HERSHEY – When Chris Haines took over the Gettysburg High School wrestling program a decade ago, it's safe to say that things were in a bit of disarray.
Haines, a former standout at the school, inherited a program that had but nine wrestlers on the roster.
At that point, fielding an entire lineup on a daily basis was front-and-center on Haines’ agenda.
Winning a district championship? Well, that wasn’t even in the discussion.
Fast forward to today, and the contrast between the past and present couldn’t be any starker.
With a roster of 32 wrestlers this season, Haines no longer has to worry about whether or not he will have a full lineup. Saturday at Milton Hershey School, the Warriors' coach was entirely focused on doing something that seemed unimaginable just 10 years before – winning a District 3 title.
Entering as a prohibitive favorite with an unbeaten record, the Warriors figured that winning the second district title in school history wouldn’t be easy.
They figured were right.
After racing out to a 17-point advantage, Haines and his team was pressured by a Dallastown side that was making its second consecutive district final. The overall depth and talent up-and-down the Warrior roster – and a big last-second fall – ultimately helped Gettysburg secure a 33-22 triumph.
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Gettysburg, the York-Adams League Division I champion, improved to 21-0 on the season, while Dallastown, the Division I runner-up, fell to 15-3. It was Gettysburg's first district title since beating Dallastown in the 1999 title match.
“This was 10 years in the making,” Haines said. “Ten and a half years ago I was asked to come back and I was hit in the face that we only had nine kids in the program. So, to me, hats off to this community and our administration to backing everything that we did 10 years ago. It wasn’t easy. It’s been a struggle at times.”
Wildcats a bigger challenge this time: Taking on a Dallastown squad that Gettysburg easily defeated back in December, Haines and his team knew that the Wildcats would pose a much bigger challenge in the District 3 Class 3-A final.
After rolling out to an early 17-0 lead after four bouts, the Warriors were challenged by a Dallastown side that has improved by leaps and bounds since taking a 43-17 thumping back on Dec. 18. The Wildcats won four of the next five matches to pull within four points with just five bouts remaining.
A big victory by Ethan Dalton at 132, however, turned the momentum back in the favor of the Warriors. Leading in his match against Dallastown’s Anthony Carulli, Dalton turned a three-point decision into a six-point fall with just two seconds left in the bout.
“Ethan came through for us tremendously,” Haines said. “Obviously (his win) was jinormous in the outcome of this match.”
Jacob Cherry followed with a major decision for the Warriors at 138 to increase the Gettysburg advantage to 30-16 with just three matches left. Despite getting wins from Sam Druck and Brooks Gable at 145 and 152 respectively, the eight-point difference clinched the match for the Warriors with one bout left.
“We’ve improved in a lot of ways,” Dallastown coach Dave Gable said. “But it’s tough to improve enough to beat them.”
Dallastown comes close: The Wildcats, however, did come the closest of any team against the Warriors this season. Gettysburg won its first 20 matches by a collective 1,214-246 margin, so coming within 11 points was quite an accomplishment.
And, the reality is that Dallastown was certainly in position to pull off an upset had they reversed the outcome of several close bouts.
Blake Feeney at 195 scored a late escape in his bout against Max Gourley, but Feeney was unable to secure a takedown before the buzzer en route to a 2-1 setback. Caden Dobbins at 106 also fell by a 2-1 score. Both Feeney and Dobbins actually prevailed in their matches back in December against the Warriors. Similar outcomes Saturday with all other bouts the same, would have resulted in Gable’s crew claiming a narrow one-point victory.
“It would have taken everything to go perfect,” Gable said. “And that’s pretty hard to do.”
On to states: Both sides will continue on into the PIAA 3-A team tournament Thursday in Hershey. Gettysburg will face a still-to-be determined opponent at the Giant Center at 8 p.m. The Warriors will get the winner of Monday's play-in match between District 8 champ Carrick and the third-seed from District 7, Canon McMillan.
For the second year in a row, Dallastown will take on District 12 champ Father Judge. That match is slated for a 6 p.m. start time. Dallastown beat Father Judge a season ago, 40-23.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
District 3 3-A Wrestling Championship
At Milton Hershey HS
Gettysburg 33, Dallastown 22
170 - Nathan Ridgely (G) maj. dec. Michael Klinger (D), 10-0
182 - Dylan Reinert (G) pinned Jordan Brabham (D), 1:18
195 - Max Gourley (G) dec. Blake Feeney (D), 2-1
220 - Sam Rodriguez (G) maj. dec. Andrew Smith (D), 12-3
285 - Hunter Bisking (D) dec. Trevor Gallagher (G). 7-5
106 - Jacob Fetrow (G) dec. Caden Dobbins (D), 2-1
113 - Zach Luckenbaugh (D) maj. dec. Reed Miller (G), 8-0
120 - Adam Karlie (D) pinned Montana DeLawder (G), 1:27
126 - Ashton Deller (D) dec. Tyler Withers (G), 13-7
132 - Ethan Dalton (G) pinned Anthony Carulli (D), 5:58
138 - Jacob Cherry (G) maj. dec. Blake Keim (D), 12-4
145 - Sam Druck (D) dec. Jared Townsend (G), 7-3
152 - Brooks Gable (D) dec. Luke Sainato (G), 4-0
160 - Devin Compton (G) dec. Hunter Sweitzer (D), 7-4