Before facing Manheim Township in Tuesday's quarterfinal round of the District 3 Class AAA Team Championships, Tony Miller had some words with his Spring Grove wrestling team.
"I told them this is the ticket to (team) states," he said. "You have to go get it."
A semifinal berth guarantees a spot in next week's PIAA Class AAA Team Wrestling Championships and Miller's crew made sure the Lancaster-Lebanon team was a mere bump in the road to Hershey.
The 22-0 Rockets racked up bonus points in all nine individual bout victories -- five via fall -- in hammering the Blue Streaks, 52-27, to set up a semifinal date Thursday with Central Dauphin. The Rams, No. 1 in District 3 and No. 2 in Pennsylvania, took out Mid-Penn rival Cumberland Valley, 44-16, in its quarterfinal match.
Miller realizes upsetting Central Dauphin is a formidable task but knows his team won't be wowed by the occasion.
"We're taking it one match at a time. We've been in these matches before," Miller said. "Our kids know they are wrestling good people."
So taking on Manheim Township (11-2) was good preparation for Thursday with one main difference. The Blue Streaks forfeit three weight classes, something Central Dauphin will not have to do.
Even with 18 points in their pocket, the No. 4-seeded Spring Grove squad came out aggressively and made a statement after Township jumped to a 9-0 lead with wins from the
Rocket junior Mason Bentzel started the power surge after bumping up to 152 and decking sophomore Nick Hershey at 3:32 with a cradle, which seemed like the move of the night for the home team.
Seniors Austin Barley (160), John Gross (170) and Andy Melhorn (195) registered pins of their own to extend the lead to 24-15. Barley's 47-second fall over Nick McKnight was the quickest of the match. Three forfeits later -- earning the easy wins were Alex Guinn (220), Mike Lehman (285) and Levi Witmer (106) -- and the match was decided.
Miller praised the efforts of the short-handed Blue Streaks, who were coming off Saturday's league title at the individual championships.
"You have to admire when they're giving up 18 points and are in the second round of team districts," he said. "They have some real quality wrestlers."
Township head coach Tim Rice knew giving up all those team points was not conducive to beating a team the caliber of Spring Grove, who sits at No. 9 in the state rankings.
"We just don't have the bodies but (the forfeits) didn't mean much tonight," said Rice. "They are stacked. They are a great team from top to bottom.
"In my opinion, they are the second best team in the district (behind Central Dauphin). They don't have any weak spots."
The victory along with the 57-15 thrashing of Northern York in Tuesday's earlier preliminary-round match marked the final home appearances for a core of Spring Grove senior wrestlers who add another trip to the state team tournament to their myriad of accomplishments which includes four YAIAA Division I crowns.
Senior Derek Carlisle was a member of the 2010 Rocket squad that made school history in qualifying for the PIAA team championships and is hoping to add more to his class's legacy .
"Getting to (team) states is great," he said. "One of our main goals was to get to Hershey and bring home a (state) medal."
In the victory against the Polar Bears, Carlisle and Bentzel were among the seven Rockets to record pins. Other winners by fall included Dakota Laughman (132), Mike Hartman (138), Guinn (220), Lehman (285) and Zack Clingan (120).
District Team Tournament
Class AAA First round
Spring Grove 57, Northern York 15
at Spring Grove
SPRING GROVE 57, NORTHERN YORK 15
132 -- Dakota Laughman, SG, pinned Matt Creavey, 1:07. 138 -- Michael Hartman, SG, pinned Garek Strouse, 3:30. 145 -- Mason Bentzel, SG, pinned Austin Snell, 2:53. 152 -- Isaiah Locke, NY, dec. Tyler Miller, 10-8. 160 -- Austin Barley, SG, dec. Andy Reed, 3-2. 170 -- John Gross, SG, dec. Elijah Locke, 6-3.182 -- Kyle Koser, NY, pinned Andy Melhorn, 4:33. 195 -- Tyler Beckner, SG, dec Austin Egolf, 4-3. 220 -- Alex Guinn, SG, pinned Dylan Thomas, :49. 285 -- Michael Lentz, SG, pinned Michael Fritz, :25. 106 -- Levi Witmer, SG, won by forfeit. 113 -- Derek Carlisle, SG, pinned Gunnar Merovich, 1:19. 120 -- Zack Clingan, SG, pinned Jeremy Taylor, 3:03. 126 -- Jonathan Ross, NY, pinned Keegan Worley, 5:24.
SpringGrove 52, Manheim Township 27
SPRING GROVE 52, MANHEIM TWP. 27
106 -- Levi Witmer, SG, won by forfeit; 113 --Derek Carlisle, SG, pinned Victor Kenderdine, 1:06;120 -- Zack Clingan, SG, major dec. David Graves, 9-0; 126 -- Cortlandt Schuyler, MT, won by forfeit; 132 -- Matt Grossman, MT, won by forfeit; 138 -- Alex Smith, MT, dec. Mike Hartman, 6-0; 145 -- Adam Smith, MT, pinned Seth Wolf, 1:59; 152 -- Mason Bentzel, SG, pinned Nick Hershey, 3:32; 160 -- Austin Barley, SG, pinned Nick McKnight, :47; 170 -- John Gross, SG, pinned Griffin Schultz, 3:50; 182 -- John Shorter, MT, pinned Max Copenheaver, :59; 195 -- Andy Melhorn, SG, pinned Matt Farside, 1:07; 220 -- Alex Guinn, SG, won by forfeit; 285 -- Mike Lehman, SG, won by forfeit.