The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 2, 2014

Harold Raker's high school wrestling column: Down, but not out


Daily Item

---- — Other than the National Football League, which has had a few remarkable comebacks in its day, most sports do not give a team a chance at rallying for the win when trailing 36-0 three-fourths of the way through a game.

In Saturday's District 4 Class AA Duals Tournament semifinal, No. 1 seed Towanda was exacting what appeared to be a slow, excruciating death on No. 5 Warrior Run.

With 10 of the 14 bouts completed, the Black Knights led 36-0.

But it was the way the Knights were winning that gave hope to Warrior Run and its fans.

Towanda managed just three falls in building that lead, and had won some matches that easily could have gone the other way.

"They weren't getting the bonus points, and the matches they were winning, we were in those. To their credit they won, and to our unfortunate situation, we ended up a little bit short in those matches," Warrior Run coach Wayne Smythe said.

The first bit of misfortune for the Defenders came in the fourth bout of the meet, at 160 pounds, with Warrior Run trailing 9-0.

The Defenders' Elias George was ahead of Dayton Wickwire 4-1 in the third period. George cut him free to make it 4-2, and Wickwire then hit a cement job for a fall in 4 minutes, 56 seconds.

Instead of it being no worse than 9-3, it became 15-0.

At 182, Defender Jon LeBarron lost 3-2 in an ultimate tiebreaker to make it 21-0.

And, at 220, Towanda's Jeremy Sheets eked out a 1-0 win over Hunter Bohannon on a second-period escape.

The Defenders roared back in those final four bouts to put up 25 points to none for the Black Knights, falling short of berth in the championship and a guaranteed berth in this week's state tournament in Hershey.

Their final shot at heading to Chocolate Town ended in a tough loss, 31-25 to eventual state qualifier Wyalusing.

But Smythe knows his team had just as much of a chance coming to Milton as did most of the other seven to get to the state tournament.

While he wouldn't blame the Wyalusing loss on the short turnaround after a loss, he said it was tough. "It happens very quickly and it's a little bit of a downer. Certainly your hopes are to get to the finals," he said, comparing it to the individual tournaments when the semifinal loser finds himself scrambling to get back in contention.

"But I don't know how much of a bearing it had on the meet. We got off to a bit of a slow start but as the match wore on you could see the guys picking it up," he said.

Also unlike other sports, in high school wrestling, elimination in the district tournament does not end the season. Most of the teams have dual meets left, and then they move into the individual tournaments, which could also lead to Hershey.

Shikellamy coach John Supsic, who saw his bid for a state berth end in a 39-28 loss to Jersey Shore in Saturday's Class AAA final, is excited to move on from there.

"We have two dual meets left and then we are looking forward to the post-season. That's what we are going to be gunning for now, and gearing up for in the last three weeks," Supsic said.

The Braves and their fellow District 4 teams, including Selinsgrove, will once again travel to Clarion University to compete with District 9 for berths in the Northwest Regional next month in Altoona.

Warrior Run and the rest of the AA field will begin the individual postseason with a new sectional tournament format. Instead of the longstanding four sectionals, there will be three. All of the Valley teams except Warrior Run will compete in the South sectional at Mifflinburg. The Defenders will be in the Central tournament, at Benton.

CONGRATS: Shikellamy junior high coach Justin Dunkelberger was named the District 4 Class AAA junior high coach of the year after the completion of Saturday's tournament. Varsity head coach of the year went to Jersey Shore's Shawn Weaver and assistant of the year was Shore's Zac Rote.

The latest inductees into the D4 Wrestling Coaches Hall of fame, in ceremonies preceding the finals and consolation final, were former Milton High and Bucknell University wrestler and longtime Milton coach Bob Greenly; former Selinsgrove and Susquehanna University great Dr. Rick Bechtel; and Sunbury High graduate and longtime public address announcer at Williamsport High, Larry Bassett.

Sports editor Harold Raker covers high school wrestling for The Daily Item. Email comments to hraker@dailyitem.com.