Area wrestlers headed to battle in Hershey


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WEST LAWN - Six weeks ago, Ty Schoffstall was writhing in pain on the mat after suffering a leg injury during the Schuylkill League Wrestling Tournament finals.

He left Martz Hall on crutches that night and didn't compete again until Feb. 22 at districts.

Six weeks later, the Tri-Valley senior stood tall under the single spotlight that shone down during the finals of the Southeast Region Class AA Wrestling Tournament. With a 12-5 victory over Fairfield's Nick Mort, Schoffstall walked out of the Wilson gym Saturday, March 2 with a fresh gold medal in his possession.

Schoffstall's victory at 160 pounds, plus runner-up finishes from Hunter Harner (138) and Blake Bowman (145), helped Tri-Valley finish second in the team standings with 109.5 points. Bethlehem Catholic won the team title with 187.

In addition to the finalists, Caleb Bordner (113) and Lyle Troutman (182) finished fourth and Chase Schaeffer (132) took fifth. In other words, Tri-Valley brought six wrestlers to regionals, and all six advanced to the PIAA Championships set for March 7-9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Last season, the Dawgs brought seven wrestlers to regionals, and all seven made it to states. That's a two-year total of 13-for-13.

Asked if he could put that accomplishment into perspective, Tri-Valley co-head coach Ty Rothermel said: "Hardly.''

Thinking for a moment, Rothermel went on.

"Obviously it was phenomenal last year. We had great kids. We brought seven here and took seven to states. To just about repeat that as far as number and as far as percentage to repeat it, it's phenomenal.

"All the credit in the world to the kids,'' Rothermel added. "We knew they all had a shot to make it to the state tournament, but that's much easier said than done.''

Joining the Tri-Valley trio in the regional finals were Halifax senior standouts Robbie Moretz (152) and Joey Kaufman (220).

Both had to settle for silver as Moretz (39-1) dropped a 7-2 decision to Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog (28-4) and Kaufman (38-1) fell 6-2 to Saucon Valley's Ray O'Donnell (40-3). Both Moretz and Kaufman gave up the first takedown and had to play catch-up the rest of their bouts.

For Harner (35-10), his match ended much earlier than he wanted. He trailed Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora 1-0 late in the second period when a clash of heads sent Harner crumpling to the mat. After getting checked by the trainer, the decision was made to stop the match and award Todora (43-6) the win by injury default at 3:40.

Tri-Valley co-head coach Dave Boltz said Harner passed the tests at matside but wasn't allowed to continue. Boltz added that Harner underwent further tests after the match and came through them well, too. He showed no ill effects stepping onto the awards platform to receive his silver medal.

For the second straight week, Bowman (35-8) met two-time state champion Michael Racciato of Pen Argyl in the finals. Last week at districts, Racciato won by technical fall, 23-7 in 3:07.

The regional final was much closer. Bowman had about five deep shots on Racciato's legs but couldn't convert for a takedown. Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, Racciato (40-0) chose bottom, and Bowman nearly turned Racciato for back points.

In the scramble, though, Racciato displayed the elite body control, flexibility and "funkability'' he's known for. Somehow, Racciato finished the flurry on top for a reversal and two back points en route to a 5-2 decision.

"I'm pretty confident, good seed, away from him (Racciato) on the other side of the bracket,'' said Bowman, who's making his third trip to states. "He's a good wrestler, a good kid. Hopefully I get to see him in the finals again. I'm starting to hit my peak now.''

Just by wrestling in the finals, Schoffstall took a step forward from last week, when he forfeited the District 11 final to Bethlehem Catholic's Connor Hedash.

This weekend, Schoffstall (30-3) posted a major decision, a fall and an 18-3 technical fall in 3:14 over North Schuylkill's Auston Hummel in the semifinals to reach the championship round.

Against Mort, Schoffstall whipped his opponent to his back for a four-point headlock in the first period and pulled away from there.

"I knew that kid was going to walk into me, push and be a big musclehead,'' Schoffstall said. "He didn't do much. He walked in and I hit it. It hit that a lot.''

Schoffstall added a takedown in the second period and two escapes and a takedown in the third for his seven-point victory. At the final buzzer, Schoffstall clapped his hands hard three times in celebration.

The victory didn't come without an anxious moment, however. Trying to lift Mort off the mat, Mort's leg got wrapped around Schoffstall's ankle.

"When I went to lift, it came up with it, and my ankle stayed on the mat,'' he said.

Schoffstall went down in a scene eerily similar to the original injury. This time, though, it was just a tweak and he was able to finish the final 2:40 of the match with little difficulty.

That's part of the extra challenge for Schoffstall as he must manage positions and strategy throughout so that the recent injury doesn't get aggravated.

He spent the first four weeks of recovery in a boot and on crutches, doing a lot of swimming to stay in shape. Since he's come back, Schoffstall has drilled mainly with former Tri-Valley state placewinner and teammate Sam Scheib, whom Schoffstall calls a great workout partner.

"Time is really what's going to heal it,'' Schoffstall said of his leg. "… It's my last shot. I've gotta do what I gotta do.''

So far, he's made it through districts and regionals. All that remains is the state meet.

"Honestly, I don't really care about this (regional),'' Schoffstall said. "It's the one at the end of (this) week that I want. … Tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is all it is. You've gotta keep your eye on the second week in March. March 9th is that date (of the state finals).''

Advancing through the consolation round also was Williams Valley's J.R. Rummel (195) and Pine Grove's Eli Brill (145).

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