SPRING GROVE — The Spring Grove wrestling team is used to having to go through the consolation bracket in order to try and qualify for the PIAA Class 3-A state tournament.
It's not the desired route to take, and hasn't been kind to the Rockets in past years. The only difference between past years and this year is that, this season, Spring Grove looked like a squad capable of avoiding the consolation round all together.
But, after being upset by No. 11 seed Shippensburg in the quarterfinals of the District 3 Class 3-A tournament on Tuesday night, 37-35, the third-seeded Rockets will need to navigate the consolation bracket again if they want to fulfill their team state tournament aspirations.
"We did not get it done in a whole bunch of places," Spring Grove head coach Tony Miller said. "...There were a whole bunch of places where we got pinned or gave points up. We just didn't have a good match and they had a great match. They had a great night, knocking Dallastown off and then getting us and knocking us off."
On paper, the Greyhounds (11-2) taking down the Rockets (15-3) in their home gym might seem like an upset, but Shippensburg felt differently. While most teams are dealing with all sorts of injuries at this point in the season, according to Greyhounds coach Anthony Yaniello, his team is finally 100 percent.
Shippensburg earned its seed by putting bandages on wounds as temporary fixes until everything healed and fell into place. Unfortunately, for Spring Grove, it was one of the teams that finally had to deal with a fully healthy and intact Greyhounds side.
The match began at 160 pounds, but it wasn't until 126 pounds that things really started getting tense for the heavily-favored Rockets. They had just grabbed a 23-21 advantage after a run of wins by Matt Bricker (106), a pin by Dalton Rohrbaugh (113) and another overtime victory by Clay Baker (126) to erase a 10-point hole. With freshman Brady Pitzer wrestling down at 126 pounds from his normal 132-pound slot, a win by the freshman would surely put the Rockets well on their way to a semifinal berth. Instead, Pitzer was pinned by John Adams early in the second period to put Shippensburg ahead 27-23. It was a lead it never relinquished. Pitzer led 2-0 after the first period.
"Our kid there is a .500 wrestler," Yaniello said. "...That was the big turning point because we knew we had Chandler (Olson) next and thought we had a shot at 138."
Olson delivered, scoring a major decision over Chance Jackson to extend the Greyhounds advantage to 31-23, although only giving up four points at that weight seemed like a mini victory for Spring Grove.
Going into the final three bouts, the Rockets knew they were going to need something special to come back, and it started with Jake Meyer earning a very emotional pin to pull Spring Grove to within two. However, any momentum he gained for his team was short-lived. Phillip Torres pinned Tristen Smyser just before the end of the first period to put Shippensburg far enough ahead that the final bout of the night at 152 points didn't matter. Anthony Hinson capped off the night with a pin early in the third period for the Rockets to make the score closer.
"We tell our kids, 'Everybody does their job the whole way through,'" Miller said. "And I'm proud of my kids, all year long, they've been workers and workers and workers and have stepped up for each other when they need it and we just didn't tonight. We didn't do it on the second one tonight."
Trent Baker opened the match in strong fashion for Spring Grove with a 16-1 tech fall at 160 pounds to put the Rockets ahead 5-0. But, facing some ailments at the 170-pound area, Spring Grove forfeited the bout to put the Greyhounds on top. Jared Barley came back with a third-period pin for the Rockets at 182, but then Shippensburg reeled off three consecutive victories from 195 to heavyweight, two of which were pins, to grab the 21-11 lead.
The Greyhounds will now face No. 2 Exeter Township (20-1) on Thursday night in the semifinal, while Spring Grove gets No. 7 Big Spring (12-4) in the consolation bracket. All matches on Thursday night will be at Spring Grove High School.
"We're on the other side of the bracket and it's not where we wanted to be," Miller said. "But, it is what it is and we gotta keep wrestling now. We gotta keep wrestling if we want to go to states."
First-round results: The Rockets earned their spot in the quarterfinal round by easily knocking off No. 14 Governor Mifflin (15-8), 51-15, in the first round. It looked like Spring Grove might have been on a collision course to face York-Adams League Division I rival Dallastown in the quarterfinals, but it wasn't meant to be. Despite entering the tournament as the No. 6 seed, the Wildcats (13-4) were knocked off by Shippensburg in the first round, 35-28, ending their team season. Carter MacDonald (113), Cameron Green (182) and Bryce Shields (220) scored pins for Dallastown.
Exeter 51, South Western 19: At Exeter, the Mustangs dropped the District 3 Class 3-A first-round. Tom Aumen (220) and Chase Mowery (126) each captured pins for the Mustangs. South Western finishes 15-5.
Cocalico 50, Gettysburg 24: At Central Dauphin, the Warriors were strong in the middle weights, but it was not enough as Gettysburg fell in the first round of the District 3 Class 3-A team tournament. Daniel Ziegler (145) and Michael Fortney (170) picked up pins during a stretch that saw the Warriors win every match from 138 to 170 pounds. Gettysburg finished 10-3.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org