EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Wrestlers who lose in the region finals can take consolation in knowing that they will still get to wrestle at the state individual tournament finals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The same can't be said for wrestlers who lose in the third- and fourth-place consolation matches since only the top three advance to states from March 8-10.
Atlantic City's Cesar Balmaceda, Lower Cape May Regional's Zach Hicks and Millville's Obi Kali were three of the six area wrestlers to take third in the Region 8 tournament at Egg Harbor Township High School on Saturday.
Balmaceda became the first Atlantic City wrestler since the 1970s to reach the state tournament with a come-from-behind win against Hammonton's Kellen Whitney at 160 pounds.
Balmaceda trailed Whitney 5-0 late in the second period but was just getting started. Balmaceda admitted he was a little nervous as time started ticking away.
"I think every wrestler would get nervous in a spot like that, but there is no quit in me," Balmaceda said. "The third period is my best period."
Balmaceda took Whitney down to his back in the third and went on to win a 10-6 decision.
"I'm extremely excited," Balmaceda said. "If I would have lost, I would have been heartbroken."
Hicks had one of the more dramatic wins of the consolations. Hicks was the No. 8 seed at 113 pounds and trailed No. 6 seed Tom Carney 6-1 after one period.
No problem for the Lower senior, who had never wrestled past districts entering this season.
Hicks cradled Carney to his back and pinned him 31 seconds in the second period.
"I'm just happy I made it there," Hicks said. "That was my main goal all year, to get to states."
Hicks said it was nerve-wracking wrestling with his season on the line.
He doesn't anticipate wrestling in front of around 10,000 fans at Boardwalk Hall will be any easier.
"I'll be a bit more nervous," Hicks said.
Kali was seeded 11th at 220 pounds and was the lowest seed in the tournament at any weight to reach states.
Kali beat the No. 3, 4, 6 and 12 seeds with his only loss coming to No. 2 Nigel Toussaint of Egg Harbor Township in the semifinals.
"After I lost that match, my coaches told me the main thing I had to do was stop feeling sorry for myself because that would have brought me down in my next match," Kali said. "That's exactly what I did."
Kali said he knew the stakes heading into his match - win and advance or lose and go home.
"That what you think about before the match," Kali said. "After a while, though, you have to throw that out of your head and go wrestle again."
Lower Eric Pruszinski (106 pounds) and Cory Damiana and Egg Harbor Township's Shawn Bryant (132) also took third in Region 8. Lacey Township's Luke Fernandez and Pat Schinder each finished third in Region 6.
Contact John O'Kane: