Tommy Traver spent the past several years sitting in the stands to watch the best high school wrestlers in the state compete on the biggest stage.
But when the Tunkhannock sophomore entered the Giant Center in Hershey for this year’s PIAA Class Wrestling Championships, it wasn’t as a fan.
His childhood dream had finally come true.
Though Traver come up short in his quest for a state medal, it was an experience that will fuel his motivation to make it to the medal stand the next time he enters through the doors.
“It meant a lot and it was a great experience,” Traver said. “I was really nervous in my first match, but after I got that win, I settled down. I was outsized and was wrestling some bigger and older kids, but it felt good to get out there.”
Traver went 1-2 over two days of competition at the tournament, dropping his opening match before picking up his first state win to advance to the second day.
Though he would lose in the opening round of consolations, the two-time district runner-up who wrestled to fourth at regionals proved that he could go toe-to-toe with the best wrestlers the state has to offer.
“He was right there with those kids,” Tunkhannock head coach Bob Hegedty said. “He needs to get a little bit stronger and bigger, but he can wrestle with that type of competition. Anything can happen in the matches down there, but he wrestled well and tough. It always helps to get down there and watch from the stands, but him actually being able to get on the mat and competing was definitely a good experience. Hopefully we’ll see him down there again next year.”
Traver opened up the tournament at 132 pounds against Penn Trafford’s Job Chishko on Thursday and was able to take the early advantage with a takedown from a headlock in the opening period, but couldn’t pick up any back points.
Soon after, Chishko got a reversal and two for the near fall to take a 4-2 lead into the second period.
Traver managed another takedown in the second, but surrendered a pair of escapes to fall down by two.
While on top in the third period, Traver went to the cradle but was unable to finish the move.
Facing elimination, Traver extended his season and secured his first state win in impressive fashion against Waynesburg’s Caleb Morris, who had lost to Hazleton Area senior Jimmy Hoffman in the opening round.
Traver was able to lock in a headlock twice, picking up a five-point move in the first period before hitting it again even tighter to record the fall in 2:27.
“That was just an excellent feeling,” Traver said. “Just hearing everyone cheer and getting one of the only pins on the day was great and I knew it would be a good tournament after beating a No. 7 ranked kid.”
Unfortunately, Traver would only wrestle once in Friday’s wrestlebacks.
Against North Allegheny’s Luke Landefeld, Traver fell behind 3-0 into the second period before trying to hit another headlock for a big move.
Landefeld would turn the tables, however, and secured two more points on a takedown that would seal the win.
Traver chose neutral in the third to try and get on the board, but was unable to pick up any points.
“I was just outpowered,” Traver said. “He was a bigger wrestler who had wrestled up all season before cutting to 132 and was a little faster. He had scouted me well so I couldn’t really get my moves going, but I feel like I could have beat him. I’m really going to work on my strength this offseason and have to get bigger while working on my feet and getting up from bottom. I was really prepared conditioning wise and wasn’t gassed at all, I was just outmuscled by some older, stronger kids.”
Indeed, the majority of wrestlers in Traver’s bracket and throughout the state tournament were upperclassmen, though he was more than prepared for squaring off against older and more decorated competition.
Traver entered the state tournament with a 40-3 record, with his three losses coming to upperclassmen in Hoffman, Northampton senior K.J. Fenstermacher and Bethlehem Catholic junior Jarred Papcsy.
The trio, which all edged Traver by just two points, finished second, third and fourth in the state, respectively.
“It was definitely a good season,” Traver said. “It was a great experience going down to states and wrestling there, and I hope to get back down there next season. Hopefully, I’ll be bringing some of my teammates with me.”
Indeed, the work to get back to Hershey and represent Tunkhannock has already begun, though Traver did take one day off after taking in the championship finals Saturday at the Giant Center.
“I took Sunday off,” Traver said with a laugh, “but was back in the weight room getting ready at 6:30 (Monday) morning. It’s definitely going to take a lot of work and dedication to get up to where Hoffman was. There’ll be a lot of lifting and training all summer long, but I’ll keep working at it and I think it will definitely mean a good season next year.”
Times-Shamrock sports writer Eric Shultz also contributed to this story.