HERSHEY >> You could tell this was no ordinary match for Ryan Resnick.
Not even your run-of-the-mill, garden variety opener in a state-level championship tournament. The post-match flood of emotions Resnick displayed was evidence his first PIAA Individual Championships bout in two years was something special.
Resnick faced a heady opponent in North Allegheny's Eric Hong: Nationally ranked (No. 2 in Intermat national rankings), the South West AAA Regional champion, holder of a 29-0 record. Hong also had a 5-2 decision of Resnick at this year's Escape the Rock Tournament to his credit, one of just three losses in his season (40-3).
Resnick made all those credentials a moot point Thursday, scoring a 7-3 victory on Hong in their 160-pound opener at the Giant Center. The final whistle of their bout unleashed a joyous response for the Owen J. Roberts senior, teammates and coaches alike.
"It's really good," Resnick said afterward. "I still have a lot of work to do ... goals I want to achieve."
Resnick (41-3) capped his victory with a dogged ride of Hong at the end. He clung tightly to Hong, countering the Tiger senior's scramble to break free.
And their previous ETR clash afforded Resnick some valuable intelligence for the rematch.
"The last time, I hung my head a bit," he recalled. "I tried to get out of that.
"Looking over our match at the Rock, I knew I had to keep attacking ... to not be afraid to give up points."
Resnick's inspired win gave a boost to teammate Nick Duliakas, who marked his first state tournament with a 10-0 major decision of Altoona's Parker McClellan in the 195-pound bracket.
"He deserved it," Duliakas said of his teammate's success. "It pumped me up when it was my turn."
The OJR senior (29-6) felt a surge from the first-round bout, one he controlled the entire way.
"It's pretty cool, being on the Hershey mats," he said. "With this first one down, I want to keep going. I want to come back (Friday) and get another win."
The victories by Resnick and Duliakas were part of a surge by area grapplers at the upper end of the scale. They were part of five representatives of Pioneer Athletic Conference programs who used opening-day successes to stay in the state gold-medal chase.
Pottsgrove's Ryan Finn, himself a first-time state qualifier, edged Dallas' Xavier Barber in their 170-pound tussle, 5-4. The Falcon senior is following the lead of his older brother, Pat, who was a 285-pound silver medalist in 2014.
"It's nice. He came from Bucknell to watch me," Finn said. "He supports me, just like I support him."
Ryan admitted to feeling some initial intimidation about the Giant Center's cavernous atmosphere. But a Wednesday practice at the arena helped quell some of that apprehension.
"It's nice," he said of the ice-breaking victory. "But every match is just another match. I want to keep going."
Elijah Jones' 8-1 decision of Cedar Cliff's Emerson Wentz gave the Boyertown junior a decided good feeling after his oh-and-two showing at Hershey last year.
"It feels good to get the first win," he said. "It gets the momentum going."
The win was the bright spot of the Bears' otherwise troubled start to the state tournament. The other five members of its "Slick Six" contingent fell into wrestlebacks with losses in either the preliminary and first rounds, leaving Jones the only one in gold-medal contention.
"Overall, the guys had a tough run," he noted. "Things didn't go our way. But we'll wrestle back and keep going.
"It's not over for any of us."
Mike Modugno distinguished himself in the area contingent by going 2-0 on opening day. The Upper Perk senior (35-6) started out with a 3-1 victory over Roman Catholic's Michael Leyland in the 220-pound preliminaries, then prevailed over State College's Pete Haffner in a wild 12-10 decision.
"The second (bout) was harder," Modugno said. "It was a big tough guy pushing my endurance. But it was pretty good."
The difference against Haffner was Modugno's counter with a one-point lead near the end.
"I got him in a headlock when he was trying to tilt me," he recalled. "I dug deep for it."
Boyertown's Chris Berry (152) and Upper Perk's Jacob Folk (160) rebounded from their opening losses by winning first-round consolation bout. Berry pinned West Chester Rustin's Daniel Labus while Folk scored a decision on Bethlehem Liberty's Anthony Emig.
Also winning in the first round of consis was OJR's Luke Resnick (120), a 10-3 winner over Connellsville's Mason Franks.
Coming back in Friday's second round of consis are Boyertown's David and Jakob Campbell at 120 and 126, respectively, and Matt Wilde (113). Owen J's Cole Meredith (138) and Daniel Mancini (145), and Spring-Ford's Brandon Meredith (113), will also be in second-round consi bouts.
Seeing their seasons come to an end at Hershey were Boyertown's Hunter Vogels (160), Methacton's Brendan Marion (170) and Spring-Ford's Chase Smith (182) off 0-2 showings.
Austin DeSanto and Tyler Bagoly headed Exeter's three-man contingent by remaining in the winners' bracket of their respective weights.
DeSanto advanced courtesy of an injury default by Garnet Valley's Matt Marino at 126, and Bagoly (170) scored a 3-0 decision of Waynesburg Central's Kyle Homet. The Eagles' Oscar Daniels (285) is alive in the second round of consolations.
Tom O'Brien of Wilson (West Lawn) qualified for the championship quarterfinals at 170 with a second-period pin of Octorara's Ryan Sharpless.
Daniel Boone's Jesse Enck rebounded in the first round of consolations with a 1-0 winner over Spring Grove's Nathan Young at 220.
A handful of Berks wrestlers are alive in Class AA, headed by Wyomissing's Tanner Vogel (160) in the quarters. Others are Schuylkill Valley's Jack Bennettt (138) and Kutztown's Tyler Fisher (170) in the second round of consis.
A do-or-die second-round consi of local interest pits David Campbell against Luke Resnick. It's a rematch of the PAC's 120-pound championship, where Campbell went overtime to come away with a 2-1 victory; and the District 1-AAA West final, which went to Campbell 5-1. ... Friday's schedule opens with Class AA quarterfinals and second-round consolations at 9 a.m., with Class AAA taking the mats at 2:15 p.m.