HARRISBURG -- On his stomach as the final buzzer sounded, Andy Melhorn's face said it all.
Like many of the Spring Grove wrestlers on Thursday night, Melhorn had just gone toe-to-toe with a talented Central Dauphin grappler but came up just short. Melhorn (195 pounds) needed a major decision, technical fall or a pin to keep his team alive in the third-to-last bout of the night.
A final shot at a takedown in hopes it would lead to a pin instead failed for Melhorn, who was taken down by Rams' senior Deitrik Ferster in the final seconds. Ferster came out with a 7-6 decision to seal the victory for top-seeded Central Dauphin in a District 3-AAA semifinal match Thursday night.
The host Rams forfeited the final two bouts to come out with a 33-26 win over No. 4-seed Spring Grove and move onto the district championship match vs. Chambersburg.
"We wrestled well," Spring Grove coach Tony Miller said. "We did lose a couple of the swing matches, too. So that made a difference tonight. They're very talented. Up there in the middle with the two Peppelman brothers and Austin Rose. They're a nice team. I thought our kids battled the whole way through."
Longtime Central Dauphin coach Jeff Sweigard praised the Rockets (22-1) several times after the match. He especially noted Spring Grove's balanced lineup, which forced him to make some moves with his own lineup, something the Rams (20-0) haven't typically done this season.
After Spring Grove sophomore Levi Witmer (106) dropped a 3-0 decision to start the match, the Rockets answered by winning four of the next five bouts to take a 14-6 advantage.
But Miller knew that's where it would get tough for the Rockets. The Rams' next four grapplers -- Tyson Dippery (145), Austin Rose (152), Garrett Peppelman (160) and Colton Peppelman (170) -- combined for two gold medals and two bronze medals at last year's individual district tournament. The group combined for a three-point decision, a technical fall and two pins against Spring Grove to open up a 26-14 lead with four bouts to go.
Rockets' senior Jon Gross, normally a 170-pounder, wrestled up at 182 pounds and suffered a 10-0 major decision loss to senior Terrance Parsons. It left Melhorn, normally a 182-pounder, with the task of bumping up a weight and trying to keep the match alive. Had he completed it, the Rockets would've had a good shot at winning the final two bouts.
Spring Grove's perfect team season came to an end with the loss and prevented the Rockets from winning the program's first district title. Still, seven bouts were decided by four points or less, with Spring Grove coming out on the winning end in three of those. That came against an undefeated Central Dauphin team in search of the program's sixth straight district title. The seven-point win was the Rams' closest of the season.
"They're really deep," Sweigard said of Spring Grove. "We scrimmaged them the second week of the season and when I was on that bus on the way home I said 'They're gonna be in the playoffs and they're gonna make some noise.'"
Spring Grove will now face No. 15-seed Wilson (14-6) in the third-place match -- which will decide seeding for the state tournament -- on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Milton Hershey High School. Wilson dropped its semifinal match to Chambersburg, 30-29. All four semifinalists have already earned state berths.
"You don't fold at this point," Miller said. "You think about tonight and it's gonna hurt. Tomorrow you're ready to go again. You get ready for Saturday, which is a big match."
NEW OXFORD 39, KEN NARD-DALE 32: At New Oxford, the Rams led 32-23, but suffered two forfeits and lost a major decision in the final three bouts to suffer the loss. K-D got pins from Chance Marsteller (170), Cody Gladstone (195) and Harley Eagle (220). Marsteller, who is unbeaten, needed just 58 seconds for his fall. New Oxford got a pin from Nolan Poust (138).
DOVER 58, NORTH EASTERN 17: At Dover, the Eagles received pins from Shaheed Mitchell (182) and picked up six forfeit victories. For the Bobcats, Jeb Payne (160), Nick Yinger (170) and Abe Holmes (126) each picked up pins.
CENTRAL YORK 29, RED LION 28: At Red Lion, Central rallied from a 24-10 deficit, winning five of the last six bouts. Leonard Parker (160) and Dylan Chatterton (113) had pins for the Panthers and Isaiah Dickson (145) and Matt Houck (106) recorded major decisions. Cody Stern (138) recorded a major decision for Red Lion.
-- Reach John Walk at email@example.com.