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Verklereen gets easy victory in Hershey

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 1:26 a.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Belle Vernon's Austin Bell (top) attempts to turn General McLane's Ethan Laird in their 160-pound bout during the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships on March 6, 2014, at the Giant Center in Hershey. Bell won by fall at 4:55.

HERSHEY — Belle Vernon Area freshman Jarod Verkleeren secured his first win at the PIAA Class AAA individual championships in the rarest of fashions Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center.

To earn a spot in the quarterfinals of the 145-pound weight class, Verkleeren simply walked on the mat and allowed a referee to raise his hand.

Unlike the other 222 Class AAA wrestlers who competed in first-round bouts, Verkleeren lacked an opponent. The individual he expected to meet, Bangor junior Charles Sell, forfeited the match after officials identified a communicable disease on his skin during weigh-ins.

“I heard them calling his name, and he didn't show up,” said Verkleeren, the WPIAL's third-place finisher. “Then later I found out he didn't pass the skin check.

“I heard he was pretty tough; people had him placing fourth. I wanted to wrestle him. But I don't know. ... I don't get my first win; at least it's not really a win. Hopefully I'll get it in my next match.”

Verkleeren (21-4) will meet Cedar Cliff senior Max Good (30-7), a South Central region champion, in the quarterfinals, which begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The forfeit win gave the freshman an opportunity to study Good's entire first round match, a 6-0 decision.

“I saw my other guy, and I know what he's doing on top,” Verkleeren said. “I think I can take him.”

Sophomore 160-pounder Austin Bell also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating General McLane freshman Ethan Laird with a third period pin. Bell (39-5) gets Carlisle senior Ian Shannon (31-3) in the quarterfinals.

A consolation-round win kept senior Brendan Hasson in the mix for third place at 120 pounds. Hasson lost, 2-1, in the first round but recovered with a 5-4 victory in the losers' bracket.

“The first-round match, I thought I could've done better, but the nerves definitely got to me,” Hasson said. “I've never been here before, and I always wondered what it's like, so it's awesome to be here.”

Ironically, Hasson's win came against Middletown's Zach Ulerick, who is coached by Mike Nauman, the father of BVA coach Tyler Nauman.

The performance by that trio put BVA in seventh place in the team standings through the first day.

Ringgold hoped an unprecedented two PIAA tournament qualifiers might lead to more achievements, but by late Thursday night, the Rams no longer had anyone in the running.

Sophomore 113-pounder Doug Gudenburr and senior 170-pounder Devin Fallenstein, both third-place finishers in the WPIAL, exited the tournament with two losses apiece.

In Class AA, Yough junior 220-pounder Tom Sever suffered the same fate.

Though he lost his first-round match, Bentworth sophomore 106-pounder Hunter Neely made it through the tournament's opening day with a 6-0 win in the consolation bracket.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com.

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