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Rockets set sights on district title

Patrick Strohecker
505-5402/@P_Strohecker

At the beginning of the season, qualifying for districts was always secondary to winning the York-Adams League Division I title for the Spring Grove wrestling team.

The Spring Grove student section reacts during the Rockets' wrestling victory over South Western last week. Spring Grove is the only York-Adams wrestling team in the District 3-AAA Team Tournament field.

But, after capturing the division title last week, the Rockets can now focus solely on their next task at hand — the District 3-AAA Team Tournament.

"You don't look that far down the road," Spring Grove head coach Tony Miller said. "The kids, obviously qualifying for districts is something that they want to do and to win districts would be great, that's the next goal in line. But, as I said, as you go through the season, it's one match at a time and we're thinking about Tuesday night right now."

With a tidy 10-1 overall record, the Rockets qualified for the District 3-AAA Team Tournament as the No. 5 seed in the field of 16. Of the teams that qualified, the single loss that Spring Grove suffered to Downingtown East in early January is tied for the second fewest losses in the tournament, tied with one-loss Cedar Cliff and trailing only undefeated Central Dauphin. The Rockets also continued a streak 14 consecutive District 3 tournament appearances, going back to the 2002 tournament.

Throughout the course of Spring Grove's remarkable season, it's outscored opponents in matches 551-200, with its only defeat back on Jan. 9, a three-point setback to Downingtown East.

"Downingtown gave us our first challenge," Miller said. "We would've loved to win it, but it was a good testament that, when you wrestle as a team, you need everyone to do what they need to do — to do their job — for it to work out as a team. The kids have taken that and run with it."

Now, awaiting the Rockets in Tuesday's first-round match is No. 12 seed Milton Hershey, a team that went 14-3 on the year. After beginning the season 9-0, the Spartans lost three of their next four matches. Since then, however, Milton Hershey has reeled off four consecutive match victories, finishing second in the Mid-Penn Capital Division behind Northern York.

"In this case, both schools will come in with the same situation of not knowing each other's kids real well as far as what they like to do," Miller said. "You can look at it two ways — you want to control what you're doing and not worry about your opponent, or you can look at it as, 'what's he do that I need to take away?'"

Even with all the pressure that comes with competing in the district tournament, even more has been added to Spring Grove. After defeating South Western last Wednesday night to win the Y-A Division I crown, the match result sent the Mustangs into a free fall. South Western lost its next two matches after that to Central York and West York to drop out of the top 16 in the Class AAA power ratings. Even a win over Reading to close out the regular season on Saturday wasn't enough to save the Mustangs, meaning that the Rockets will now be the only Y-A representative in the AAA field.

Spring Grove will wrestle at Exeter Township High School on Tuesday against the Spartans. With a victory, the Rockets would move on to face either host No. 4 seed Exeter Township or No. 13 Manheim Central. That match will also be on Tuesday night. If Spring Grove gets through the first two rounds on Tuesday, then they will have the benefit of going into the semifinals wrestling in front of its home fans since Spring Grove is the host school for the semifinals and all consolation bracket bouts on Thursday.

As long as the Rockets win their first match on Tuesday, they assure themselves of wrestling on Thursday at home. However, a loss in the quarterfinals puts them in the consolation bracket, making their path to the top four, which is what is required to qualify for states, that much more difficult.

Class AA: In the District 3-AA tournament, the Y-A League will be represented by two teams in the eight-team bracket.

Both Bermudian Springs and Biglerville qualified for the the tournament, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. The Eagles (18-2), who won the Y-A Division III title, will wrestle Newport (18-2) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at Boiling Springs High School. Should Bermudian win that match, it will then go on to face the winner of No. 1 Boiling Springs (10-1) vs. No. 8 Annville-Cleona (9-3). The Eagles faced Boiling Springs on Saturday, losing, 34-30.

The Canners (13-6), meanwhile, finished second in the Y-A Division III race, with their only loss coming against Bermudian. They will take on the No. 3 seed in the tournament, Hamburg (16-2) at Northern Lebanon High School on Wednesday. The winner of that match will go on to face the winner of No. 2 Northern Lebanon (14-1) vs. No. 7 Camp Hill (10-3).

Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com.