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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — While NTL boys’ wrestlers were punching their tickets to states, three area girls’ wrestlers were doing the same.

Athens had three freshmen — Anaiah Kolesar, Leah Nason, and Hannah Rathbun — punch their tickets to the MyHouse State Championships at Central Dauphin High School, slated for this Sunday — after the boys’ tournament ends.

It was a career moment for all three as they make their first trip to the state tournament.

Kolesar, who hails from NEB, was confident she would do well at the Northeast Regional Tournament as she garnered the top seed and rode that all the way to the title match.

“I felt more confident knowing that I had a better chance,” Kolesar said about being the number one seed. “As I kept going the more encouraging it felt. My teammates were encouraging me, my parents, everyone. The more I was winning the more encouraged I felt to keep going.”

In the finals, she led 5-2 in the third period, but lost 7-5 to Milton’s Abigail Moser off a five-point move.

“I learned that I have to also be smart, and know when to shoot, and when not to,” Kolesar took away from the match.

Kolesar’s going to focus on her training, and keeping her weight in check.

For Nason, wrestling runs in the family as her brother, Caleb Nason, wrestles for the boys’ team. She joined the team just a couple weeks ago, but showed what she could do with a first-period fall to get her into the finals, and earn a state berth.

“Personally, I didn’t know if I could, but I had the support of all my family and friends,” said Nason. “I beat her before, so I knew that I could do it again, I just had to get it done.”

Nason was pinned in her finals match, but sees it as a teaching moment.

“I learned that, even though I didn’t win, that I still have a lot to be grateful for,” she said. “And now, I know what I need to do if I see her again at States to beat her.”

Nason plans on focusing on herself to get ready for states.

“Just improving my moves, and not worrying about my competition,” she said. “Just focusing on what I can do better.”

Rathbun had quite the path to a third-place finish, winning her first two matches, but then falling in the semifinals. In the consolation semifinals, she got her third pin of the day to punch her ticket to States, then ended things on an 11-8 win to take third.

“I’ve been working for it for a pretty long time, so I’m excited,” Rathbun said about making States.

Rathbun was confident, but five matches in one day took its toll.

“I got pretty tired in my last match,” she said.

She plans on working hard on top to get ready for States.

As a team, the Wildcats took third, and showed just how far they’ve come in their short time with girls’ wrestling, much like the state of Pennsylvania has.

“It’s pretty cool to see it grow, and how fast it has grown,” Rathbun remarked.

The PIAA plans on sanctioning the sport next year, which will put it on par with the boys’, including a PIAA postseason tournament, but will also bring some changes that the head honchos are starting to figure out.

But it shows just how much girls in the state want to wrestle.

“It’s really inspiring to see a bunch of girls who all want to wrestle,” Nason said. “When I was younger, I always wanted to, but there wasn’t a girls team, and I didn’t want to wrestle the boys. I think it’s a great opportunity for girls who want to try it.”

The Wildcats have also been accommodating to girls’ who want to wrestle from other NTL schools, welcoming wrestlers from NEB, Towanda, Sayre, and Troy.

“I like it a lot coming out here,” Kolesar said. “There’s not a lot at Northeast for me to have, I don’t have a lot of people to wrestle. Coming out here, they’re like a family. Northeast is fabulous, I love Northeast, but Athens wrestling is just completely different. I love it here.”

And she’s looking forward to their team growing along with their sport.

“I love that it’s getting sanctioned,” said Kolesar. “The more people that come, the more competition there is, and the better our team is going to get as the sport grows.”

“They’re supportive about everything we do,” Rathbun said about Athens. “We’re a family.”

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