shawn Bradley. “That’s the way he wrestles, if he stays that way, it’s going to take a really great effort to beat him.”

Bradley will wrestle a familiar adversary in the finals in Montoursville junior Brandon Wentzel, who is 41-3 on the season.

Wentzel, who has a first- and third-place finish at States, topped Bradley, 5-3 in the finals of the District 4 Championships, while Bradley, who has finishes sixth, seventh, and second at States, won 11-8 last week in the finals at the Northeast Regionals.

Wentzel advanced to the finals with a 3-2 win in ultimate rideout over West Perry senior Deven Jackson.

Does wrestling the same opponent three weeks in a row play to Bradley’s favor?

“I think it works both ways,” said Shawn Bradley.

“Hopefully, Gavin doesn’t care who he wrestling tomorrow. He was waiting to see who won, I told him ‘it doesn’t matter, just go out and wrestle.’

“He’s wrestled both those kids and they are both super-tough,” noted Shawn Bradley. “It’s the PIAA state tournament, you’re going to wrestle a hammer in the state finals.

“(Wentzel) has one loss at Hershey in his career,” added Shawn Bradley. “Gavin has to go out tomorrow and wrestle his match, and not let Brandon control the tempo or the positions. If he wrestles his match and his positions, it will come out the way he wants.”

The finals are set for Saturday at 2 p.m.

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March 10, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Gavin Bradley, a state runner-up last year, may not have wrestled his best, but he still advanced to the quarterfinals with a 16-5 major decision in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships here Thursday morning at The Giant Center.

“(Gavin) didn’t wrestle very well,” said Athens assistant coach Jay White. “He did what he had to do, but he didn’t wrestle very well.

“The kid knew what was coming, and he’s real funky,” added White. “We just wanted to stay away from him as much as possible, along the lines of getting ourselves in trouble.

“Gavin was a little leery of the big moves that kid has,” added White. “He’s thrower and a roller, and hits a lot of big five-point moves. In his mind, Gavin was a little leery of him … if he just wrestles, he techs him.”

Bradley, now 36-1 and the top seed in the 113-pound bracket, squared off with junior Mason McLendon of Susquenita, and scored the initial takedown about 30 seconds into the bout.

Bradley cut McLendon twice, and twice scored two takedowns to take a 6-2 lead at the end of the first period.

Bradley extended his lead to 10-4 with a pair of takedowns in the second period, and cut McLendon with 20 seconds remaining, but couldn’t manage another takedown.

“The only thing we had a problem with is we told (Gavin) to cut him with 20 seconds left, and take him back down, and Gavin chose to not take him back down,” said White. “He has to get those points.”

McLendon spent the majority of the third period riding top, but never got close to turning Bradley, who was penalized a point for stalling to make it 10-5.

With 18 seconds remaining, McLendon was warned for stalling, and the match was re-started in the center.

Bradley scored a quick escape and takedown, then turned McLendon to his back for three near-fall points as the horn sounded.

“In the third period, (Gavin) just didn’t get out quickly and (McLendon) is good on rides,“ said White. “He rode double boots with one-on-one to both sides for just about the whole period. It’s hard to get out if you don’t do it quickly.”

Bradley will face Jack Kazalas (39-5) of Quakertown in the quarterfinals.

“We’ll work with (Gavin) on that last 20 seconds of the second period, and the first 20 seconds of the third, that’s where we had our problems,” said White. “We’ll fix those 20 seconds, and he’ll be all right.”

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March 10, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Karter Rude wrestled a strong four minutes, but got caught in a scramble early in the third period, and dropped a 5-2 decision in the opening round of the PIAA, Class AA wrestling championships here Thursday morning.

Rude, now 32-8, squared off against West Perry junior Justice Hockenberry-Folk, and scored a takedown with 24 seconds remaining in the first period.

Leading 2-0 in their 152-pound bout, Rude rode top for the entire second period, but wasn’t able to turn Hockenberry-Folk.

Early in the third period, Hockenberry-Folk got in on a leg, and caught Rude coming over the top, and turned him to his back. He held him there for the final 1:44.

“He got caught in a scramble, and sometimes you just come out on the bad end, and that’s what happened to him,” said Athens assistant coach Jay White. “I feel really bad for him.

