Spring Grove’s Andy Melhorn, top, wraps up a pin of Manheim Township’s Matthew Farside at 195 pounds.
Spring Grove's Andy Melhorn, top, wraps up a pin of Manheim Township's Matthew Farside at 195 pounds. (Bil Bowden photo)

He could talk about some of the better teams he's had in his time at Spring Grove -- and it would be a long list.

That's just how it is for Tony Miller now that he's in his 16th season coaching the Rockets' perennially strong wrestling program.

Never before, though, has Miller seen a team like this year's squad.

"We have great balance. That's the difference between some of the other teams I've coached," Miller said Tuesday night. "This team, at pretty much every weight class, we have good balance. Pretty much anyone going out there we can depend on."

The No. 4-seed Rockets showed off that balance in their home gym Tuesday night. Spring Grove (22-0) moved past No. 13-seed Northern York (12-3), 57-15, and No. 5 Manheim Township (10-2), 52-27, in the first and second rounds of the District 3-AAA Tournament.

Spring Grove’s Austin Barley, right, lifts up Northern’s Andy Reed during a 160-pound battle. Barley went on to take a 3-2 decision for the
Spring Grove's Austin Barley, right, lifts up Northern's Andy Reed during a 160-pound battle. Barley went on to take a 3-2 decision for the Rockets. (Bil Bowden photo)

With the victories, the Rockets qualified for the state tournament for the second time in program history and advanced to the district semifinals to face top-seeded Central Dauphin (19-0) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Rams disposed of No. 16 Dallastown (8-3), 59-9, and No. 9 Cumberland Valley (10-5), 44-16.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think we can hang with them," Spring Grove senior Derek Carlisle said of Thursday's match vs. Central Dauphin. "It's gonna be a battle."

Carlisle is one of 13 returning Spring Grove starters and one of nine returning qualifiers from last year's individual district tournament. He was in the lineup three years ago when the Rockets were handed a 55-8 defeat against C.D. in the 2010 district team championship match. It prevented Spring Grove from winning its first district title.

"We're always trying to beat them," Carlisle said. "We had goals hanging in the (wrestling) room and one of them is to beat C.D."

Of course, many teams have tried and failed with that goal, evident by Central Dauphin having won the last five district titles and four of the last five state titles. The Rams are stacked again this year, returning seven grapplers who qualified for the individual district tournament last year. Of that group, six medaled at districts, two finished as runners-up at states and one (Garrett Peppelman) was a district and state champion.

But Spring Grove's balance could prove to be the difference Thursday.

"Coming in we knew, in my opinion, they're the second-best team in the district," Manheim Township coach Tim Rice said of Spring Grove. "I think they're going to give Central Dauphin a heck of a match. I haven't seen a team like that (Spring Grove) for awhile, where top to bottom they don't have any weak spots."

Manheim Township took an early 9-0 lead in the district quarterfinal with a decision and a pin before Spring Grove answered by winning four of the next five bouts to go up 24-15. Manheim Township then forfeited the next three weight classes to extend the Rockets' lead to 42-15.

Carlisle (113) picked up a pin and teammate Zack Clingan (120) scored a major decision to push the lead to 52-15. With the victory in hand, Spring Grove forfeited the final two bouts.

The York-Adams League Division I champs will now travel to Central Dauphin for a meeting between the teams for the first time since they scrimmaged in the pre-season.

"But that was a long time ago," Miller said. "A lot of things have changed between then and now. We've gotten better and I'm sure they've gotten better."

OTHER WRESTLING

CENTRAL DAUPHIN 59, DALLASTOWN 9: At Central Dauphin, the Wildcats received a technical fall from Cooper Deller (182) in the first bout of the night, giving them an early 5-0 lead, but the Rams would go on to win the next six bouts, including four pins, to take command in the District 3-AAA first-round match. Rodney Sunday (126) picked up a major decision to register the Wildcats' other victory. Dallastown was eliminated from the tournament and finishes its team season at 8-3 overall.

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.