For a team that faced relatively little adversity all year long, the Spring Grove Rockets' wrestling season will now hinge on how well they can bounce back from a tough defeat.
The fifth-seeded Rockets were handed a 47-18 loss against No. 4 Exeter Township in the District 3-AAA quarterfinal round on Tuesday night at Exeter, forcing them into the consolation bracket. Now, in order to qualify for the state tournament, Spring Grove must win its next two matches on Thursday. The Rockets will open against No. 9 Cocalico. A win there will move the Rockets to the next round against the loser of the Cumberland Valley-Cedar Cliff contest. CV is the No. 2 seed and Cedar Cliff is the No. 3 seed.
"They got a nice team," Rockets head coach Tony Miller said about the Eagles. "I'm not going to cut anything on them. We started off and lost a couple bouts that were real close, so against a good team, you can't lose the close ones, and I don't know how many we lost with a couple seconds left."
There were at least two bouts that played out that way, and it didn't take long for the first instance to occur. In the opening match at 182 pounds, Jared Barley led the match the entire way at 3-0, before allowing a take down and back points in the final 10 seconds to lose a controversial 4-3 decision. The back points were awarded to Nolan Buck in very quick fashion, prompting Miller to question the decision. Regardless, the first match set the tone.
Exeter won the first four bouts, opening up a 15-0 cushion. Then the match worked its way back around to the lightweights, the one area where Spring Grove had a noticeable advantage. Clay Baker got the Rockets on the board with a pin in 51 seconds at 106, and then Dalton Rohrbaugh earned a 10-4 victory at 113 to make it 15-9.
"The two little guys down there are real go-getters," Miller said about Baker and Rohrbaugh. "But they got some real hammers coming up there."
The hammers Miller was referring to was the trio of wrestlers for the Eagles from 120 through 132. A very impressive tech fall by Austin Desanto at 120 in little more than a period, and a pins by James Harkness at 126 and Brett Kulp at 132 quickly righted the ship for the Eagles.
Then, the second tough defeat came for Spring Grove at 138, when Anthony Hinson allowed a reversal and back points in the final 20 seconds to lose a 10-7 decision. With the Hinson defeat, Exeter wrapped up the match victory, holding a 35-9 lead with four bouts to go, securing a spot in Thursday's semifinal round. It also meant that Miller could get some other, younger wrestlers into the match, deciding to hold out one of his top wrestlers, Marcus Kehr, at 160, in the second-to-last bout of the match.
If there is any positive heading into Thursday's consolation round for Spring Grove, it came in the way the match ended. Ryan Daugherty pinned Dominic Caccese in 3:05 to close out the match.
Now, the Rockets must put behind their latest result and refocus on trying to secure two more match wins on Thursday night, this time, doing it in front of their home fans. Spring Grove will host the next round.
"The way the district bracket is set up now, with wrestle backs, all you have to do is get through that first one," Miller said about preparing for Thursday. "...You can look at it a bunch of different ways, as far as momentum is concerned. You can go to that losers' bracket and win your first one and it might be better that way."
Rockets knock off Milton Hershey: Spring Grove got to the quarterfinal round by knocking off the 12th-seeded Milton Hershey Spartans in an earlier match on Tuesday, 42-22.
The Rockets fell behind 13-9 through five bouts. But, after both Baker and Rohrbaugh earned forfeits at 106 and 113 to put Spring Grove ahead 21-13, the team never relinquished the lead.
Barley and Hinson each recorded pins vs. Milton Hershey, while Tanner Sterner earned a major decision at 145. Kehr capped the match off with a 15-0 tech fall at 160.
West York 45, Dover 28: At Dover, the Bulldogs were the beneficiaries of five forfeit victories and Ryan Narber collected the lone pin for West York during the 182-pound bout.
Dover scored the majority of its points via pin, with Brandon Rodriguez (113), Hunter Failor (132), Matthew Lehman (152) and Ian Flohr (195) all collecting falls for the Eagles.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com