Niesenbaum is headed to Hershey
Jonah Niesenbaum had a note on his locker all season reminding him of his primary goal for the season. It simply reads “State Qualifier.”
He punched his ticket to next week’s state championships in Hershey by going 4-2 and taking fifth place at 220 pounds at last weekend’s Southeast Regional Championships at Wilson West Lawn.
“My goal all season was to be a state qualifier,” Niesenbaum said. “Now that I got it I want to get on the podium [at the state championship meet.”
He clinched state qualification with a regional consolation-round win over Biglersville’s Brent Hayes, the fourth-place finisher from District 3. He watched Hayes’ previous match and went into their bout with a game plan to push the pace.
“I knew he was a strong guy,” said Niesenbaum. “But I knew I could out-condition him. He started to gas later in the match.”
The Salisbury junior was ahead the whole match before securing a 7-2 win.
Niesenbaum opened the tournament with a pin of Trinity’s Maximus McMurray (District 3 fifth place) in two minutes and 36 seconds. He then lost to District 3 champ and eventual regional champ Austin Taylor (Boiling Springs). He dropped a 3-1 decision to the senior who entered the tournament with a 36-6 record this season.
Niesenbaum, who took third place in District 11, won his next two consolation bouts. He beat District 1’s third-place finisher Kenneth Castro (Bristol) by fall in 59 seconds before ending Hayes’ tournament.
After a 3-1 loss to Newport’s Walker Klinger (District 3 fourth place), Niesenbaum faced Tamaqua’s Bronson Strouse in the fifth-place match. Strouse had handed Niesenbaum a 9-2 setback at districts, but he learned from that match and beat the Blue Raider sophomore 1-0 for fifth place. He studied video of that match, as he does with all his matches, and knew how he could beat Strouse this time.
“He’s a strong kid,” said Niesenbaum. “I couldn’t get stagnant. I had to keep pushing the pace and not take bad shots.”
Learning quick is Niesenbaum’s thing. He only started wrestling two years ago. After taking his lumps as sophomore, but dedicating himself wholly to the sport, he’s made incredible strides and is one of very few wrestlers in the state that have a chance for a PIAA medal.
“It’s a phenomenal feat,” said Salisbury head coach Juan Garcia. “It’s incredible.”
He said Niesenbaum’s hard work and his attitude enable him to progress quickly. He doesn’t take losses too hard. He learns from them and moves on, working hard all along the way. That recipe set him up for a postseason ride that’s taken him exactly where he wanted to.
“Everything clicked at the right time,” said Garcia. “I’m excited for him to go out there.”