For the third straight season, Octorara's Garth Ladley found himself in Hershey, trying to get back up on the medal stand where he was as a sophomore, collecting his medal for seventh place. But in his final season, Ladley fell just short of a medal, by about five seconds.
Ladley, as the fifth place finisher in the Southeast Regional, drew the Northeast champ in the preliminary rounds, Joey Anceravage of Bloomsburg. Anceravage was awarded a pair of controversial back points in the waning seconds of regulation to steal a 6-4 victory, sending Ladley to the consolation rounds. Anceravage was later disqualified from the tournament for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Up next for Ladley was Nick Sanko, a Hamburg wrestler who had defeated Ladley 3-0 in regional semi-finals. Tied 0-0 at the start of the second, Ladley worked a bar and half combo to deck Sanko in 1:43.
A win in his next match would have clinched a medal for Ladley, but that win didn't come. Squared off with Steve Waite of Fort LeBoeuff, Ladley jumped out quickly, shooting in on a single and adjusting to a double for the first takedown.
At the start of the second, Waite stood up, and Ladley brought him back to the mat and titled him for two-nearfall and a 4-0 lead. Waite cut the lead to 4-2 with a reversal, where the score remained at the start of the third.
In the third, Waite cut Ladley loose for one, and Ladley fought off Waite's leg attacks for better than a minute. Waite cut the lead to 5-4 with a takedown, and cut Ladley loose for one to make it 6-4, then Ladley got nailed for stalling to make it 6-5. Waite got the winning takedown with less than ten seconds to go, and went on to finish sixth.
For Ladley, it was an unspectacular ending to a spectacular career. His season record of 37-9 bumped his career total to 134-30. Those 134 wins are second best in school history, trailing only teammate Mike Letts and his 144.
Along the way, Ladley won three Solanco Mule Classic titles, and four District 1, Class AA titles. Ladley was a four-time medallist in the Class AA Southeast Regional, finishing sixth as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore, and fifth the past two years. He was a three-time state qualifier, and a seventh place finisher at 119 as a freshman.
Then there was the win streak. From the first time Ladley took the mat in seventh grade for a dual meet, up until a 9-6 loss to two-time state runner-up and three time medallist Nick Stabile of Hamburg late this season, Ladley had his hand raised in victory in every dual meet match he wrestled for nearly six full years.
That dual meet record ensured that he would be a first team all-SCCL selection for each of his first three years of high school. The All-SCCL selections have not yet been made for this season, but Ladley is a shoo-in for first team honors yet again.
"Garth was always hard working and intense in practice," said Coach Mark Durante. "A man of very little words and lots of action."
With both Ladley and Letts gone from the room next year, Coach Mark Durante will have to find someone else to step in to fill the very big holes left by the graduation of the schools best-ever one-two punch.
"I think it will be very strange," said Durante. "Those two have been great examples in the room and kept me very comfortable. They were a great support system. Having those two kids always set the bar for our program. Due to our youth, we are going to have to find another wrestler to step up and lead by example."
Ladley's future plans are uncertain, though the Braves' senior sees himself wrestling at the collegiate level, possibly at Lock Haven.
"I wish him all the best," said Durante. "I think he can be successful at the next level with hard work. I'm proud to say I was a coach of such a fine young man."