Wrestlers garner state medals


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HERSHEY - Nearly seven months ago in the August heat, Blake Bowman put on his shoulder pads, cleats and Tri-Valley helmet and began running plays out of the Dawgs' backfield.

As the team's featured running back and a standout linebacker, Bowman hit and got hit, tackled and got tackled literally thousands of times during the fall.

It was all worth it as Bowman set school rushing records in a 10-2 season that ended with the Dawgs as the District 11 Class A runner-up.

As the football season wound down, Bowman jumped right into wrestling, shooting for takedowns and standing up off the bottom literally thousands of times. The senior middleweight also sacrificed by limiting some of his favorite foods and soft drinks to drop the necessary pounds.

In the consolation finals of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships on Saturday, March 9 it was all worth it.

Scoring all of his points on a second-period throw, Bowman defeated Burrell's Phil Marra 5-1 to finish third at 145 pounds.

With no more weigh-ins or matches to worry about, Bowman's ready for a rest - and maybe a Mountain Dew or two.

"It feels great. I've got to thank my dad (Brian) 100 percent,'' said Bowman, smiling through a face full of cuts and mat burns. "He's been pushing me and believing in me that I could do it. My body feels it now, that's for sure.''

Bowman finished the highest of the four Tri-Valley placewinners as senior Ty Schoffstall (160) came in fifth, sophomore Caleb Bordner (113) took sixth and sophomore Hunter Harner (138) placed eighth.

Four placewinners in one season is also a Tri-Valley record. Co-head coach Dave Boltz said a school official confirmed the numbers Friday.

For Schoffstall, only a gold medal would have satisfied him. Instead, he had to settle for an 8-6 decision over Benton's Jeric Kasunic.

An ankle-pick takedown with 3 seconds left in the first period gave Schoffstall the lead, and two more takedowns pushed his advantage to 8-3 with 56 seconds remaining in the third.

Schoffstall, an Edinboro University wrestling recruit, finished 33-5 for the season and 146-23 in his career.

"It's not bad, it's not good,'' Schoffstall said. "It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.''

Eighth as a freshman, Bordner climbed two steps higher as a sophomore. He's close to rising even higher as his three losses were by a combined five points.

In his fifth-place bout, Claysburg-Kimmel's Josh Brown used a second-period takedown and another with 2 seconds left in overtime to defeat Bordner 4-2. Bordner (36-13) managed two escapes.

"I feel that I wrestled good," Bordner said. "I could have won two out of the three matches I lost, just elementary mistakes I'm making and I've got to improve on them. That's what I dream of some nights. I'm down here, getting into the placement rounds, just thinking to myself, 'Could be a four-time state medalist. It would be pretty cool.'

"I know I've got to pick it up and do more in the offseason,'' he added. "I'm going to go to Benton a lot for the freestyle practices they run, and hopefully, if I can, do Fargo (nationals).''

In his seventh-place bout, Harner (37-13) ran into Bethlehem Catholic's Ryan Todora, who won their earlier-season meetings in the district and regional finals. Todora took this match, too, escaping in the first tiebreaker period and riding Harner for a 2-1 overtime decision. Harner also vowed to put in more offseason work.

"I wrestled all right, wanted to do a little better I guess,'' he said. "Maybe next year get a little higher (on the podium). I feel like I accomplished something this year.''

So did Bowman (39-9 season, 135-42 career), who made the most of his first and only trip to the medals stand.

After a scoreless first period, Marra escaped to start the second. The pair flurried at the edge of the mat, with Bowman tossing Marra just inbounds for the decisive five-point move, a change-of-pace from a wrestler who relies on a potent, effective leg attack.

"I couldn't get my shots going because he was on his knees and wrestled very defensive,'' Bowman explained. "I was pushing into him. I got him to come up to his feet. He was coming in too hard so I just threw him.''

And when Marra hit the mat with a thud and the referee started counting back points?

"The only thing I could think of was the medal and just lowering the number, putting the icing on the cake,'' Bowman said.

NOTES: Schuylkill Valley head coach Duane Maurer became a member of the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class of 2013. Maurer, a 1976 Tri-Valley High School graduate, was head coach at Pine Grove for 13 seasons (143-86-3), winning two Schuylkill League championships, three District 11 dual-meet championships, two District 11 tournament team championships and three Southeast Regional titles. With the Cardinals, he coached 16 individual District 11 champions, 17 Southeast Regional champions and 19 PIAA medalists, including two state champs. Since 1993, Maurer has coached at Schuylkill Valley, where his teams have compiled a record of 305-102-1. … Tri-Valley finished tied with Milton for eighth place in the team standings with 34 points. Bethlehem Catholic (86.5) won the team title. … Three-time state champion Michael Racciato of Pen Argyl was named Outstanding Wrestler. Bowman finished second to Racciato at districts and regionals.

