HERSHEY -- He figured his wrestlers would be too pumped up just sitting at home.
So Spring Grove head coach Tony Miller brought his team to Hershey's Giant Center early Thursday afternoon -- around 4 p.m. His team wasn't scheduled to wrestle in the round of 16 of the PIAA Class AAA Team Tournament for another four hours.
"We got them here early just to kind of calm down a little bit," Miller said. "And then we had them watch some of the first-round matches just to get used to the environment."
Nine of the Rockets' starters had been to Hershey before to compete in the individual district tournament, while a handful of others were new to the venue.
Miller didn't think nerves played much of a factor Thursday night. It certainly didn't appear that way from the start against defending state champion Canon McMillan. Spring Grove won two of the first three matches thanks to close decisions by Tyler Miller (152 pounds) and Jon Gross (170).
Then things went south for the Rockets. Canon McMillan took seven of the next eight bouts, with five of those coming by pin and one by major decision. The Big Macs eventually earned a 42-22 win.
"They're very aggressive and we can be very aggressive," Miller said. "We'll see what we can do tomorrow. It's something we're gonna emphasize, is you gotta be on the whole time and be the aggressor. In spots I thought we were, and they did a good job taking us out of our rhythm in other spots."
Spring Grove (24-2) is still alive in the tournament despite the loss. The Rockets will have a chance to advance in the consolation bracket for the bronze medal when they return to the Giant Center on Friday morning to face District 1 runner-up Downingtown East (24-3) at 10 a.m. Downingtown East fell to District 10 champion McDowell (11-1) in its first-round match, 38-17.
Rockets: Leading 6-3 through the first three bouts, Spring Grove spot-starter Max Copenheaver (182) got pinned by Cody Wiercioch, a returning individual state champion, to give Canon McMillan (16-0) the lead for good, 9-6.
The Rockets suffered a big loss in the next bout when Andy Melhorn (195) led by a point before getting caught on his back and pinned with 12 seconds left in the third period.
"He (Melhorn) should've got out of that match with a win and been done with it," Miller said. "That would've been a difference. But you can't point at one match making a difference when the score ends up like that."
The Big Macs won the next three bouts until Spring Grove's Derek Carlisle (113) picked up an 11-2 major decision to pull the Rockets to within 31-10 with five bouts to go.
In the bout of the night, Spring Grove's Zack Clingan (120), a returning individual District 3 qualifier, suffered a 13-7 loss to Dalton Macri, a returning state qualifier.
Returning state runner-up Connor Schram (126) then sealed the win for Canon McMillan by scoring a 17-2 technical fall over Alec Zorbaugh in 1:59.
"They're a good team," Miller said. "And maybe some of the newness for us of being here played into it. We'll find out tomorrow."
BERMUDIAN SPRINGS 34, BURRELL 29: At Hershey, Bermudian (25-5) moved to the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AA Team Tournament with a win over District 7 champion Burrell (15-6). The Eagles, who finished as the District 3 runner-up, advanced to face District 9 champion Redbank Valley (11-0) at noon Friday. Redbank Valley downed District 2 champion Western Wayne (21-6) on Thursday, 45-30. Chase Mueller (113), Tristan Sponseller (170) and Brock Linebaugh (220) had pins for Bermudian.
NEW OXFORD 54, YORK TECH 18: At New Oxford, the Colonials got pins from Lake Laughman (113), Charlie Hoffman (182) and Brock Hartman (285) en route to the non-league win. Tech got pins from Jacob Phillips (195) and Jevenson Villenueva (220).
SHIPPENSBURG 58, YORK SUBURBAN 21: At Suburban, the Trojans got pins from Austin McMillan (106), Dustin Knaub (120) and Andrew Toman (132) in the non-league loss.
CORRECTION: In a wrestling match Wednesday, Middletown's Zach Ulerick (120 pounds) pinned Dallastown's Nick Hoffman, not Nick Shields. The information was reported incorrectly in Thursday's Dispatch.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.