“(Hockenberry-Folk) is really good on top, and Karter’s best on his feet, so we figured he was going to win or lose it on his feet. It didn’t work out.

“He’s better than that kid,” he added. “He just got caught.”

Rude will face Mount Pleasant senior Conor Johnson (19-22) in the first round of wrestlebacks this afternoon.

“It’s a hard one to swallow,” said White. “He was winning that bout, it was a big one for him to get through. He would have been done for the day.

“Now, we’re going to have to come back and wrestle again (this afternoon,” he added. “It’s a long road from here.”

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March 10, 2022 Tim Birney

HERSHEY — Athens senior Karter Rude bounced back from an opening-round loss with a second-period fall to advance in the 152-pound consolation bracket here Thursday afternoon at the PIAA, Class AA Wrestling Championships at The Giant Center.

Rude, now 33-8, decked Mount Pleasant senior Conor Johnson (19-23) in 2:39.

Athens coach Shawn Bradley was pleased to see Rude’s “mental toughness” shine through after losing a 5-2 decision in the opening round.

“It’s not easy to bounce back from a loss like that, especially when you’re a senior and it’s your first time here.

“He knows he kind of gave one away in the first match, but that’s the way to bounce back,” said Bradley.

Rude scored a takedown 22 seconds into the bout, and led 2-0 after the 60-second first period.

Rude scored a takedown to start the second period, then cut Johnson loose and registered another takedown for a 6-1 lead with 41 seconds left.

Johnson was working toward a cement drop, but Rude caught a leg for a cradle. He finished off the fall with a headlock.

“He’s been winning hard recently. You win hard, don’t go big, but he just lost in the first round at States, so go for it,” said Bradley. “If that’s what it takes to get his mind going, and get him going, I’m all for it. Just get after it and win matches, whatever it takes.

“The Karter of the past might have got hit with that cement drop,” noted Bradley. “(Johnson) was loading it up, but (Karter) was smart about it … he took it outside, ran around it, put him on his back and pinned him as a result.

“That kid was looking big, too,” added Bradley. “That’s a plus.”

Rude will face Northwest Region champion Kane Kettering, a senior from Reynolds, who has a 31-9 record in the second round of wrestlebacks.

“Now, he has to get on a run and keep it going,” said Bradley. “He has the type of ability, and the motor, he could win five in a row (to finish third).

“He just has to keep it going,” added Bradley. “In these five-minute matches, it’s gonna be a track meet, and I’ll take him every time.”

Action resumes Friday morning at 9 a.m.

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March 8, 2022 Tim Birney

SCRANTON — Senior J.J. Babcock made big play after big play, senior Ryan Thompson canned a clutch 3-pointer, and senior Tucker Brown scored the game-winning points for the second time in three postseason games as Athens fended off a strong second-half effort by Mid-Valley to pull out a 42-40 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A boys basketball playoffs here Tuesday night at Lackawanna College.

It’s the first state playoff win for Athens program since 1956, and only the second in school history.

“It’s been a long time,” said Athens coach Jim Lister. “It’s an awesome win.

“I’m so happy for our kids, for our program, and for our school,” added Lister. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Babcock said he wasn’t ready for his Athens playing career to end.

“It was desperation,” he said. “It was win-or-go-home for us. We have a bunch of seniors on this team, and we really did not want this to be our last game.

“It feels great,” added Babcock. “Words can’t describe, it’s just a great feeling to keep our season moving forward.”

Brown, who hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of Athens’ win over Shamokin in the District 4 semifinals, said he and his teammates have been through it before.

“We’ve been playing together since I was in 8th-grade, and the rest of them have been playing together longer than that,” he sad. “We know each other … we had to keep our composure, and we did a pretty good job of it. It got a little chippy and there were a lot of fouls, but in the end, we pulled it back together and got the win.

“It’s unbelievable. I just can’t wait to play again.” added Brown.

“I think senior leadership played a big part, these kids have been playing together a long time,” said Lister.

“If you look at this team, these senior are battle-tested over the last two years,” noted Lister. “They’ve played some unbelievable basketball games against some of the best teams around.

“These kids have worked hard, and they deserve all the accolades they’re getting,” he added. “They just don’t quit, no matter how tight it is. I love them for that.”

