WILKES-BARRE – Bob Long made a trip to last year’s District 2 Wrestling Championships as an eighth-grade spectator.
Long took particular enjoyment in a certain set of matches.
“It was pretty neat because I could see the freshmen and sophomore, some of the newer kids, wrestle,” Long said. “It didn’t always go how people expected.
“It was kind of cool to see the freshmen and younger guys beat up on some of the older guys.”
Long was one of the “newer kids” at the latest championships Feb. 26-27 at the Kingston Armory.
The Lake-Lehman freshman pinned a higher-seeded senior on his way to the 106-pound final where he held on for an 8-6 decision over top-seeded Montrose freshman Joseph Hester.
Long, the youngest of three Black Knights to win district titles this year, was different than many youngsters who have made an impact at the district tournament over the years.
Many high school freshmen are battling to take their success as youth wrestlers and extend it a higher level.
Long is defying the odds by finding more success as he moves up through the ranks.
“I didn’t really win a lot of junior high tournaments,” said Long, who improved to 31-8 in a freshman season that has already included a trip to the Giant Center in Hershey as a member of the District 2 champion Black Knights for the PIAA Dual Meet Tournament. “I started getting better toward my junior high years.
“Elementary (wrestling) wasn’t too great.”
By the time he made his first appearance on the Armory mats, Long had accomplished so much this season that he was full of confidence.
“There was a little nerves, but I was very confident,” he said. “Coach (J.J. Konigus) kept telling me: ‘You’ve got this. You can go all the way with this.’”
That confidence level was also evident after Long made up for letting a lead get away by reversing Hester with 1:04 left to break a 6-6 tie in the final.
Holding an opponent down for more than a minute in a district championship match is not easy, but Long saw being on top as a chance to add to his lead.
“I’m pretty good on top so I figured I could ride him out for a minute, four and try to score some points,” Long said. “I ended up not scoring any points, but I did ride him out.”
And, that was enough to claim a district championship in his first year competing on the varsity level.
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