Whenever rivals Dallastown and Red Lion get together in any sporting event, the game or match itself usually takes center stage.
On Wednesday night, however, the two foes' wrestling match got pushed to the back burner to celebrate something even bigger. Before the match, the Red Lion wrestling program celebrated its 50th anniversary, complete with a social, an alumni celebration and then the match to cap it all off.
"It's really neat," longtime coach Biff Walizer said. "To get to see faces that I haven't seen in a long time and haven't really been able to converse with outside of the occasional Facebook post and so forth. The memories I made here coaching will last a lifetime."
There were approximately 75 alumni on hand for the special event, including several wrestlers from the original 1965-66 Lions wrestling team.
The event was expected to be held last Tuesday, but because of the snowstorm, it got rescheduled to Wednesday night. While it meant that some former wrestlers and coaches couldn't be on hand, it also allowed several others the opportunity to show up, one of which was Walizer.
When his name was announced during the part of the ceremony when the school recognized all the former head coaches, he got the loudest ovation. Walizer coached Red Lion all through the early 2000s, eventually stepping away at the end of the 2010-11 season. It was during his tenure that the Lions saw some of their greatest success on the mats, qualifying for every District 3-AAA team tournament from 2004 through 2010, including claiming several York-Adams League Division I co-championships.
"I think we had some good years there in the early 2000s," Walizer said. "With sharing the league title three times and getting some guys on the state podiums and 100-match winners. But, that all goes back to the kids, because they were able to buy in and achieve some great things."
Walizer stepped away from the Red Lion program following the 2010-11 season to coach at Millersville University for three years before going back to his hometown, where he is now the head wrestling coach at Central Mountain High School, which is currently undefeated and was ranked as high as 14th in the state at Class AAA.
The first part of the event was just a social before the ceremony. There, the alumni could reconnect over food and beverages while viewing a slideshow of photos from all 50 years in program history. Then, it was onto the ceremony, where the former head coaches and assistants were honored, followed by 100-match winners, state qualifiers and then any other alumni in attendance.
The match: After that, it was onto the match, which became a huge spotlight for the current wrestlers — the 50th team in Lions history — who, leading up to the night, were feeling more nerves than usual.
"We had a meeting at about 5:15, we talked a little bit, some kids were nervous," head coach Chris Schell said. "And I said, 'Guys, I want you guys to see everybody come through, from the older guys to the younger guys. They're all here for you. They're here supporting you.' And when we went back into the hallway, every one of them said, 'I feel good.'"
It showed on the mats, too, as Red Lion capped off its league schedule with an impressive 39-33 victory over the Wildcats, in which the Lions won eight of the 14 bouts. In seven of those victories, Red Lion accumulated some sort of bonus points, recording three pins, three major decisions and a forfeit.
The match got started on the right foot for the Lions when the No. 1 ranked 285-pound wrestler in District 3-AAA, Jared Schell, pinned his opponent in 2 minutes, 55 seconds. After that, Riley Seredych got a pin in just 1:16 at 120 pounds and then Corey Shane earned a pin in just 44 seconds at 132.
Tyler Ness (138), Dylan Gurreri (152) and Jack Conrad (170) each won by major decisions to open up a 36-21 lead with just three bouts to go. Zach Shaffer sealed the victory for the Lions at 182 pounds with a 6-1 win over Cameron Green.
"They came to wrestle today," Schell said. "All week long, we had a great practice. We were going at it with each other. We were just prepared and ready to not lose on our 50th anniversary. The kids said that we were not going to disappoint our fans today and they came out and they showed it."
The Wildcats got six total wins in the match, five of which came on pins. Geoffrey Grim (106), Ben Hyman (145), Drake Pew (160), Jack Marks (195) and Bryce Shields (220) all earned six points for Dallastown in their matches.
It was a special night for the Red Lion wrestling program and the current crop of wrestlers didn't disappoint.
"It kind of brings tears to you because I'm an alumni here," Schell said about the event. "To bring alumni back, the coaches back ... it means a lot."
Central York 61, Eastern York 7: At Central, the Panthers rolled to the non-league triumph behind pins from Dylan Chatterton (145), Antonio Rivera (160), Todd Horner (285), Logan Paluch (106), Hoang Pham (113) and Brett Morgan (120). A.J. McQaide (126) and Xavier Musti (132) had technical falls for the winners. Dakota Mackley had a major decision for Eastern at 170.
Shippensburg 61, Susquehannock 10: At Shippensburg, the hosts won the opening bout via a decision before rattling off five straight pins and never looking back. Michael Younkin stopped that streak with his pin of Colten Renshaw at 113 pounds for Suquehannock. Joey Romjue was the other Warriors wrestler to collect any points, scoring a 16-0 tech fall win against Sterling Shetter at 152.
Kennard-Dale 60, Fairfield 6: At Fawn Grove, the Rams were the beneficiaries of six forfeit victories in a match that saw three weight classes go as uncontested double forfeits. Four of the five matches that did come to a finish were each won by K-D via pin. Fairfield’s points came from Cody Small who picked up a victory at 132 when his opponent retired with an injury.
York Suburban 40, York Tech 28: At Suburban, the home team got pins from Adoniyah Johnson (285), Nick Knight (106) and Jacob Taylor (160). Jeceli Yanez had a pin for Tech at 220.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org