Both team struggled out of the gate offensively, and Babcock’s 3-pointer with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter gave the Wildcats a 5-2 lead, but Danny Nemitz answered moments later for Mid-Valley to tie the game.

Senior Nalen Carling scored off a feed from Babcock with 2:35 left to make it 7-5, and Lister scored of an assist from Babcock 45 seconds later to make it 9-5.

The Spartans tied the game at 9-9 on a free throw with 6:39 remaining in the first half, but Lister drained a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key 26 seconds later to give the Wildcats a 12-9 lead.

Mid-Valley scored back-to-back buckets to take a 13-12 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half, but the Wildcats started pounding the ball into the paint, and finished the half to an 11-4 spurt to take a 24-16 lead into the halftime locker room.

Babcock scored a pair of buckets in the run, including a short jumper with 27 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game, at 24-15. Senior Troy Pritchard scored the first bucket in the run, and Brown added a big 3-pointer into the mix.

Lister was impressed with his team’s patience on offense in the first half.

“We worked on it last night for two hours,” he said. “We knew we were going to see man-to-man today.

“We are constantly working on it — being patient, making cuts, getting the ball to the right player, and try to get something in the paint,” added Lister. “I thought we did that well in the first half, especially in the last four minutes of the second quarter, which gave us a nice halftime lead.”

The Spartans, however, seized the momentum to start the second half, and used an 8-0 run to tie the game at 24-24 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.

“We stalled on offense,” said Lister. “We came out in the second half and didn’t follow the plan. The plan was to get the ball inside, and I thought we did a good job the last three or four minutes of the second quarter — getting the ball inside to J.J. (Babcock), and getting some easy buckets.

“I wanted to come out in the third quarter and do that again, but (Mid-Valley) switched up their defense, and I think it confused us a little bit, and we let them crawl back into the game,” noted Lister.

The teams battled evenly until Brown knocked down a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 30-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Lister connected on a short jumper with 6:58 left in the game to up the Athens advantage to 32-28, but Nimitz answered with a 3-pointer, and Gabe Tanner knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a 33-32 lead.

Athens missed the front ends of two one-and-ones, sandwiched around a bucket by Tanner, and trailed 35-32 with 4:51 remaining in the game.

With 4:01 remaining, Thompson drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 35-35. Just 20 seconds later, after a steal by Babcock, Brown scored on a strong drive to the bucket to give the Wildcats a 37-35 lead.

“How ‘bout Ryan Thompson coming off the bench and hitting that big-time 3(-pointer) to tie the game,” said Lister. “Honestly, I think that really sparked us … we saw the finish line at that point, and finished strong.”

After junior Chris Mitchell drew a charge, Babcock scored in the low blocks with 3:12 left in the game to make it 39-35.

However, Nemitz and Tanner each went 2-for-2 at the line to tie the game at 39-39 with 50 seconds remaining.

The Wildcats worked the ball on its next possession, then Brown took a pass off a screen at the top-of-the-key, and drove hard to the bucket, kissing it off the glass to make it 41-39 with 22 seconds in the game.

“I saw my teammates clear out, and I saw an opening. I took it hard, and hoped for the best,” said Brown.

“Down the left-side of the lane is Tucker’s money,” said Lister. “If you give him an inch there, he’s going to finish. It was a beautiful move, and a great take.”

Mid-Valley rushed the ball up court, and in a flurry that saw the ball in the hands of two different Athens players, ended up in-bounding the ball under their bucket with 9 seconds remaining.

The in-bounds play was executed perfectly and the Spartans got a point-blank look at the rim, but the ball rolled off the rim, and Lister rebounded it with 5.9 seconds remaining.

Lister made the second of two free throws to make it 42-39.

Before Mid-Valley could get the ball up court to attempt a game-tying 3-pointer, Athens fouled Nemitz in the backcourt with 2.3 seconds remaining.

Nemitz made the first, then had the second roll off the rim. Babcock rebounded the miss, and fired a pass up the floor, which Tucker chased down as the final buzzer sounded.

“We played really good defense,” said Lister. “If you can hold a high school team to 40 points in the state playoffs, you have a good shot to win the game.

“It’s a team win — everyone contributed a little something to get us the W,” added Lister.

