As time dwindled down to the last few seconds, the crowd at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships on Friday was witnessing history.
Fredonia senior Carlene Sluberski -- the 2008 Section VI champion -- became the first female wrestler to advance to the state semifinals, by virtue of her 8-3 victory over Nick Tighe (Phoenix-III) in a Division II 96-pound quarterfinal round match.
Sluberski will face Eden's Tom Page in a semifinal at 10 a.m. today in the Times-Union Center. The two met in the Section VI final won by Page. The consolation finals are scheduled for 2 p.m. and the finals are slated for 6 p.m. today.
The Section VI small schools (Division II) have eight semifinalists, including three from Frewsburg -- Jon Strong (152), Kevin Strong (103) and Dalton Scalf (125). Fredonia's Kenny Betts (152), Pioneer's Kyle Colling (215), Tonawanda's Kyle McGregor (112) and East Aurora's Matt Peters (119) will also be wrestling for a berth in a state final.
The large schools (Division I) have three semifinalists -- Jared Messina (130) of Cheektowaga, Angelo Malvestuto (171) from Niagara-Wheatfield and Jimmy Kloc (135) of Iroquois.
The day belonged to Sluberski, who avenged a 3-2 loss to Tighe in the Webster Tournament last December.
"Carlene is very well-deserving of this," Fredonia coach Alex Conti said. "She is an awesome kid and a quality wrestler. I hope she gets to the final."
Sluberski politely declined interview requests after her win.
Sluberski, who opened her day with a first-period pin of Drew Longo (Ardsley-I), led, 2-1, after the first period in the quarterfinal match. Tighe chose bottom to open the second period and quickly escaped, but Sluberski used a foot sweep to secure the takedown for a 4-2 lead. Tighe escaped with 32 seconds on the clock, but Sluberski countered a Tighe shot and gained control for another takedown.
Tighe ran legs and threw in a power half in the third period, attempting to turn Sluberski for a three-point near fall to even the score. Sluberski was indignant, though, fighting off Tighe.
"I didn't realize how tough he was with legs, but Carlene is generally pretty tough from the bottom," Conti said.
Betts, who has known Sluberski since sixth grade, watched with pride for his teammate and friend.
"I was really excited for her," said Betts, a 2007 state champ and two-time state runner-up. "She did amazing and was in control of the match. She deserves this because she is one of the hardest workers on the team."
Betts pinned Logan Walker (Waverly-IV) in the first round, and finished off Will Carter (Westlake-I) in the quarterfinals.
"I just stayed calm and waited for things," Betts said. "I did not want to make any mistakes today and I didn't."
Betts will face Jason Fraser (Alfred-Almond-V) in one semifinal. Jon Strong will face Craig Scott (Lyons-V) in the other 152-pound semifinal.
Malvestuto experienced a better first day as opposed to last year's state championships. The junior was upset in his first-round match, then ripped his way back to finish third.
Malvestuto, who also finished fourth in 2007, did not allow a repeat of his first bout. He showed that with a 20-5 technical fall of Sal Marchese (Nyack-I), then followed it with an 11-5 triumph over Joe Kavanaugh (Wantagh-VIII).
"I wanted to come in strong because I'm hungry to win it," said Malvestuto, who lost in the semis his freshman year to eventual state champion Michael Chaires. "I wrestled aggressively and was tough on my feet today. I was able to score a lot of points and not make my matches close."
Malvestuto will take on Jesse Villella (Chenango Forks-IV) in his semifinal.
Messina, a four-time sectional champ who cruised with an 11-1 quarterfinal win, had a difficult first-round match with Mike Vespa (Monroe-Woodbury-IX). Messina led, 8-7, when he turned it up a notch, pinning Vespa 29 seconds into the third period.
"I was a little nervous," Messina said. "I finally calmed down in the third period. I didn't want to make any mistakes. I was also trying to figure out what he was doing so I wouldn't make a mistake. Once I saw him open up, I knew what I could do."