HERSHEY — Ryan Hayes summed it up succinctly.
"Getting to Hershey, finishing among the Top Eight teams ... we shouldn't be hanging our heads about that,' he said.
That was soon after Hayes and his Spring-Ford wrestling teammates saw their advance in the PIAA Wrestling Team Championships halted Saturday morning. The Rams' bid for a medal finish at the Giant Center was thwarted by Cumberland Valley, which worked up a 36-21 victory in the third round of Class AAA consolations — two wins short of a berth in the tourney's finals.
But that abrupt end to its three-day trip belied the long-term value Spring-Ford can draw from this experience. Their first qualification for the state's Round of 16 — and subsequent trek to Chocolate Town after coming up just short numerous times in the past — saw the Rams (22-4) go 2-2 against champions from four other Pennsylvania districts.
"It was a good experience for the kids,' SF head coach Tim Seislove said at the end. "We're disappointed now ... but I'm proud of everything this team accomplished this year.'
The sentiments were similar for Boyertown, which suffered the same fate as its Pioneer Athletic Conference rival. The Bears came to Hershey with an unbeaten record and high hopes to be in the medal chase, but both ended in the third round of consolations with a 33-21 loss to Parkland.
Like the Rams, the Bears (24-2) faced a stable of teams that were at the top of their respective districts. And like his Ram coaching counterpart, Pete Ventresca felt his team came away from the duals with renewed respect for what his grapplers accomplished.
"I'm proud of the team,' Ventresca said. "We have young guys who were untested at this level. They stepped up and performed well.'
In Spring-Ford's case, the math wasn't in its favor. The locals were in their match with Parkland right to the end, rallying from a rough patch between 132 and 152 (21 points) to stay in reach of a tie with the District 3 champ Eagles (19-2).
Trailing 30-18 and needing to get six points in each of the last two weights, Spring-Ford got far less. Though Taylor Westlake won over Ross Dayne at 170, his CV opponent held on for a 5-4 loss to clinch the team win.
"At that point,' Seislove noted, "it's hard to get a win when the other kid knows all he has to do is keep from getting pinned. That was the mind frame of the match.'
It was a similar story for Boyertown, which saw Parkland (20-3) reverse its early lead into a deficit of anywhere from three to nine points around the midway point of the card. It also got within reach of a win, trailing the Trojans 27-21 with two weights to be contested; those hopes were quashed, though, when the District 11 runners-up got decisions in those bouts.
"One of our goals was to win districts, which we did,' Gregg Harvey, the last Bear to score points against Parkland, said. "We came here wanting to do the same, but we fell a step short.'
Nick Perri and Mason Romano, with their respective decision and pin at 195 and 220, got Spring-Ford off to a promising start before the Eagles scored narrow decisions at 285 and 106. Hayes got the Rams back on track with his 7-0 decision of Wyatt Long at 113, with another exchange of decisions — the second by Matt Krieble at 126 — putting the score at 15-9 in the Rams' favor.
But successive pins at 132 and 138 put CV in front for what would be keeps, 21-15. With another decision at 145, and a pin at 152, Spring-Ford faced a 30-15 shortfall.
"There were some close ones (bouts),' Seislove said. "I thought we were right in there with them.'
Frankie Krauss revived hope for the Spring-Ford contingent with his 10-4 decision of Brandon Rudy at 160. The hope faded down the stretch, though, as the Trojans tacked on a pin at 182 to end the Rams' medal hopes while continuing their own.
"You hope this will motivate the young kids to get better, to get back to the team duals,' Seislove said. "Being in this arena is intimidating, especially if you're down on the floor.'
Boyertown's own fast 12-4 start was orchestrated by Jordan Wood's 3-1 decision of Omar Haddad at 220, Jordan Wertz's 28-second pin of Alex Neith at 285, and Jakob Campbell's 8-1 decision of Andrew Mastrangelo at 106. But Parkland got 17 through the next four weights to put itself up 21-12.
Eddie Kriczky got three back at 145 with his 3-2 verdict over Nathan Christman. All the Bears could do the rest of the way, though, was get Harvey's 5-2 decision of Frank Guida at 160 against the Eagles' pin and two decisions.
"This was a litmus test for us,' Ventresca said. "It let us know where we are with our record, our schedule and wrestling guys who have their own tough schedules. We're pretty much where I thought we are.'
Adam Dombrosky came into Saturday's match looking to score the 100th win of his scholastic career. Going against CV's Felx Belga at 145, the Spring-Ford senior fought to a 1-1 tie in regulation, then saw Belga score a takedown in overtime to leave him still wanting. ... The upcoming week will see Boyertown look to close out a perfect Pioneer Athletic Conference season when it hosts Pope John Paul II Tuesday, then welcome the rest of the league to the Bear Den next Saturday for the PAC-10 Championships. Spring-Ford, in turn, will hit the road for league-capping competition against Pottsgrove and Methacton.
Follow Jeff Stover on Twitter at @MercuryXStover.