Babcock led Athens with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, four blocked shots, and four steals, while Lister had 10 points and five rebounds, and Brown had nine points, four assists, and four steals.

Carling added five points, two assists, and two steals in the win, and Pritchard and Mitchell each grabbed four rebounds.

Tanner led Mid-Valley with 15 points, and Nemitz added 14.

Athens will face Archbishop Carroll in the Sweet 16.

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March 5, 2022 Tim Birney

WILLIAMSPORT — Senior Gavin Bradley became the second wrestler in Athens program history to qualify for the PIAA Championships four times here Saturday, while senior Karter Rude punched his ticket to Hershey for the first time.

Bradley avenged his only loss of the season — a 5-3 setback in the District 4 finals last week — with a wild 11-8 win over top-seeded Branden Wentzel of Montoursville in the 113-pound finale to win his third consecutive Regional title.

“Gavin is going to wrestle hard for six minutes, or however long the match is no matter what,” said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.

“I think he fixed some stuff tonight,” he noted. “He stayed in position, and position is huge in wrestling. Last week, he gave up position a couple of times, and Wentzel is a tough kid — he capitalized on it.

“He stayed in position a lot better, got to his offense, and gutted it out when he had to,” Bradley added.

Bradley scored a takedown with 1:11 remaining in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, but Wentzel recorded a reversal with 21 seconds left to tie it at 2-2.

Wentzel registered an escape off the second-period whistle for a 3-2 lead, but Bradley answered with a pair of takedowns for a 6-4 lead with 41 seconds remaining.

Wentzel scored an escape late in the second period, then hit for a takedown early in the third period for a 7-6 lead.

Bradley escaped with 1:25 left in the third period to tie the bout at 7-7, then connected on a pair of takedowns, including one with 12 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Previously, Gavin Bradley, who pinned Wyoming Area’s Garret Pocceschi in 74 seconds in the quarterfinals Friday, sewed up his trip to Hershey with a pin of South Williamsport’s Kayvan Shams in 2:38 in the semifinals.

Rude, the third seed at 152 pounds, opened the tournament Friday night with a 5-2 win over Honesdale’s Joey Gianetti, 5-2.

Rude punched his ticket to States in the semifinals with a 5-0 win over second-seeded Cooper Price, who was 28-1 entering the bout.

“Coming into this year, Karter (Rude) had never even placed at Districts,” said Bradley. “This year, he takes second at Regionals, and he beats a kid who is undefeated in the semis. That’s cool.”

Rude’s quest for a Regional title came up short with a 9-1 loss to top-seeded Devon Deem of Montgomery in the finals.

“He closed the gap on Deem, and Deem is tough,” said Bradley.

“Karter has wrestled some really good kids in that weight class this year, the top three, four, five kids in the state.”

Bradley believes Rude is primed for good things in Hersehy.

“Karter is peaking just at the right time,” he said. “He’s right where he needs to be right now.

“Karter is a great athlete,” noted Bradley. “The keys for him are head position, his hands are super-heavy, and he’s got great attacks.

“And, his gas tank this year is really good this year,” added Bradley. “In the past that was the biggest issue, how do we get him to push through hard situations? We don’t have to ask that anymore, he’s pushed through hard situations every day.”

Junior Jake Courtney and sophomore Josh Nittinger, who both lost pigtail-round matches, were eliminated with losses in their first wrestleback matches Saturday morning.

“They both had great seasons,” said Bradley. “When you come down here, you have to fight through some tough kids to advance. They both battled, came up a little bit short in both matches, but they battled.

“I think both kids will take a big step forward next year, and they’re going to have to because they’re going to be our leaders,” he added.

Nittinger dropped a 4-1 decision to Meadowbrook Christian’s Gunner Treibley.

“I think Josh wrestled more matches than anyone in this tournament,” said Bradley. “He wrestled almost 50 matches, which is awesome. He showed me a lot this year as far as working hard, and wanting to learn.”

Courtney dropped a 6-5 decision to Line Mountain’s Lane Schadel.

“Jake has to take that next step, he’s right there,” said Bradley. “He beat some really good kids this year. He has to take that next step, know he’s good enough, and just prove it.”

Action at the PIAA Class AA Championships begins Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey.

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