South Western sophomore Gage Thomas weighed in and was ready to face a familiar foe in Spring Grove's Mason Bentzel.
A year ago, Bentzel scored a pair of wins over Thomas -- first a major decision in the regular-season finale between the teams, and second a pin in the quarterfinals of the individual sectional tournament.
The opponent that Thomas got Thursday night in the 152-pound bout at Spring Grove wasn't Bentzel, however. Rockets coach Tony Miller instead sent out an equally tough competitor in senior Mike Hartman, a returning District 3-AAA qualifier who was competing up a weight class after wrestling at 145 pounds most of the season.
"I hadn't faced him," Thomas said afterwards. "I've always wrestled Bentzel."
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Thomas, one of the top 152-pounders in the league, ended up being the dagger for the visiting Mustangs inside a packed, standing-room-only Spring Grove gymnasium. It was the third-to-last bout of the evening and South Western was up 13 points. The York-Adams Division I crown was hanging in the balance. Hartman needed to win to keep Spring Grove's streak of 49 straight league victories alive. And he was on the verge of doing just that with a two-point advantage heading into the third period. That's when Thomas scored a quick escape to make it a one-point bout before later getting a takedown with just 25 seconds left to go up by a point. The wrestlers would reset with 6.6 seconds left and Hartman needing to score a quick escape to tie it and go to overtime, but Thomas held on for the one-point win.
"It was hard. My arms were going numb," Thomas said. "I couldn't let him out."
The Mustangs went on to beat Spring Grove, 34-27, handing Spring Grove its first league loss in almost five years. The last time Spring Grove had lost a league match was Jan. 24, 2009, when South Western won 28-27. The Mustangs (8-1 league, 12-6 overall) and New Oxford (8-1, 13-1) still each have one more league match left against Kennard-Dale (2-5, 9-8). Should the Rams lose both of those matches, South Western and New Oxford will finish in a three-way tie with Spring Grove (9-1, 18-2) for the division crown.
"For the South Western program this is huge," said third-year Mustangs coach Brad Zeigler. "We've been biting at the bit."
Thursday's match also played a large role in the District 3-AAA power rankings with the district team tournament set to begin Tuesday. Coming into the night, Spring Grove was ranked No. 2, while South Western was No. 17. The top 16 teams make the tournament.
"We've been preparing for Spring Grove," Zeigler said. "We didn't think we were gonna make districts so we thought 'let's go out with a bang.' That's what we wanted to do."
In what has become a yearly rivalry between the wrestling powerhouses, Thursday's match lived up to the hype again. The score was tied through the first three bouts when South Western freshman phenom Seth Janney (285 pounds) pinned C.J. Sterner to begin a string of four straight winning bouts for the Mustangs, pushing the South Western lead to 28-6. Spring Grove senior Zack Clingan (126), a returning PIAA qualifier, scored a major decision over Cole Sterrett to pull the Rockets to within 28-10. South Western senior Brandon Huff then pulled a mild upset over Levi Witmer, 2-0. Spring Grove won the next two bouts to cut the deficit to 31-18 with three bouts to go. Overall, both teams won seven of the 14 bouts, none of which were forfeited and four of which were decided by two points or less. Logan Bowman (195), Chase Mowery (106) and Owen Wherley (120) picked up pins for the Mustangs, while Spring Grove received a lone pin from Bentzel (160).
"I still think our kids were there," Miller said. "You look at those matches. We were in those matches. I'm not uncomfortable with the situations at all. They wrestled well tonight. Both teams did and they (South Western) came out on top."
Bermudian Springs 43, Biglerville 24: The host Eagles won seven of the first eight bouts to go up 40-6 and held on from there to win their fifth-straight York-Adams Division II title. It's also the fifth straight season in which Bermudian Springs and Biglerville finished one-two in the Division II standings. With Spring Grove losing to South Western on Thursday, Bermudian Springs (8-0 league) now owns the league's longest active win streak with 42 straight league victories. The Eagles picked up pins Thursday from Briton Shelton (160), Colton Dull (195), Tristan Sponseller (220) and Sam McCollum (285). Biglerville (7-1) won the second bout with a pin by Dustin Grubbs (170) and later forfeited the 182-pound and 106-pound bouts.
Red Lion 34, Dallastown 26: At Dallastown, the Lions outlasted their archrivals for the York-Adams Division I victory. Red Lion improved to 5-3 in the division, while Dallastown dropped to 6-4 in the division. The Lions picked up four pins, compared to just one for the Wildcats. Jacob Frock (106), Austin Holloway (152), Mike Vanover (195) and Anthony Moser (220) had Red Lion pins. Michael Anderson had the lone pin for Dallastown at 182.
West York 43, Susquehannock 33: At West York, the Bulldogs finished their York-Adams Division I season at 5-5. West York got pins from Garrett Stauffer (152), Kyle Narber (170), Jake Ciechoski (195), Austin Denoncourt (220), Cole Rinehart (120) and Gavin Toomey (126). Susquehannock got pins from Tyler White (182), Adam Dell (285) and Collin Riley (132).
Central York 54, Northeastern 22: At Manchester, the Panthers received pins from Dylan Chatterton (120), Sam Butler (126), Xavier Musti (132), Alex Roppelt (138), Richard Blaine (145) and Steven Clawson (152) to secure the York-Adams Division I victory. For the Bobcats, Dedrick Turner (170) and Anthony Leese (285) each picked up a pin.
York Tech 54, Fairfield 17: At Fairfield, Kyle Bly recorded a fall for Tech, and the Spartans picked up eight forfeits in the York-Adams Division II match. David Stone and Brett Harris scored pins for Fairfield.
Correction: The Delone Catholic wrestling team finished in third place in York-Adams Division II with a 6-2 league record, in front of fourth-place York Suburban (5-3 league). The information was incorrect in Thursday's Dispatch sports section.
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.