Disappointment last year driving Central Mountain’s Shreffler

Johnny Shreffler couldn’t hide his smile. Winning his first Tom Best Memorial Top Hat championship was exactly the reason he’s put in the work he has leading into his final season at Central Mountain.

Coming off his first trip to the state tournament, the senior 120-pounder wants to make the most out of his senior season. And part of that was performing as he did during the two-day tournament.

Shreffler went 4-0 with three wins by fall, including a first-period pin in the final, to claim his first Top Hat title Saturday at the Magic Dome.

Shreffler has been driven by what was a successful but disappointing end to last season. As a junior he made his first appearance in Hershey for the state tournament. But he left the Giant Center without a win.

So he dedicated himself to making sure he was better prepared for this season. And through the first two days, his plan seems to have worked. His only win which was not a fall came in the 120-pound semifinals against Williamsport stud freshman Riley Bower, 5-2. Bower went on to finish third.

But other than that, Shreffler scored falls against Saucon Valley’s Ryan Gilbert (1:20), Line Mountain’s Mason Leshock (3:21) and Daniel Boone’s Chase Sthamen (1:26).

“I thought about how close I was last year and I thought I needed to put that little extra step into it to get to where I wanted to be,” Shreffler said. “I feel a lot better already. Way better than I was last year, and it feels pretty good.”

Shreffler was a Top Hat runner-up a year ago, falling to Muncy’s Jacob Blair in the 113-pound final. This year he came in as the tournament’s top seed, both a burden and a blessing for the senior. He wanted to show the rest of the field he had earned that top billing.

He surely did by powering his way through the tournament, even controlling his closest match with Bower.

“I want it to be that if people see my name there in the first seed that they know I mean business and I’m ready to roll,” Shreffler said. “In the back of my mind I’m thinking I have to prove a point and show that I should be the first seed.”

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING

Hunter O’Connor also had the idea of trying to hit the ground running this season. The Jersey Shore senior is coming off an eighth-place finish in the state tournament but has never had success at the Top Hat.

In each of his previous three seasons he’s lost in the Top Hat semifinals. As a freshman he rebounded from that loss to finish third. Two years ago he fell to sixth after the loss, and last year he took fourth.

O’Connor didn’t want that to be the case this season, so he took time during football season — when he was playing at an all-state level at linebacker — and would get to a practice one or twice a week. He also steadily began working his weight down to 170 from the 185 pounds he was at for the majority of football season.

The work paid off for O’Connor. After posting a fall in 81 seconds Friday, he followed it with a 15-0 technical fall in the semifinals Saturday morning before beating Fort LeBoeuf’s Brent Barbules in the final, 10-4.

“I didn’t focus on losing the weight rapidly, it was more of a steady pace,” said O’Connor, who also played on the offensive line for the District 4 champion Bulldogs. “I just focused on eating better. At the start of the year I was kind of eating whatever I could to put on weight and stay with these bigger guys in football. But eating better and going to one or two practices a week helped a lot.”

O’Connor wanted to enter the season wrestling at 170 after competing in the postseason last year at 182 pounds, where he earned his first state medal. He was undersized for the weight a year ago but still wasn’t sure how he would feel at 170.

What he showed this weekend was the strength he would need to combat some of the quicker wrestlers at the weight. He also showed a stamina which surprised him considering he was still playing football two weeks ago.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to compete enough at a heavier weight,” O’Connor said. “This forces me to be healthier and get into shape. I felt better than I thought I would. I thought I would be gassed. This gets the ball rolling so I can keep it going. Even though I won, there’s still more to work in the coming weeks.”

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