Retherford versus Lansberry in medal showdown

HERSHEY - Different tournament, different venue, same result.

For the third straight week, Line Mountain senior Seth Lansberry lost to his former teammate, Benton's Zain Retherford, in the championship final of a tournament, only this time it was the biggest tournament they could find, the PIAA Class AA State Championships.

Retherford took a 5-0 win for his second state title, matching the one he won as a freshman at Line Mountain, to finish his season 47-0 and his high school career 130-3.

But the result was not a downer for either Lansberry or his coach, Mike Martz, who coached Retherford to his 2010 title. Lansberry finished the season with a 38-5 record, with three of the five losses coming to Retherford, and was 137-37 for his career.

"This was a big tournament to take second in," said Lansberry. "This was states, and I jumped from seventh last year. I'm happy."

"Realistically, for Seth to win he would have had to have a certain situation, like a tie late in the match, where Zain maybe would have made a mistake" Martz said. "Zain is a very good wrestler. But Seth has closed the gap on him the last two years."

The two probably won't face each other in the near future, since Retherford will be wrestling at Penn State and Lansberry is headed to Division III Lycoming College.

Lansberry and Retherford have been through quite a journey, one that hasn't been a happy once since Retherford transferred to Benton after his sophomore season. Retherford was declared ineligible by the PIAA for his junior year after Line Mountain contested the move and the resulting district and PIAA hearings left bad blood between the former friends, their families and programs.

"He (Lansberry) is the one who got me to come out for wrestling, in second grade," Retherford said. "We were teammates all the way up until last season."

Now, they don't talk to each other at all, and barely acknowledge each other except for pre- and post-match handshakes.

But on the mat, they know each other very well. A testament to Retherford's ability is the fact that Lansberry, a two-time state medalist, has yet to score a point on him in three matches.

This bout was almost a complete replay of the District 4 final, which Retherford also won 5-0. Retherford got a takedown off a counter late in the first period, added an escape and takedown in the second and was content to ride Lansberry out for the third.

"The first two points were big," Retherford said. "I'd like to pin everybody but If you keep the other guy from scoring, you can win 1-0."

"That's all part of the game," Lansberry said. "Everyone has their own style. His is to grab your hand and take what he can get. I'd rather be a little more out in the open but he's got to do what he's got to do. This was the state championship."

5 Schuylkill wrestlers fall short of hardware

HERSHEY - Disappointment spread among five Schuylkill Leaguers Friday, March 8 at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.

One win from clinching a coveted state medal, all five lost in the second-round consolations and were eliminated from the tournament.

Four of them are seniors: Pine Grove's Eli Brill (145), Williams Valley's J.R. Rummel (195), and Halifax' Robbie Moretz (152) and Joey Kaufman (220). The other: North Schuylkill junior Auston Hummel (160).

For some, the decisive move came in a flash. For others, the end came after a series of frustrating attempts but an inability to score.

Of the five, Rummel came the closest to advancing to the medal rounds, scoring a takedown with 11 seconds left in the first period and leading Muncy's Skylar Ebner 3-1 with less than a minute to go in the third.

Ebner, who attempted at least a half-dozen headlocks that Rummel fended off, finally converted one for a takedown and three back points that lifted him to a 6-3 decision.

Rummel finished the season 37-7, surpassing the Vikings' single-season record for wins (Ben Ancheff, 36). After not wrestling as a sophomore, Rummel completed his career 72-34.

"He accomplished so much. … It beats me up to watch him lose,'' Williams Valley coach Colin Ackerman said. "He's such a great kid. You pull for kids like that. I wish he would have gotten a medal.''

Brill (37-9 season, 84-25 career) had trouble scoring throughout states and managed just one escape in a 4-1 loss to Bermudian Springs' Briton Shelton. The bout was a rematch of the Southeast Regional third-place match, also won by Shelton.

Moretz had one of the tougher days, dropping a 3-0 quarterfinal bout to Milton's Ryan Preisch, then falling 2-1 to Hughesville's Kyle Barnes in the wrestlebacks. Awaiting a prep school review for the U.S. Naval Academy and the Merchant Marine, Moretz finished his season 40-3 and his career 135-26.

Kaufman (39-3 season, 113-26 career) gave up the bout's lone takedown in a 4-3 loss to West Greene's Cody Jacobs.

Hummel (37-6 season, 93-29 career) got in trouble off quick restarts and reshots by Fort LeBoeuf's Taylor Fox, losing 8-5.

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