HERSHEY- For the twenty Lancaster-Lebanon League wrestlers who took to the mats in Hershey for the PIAA state championships this weekend, each with various medals in mind, how they started their own particular journey was impressive.
And while Saturday's 0-6 record in medal-round matches fails to showcase the reality of it, how they finished this season's journey and look forward to the next was equally impressive, if not more so.
In particular for Lancaster Catholic junior Joe Lobeck and Solanco senior Bo Spiller, the silver medals dangling from their necks Saturday demonstrated an improvement on their fourth-place finishes of a year ago, even though silver wasn't what they had in mind coming in.
"Silver's not bad, but it's not what I wanted," Spiller admitted, following his disappointing 5-3 loss to Bethlehem Catholic's Andrew Dunn in the AAA 285-pound finals.
With both Spiller and Dunn entering the final match of their senior season with unblemished records, Spiller having picked up his 40th win in Saturday morning's 3-0, semifinal victory over Ryan Monk of Dallas Area, the battle at heavyweight was a sight to see for Giant Center fans.
But unlike Spiller's earlier opponent, Dunn was able to parry each of Spiller's early lunges to score much needed points and ultimately control the contest.
"He definitely did a very good job of countering my shots," Spiller said. "He had a very good sprawl and used his hips very well to defend. He did a great job, congratulations to him, he's a great wrestler."
Dunn changed the match in the second period with a late takedown on the edge of the mat. Spiller, thinking he was out of bounds, stopped resisting Dunn's charge.
"I was trying to break his lock I thought his knee touched out but I stopped wrestling," Spiller said. "He kept wrestling, which was the turning point there."
As the lone entrant in the AA medal round, Lobeck (41-3) faced similar disappointment, in a similar kind of moment, when his 4-3 lead entering the final period versus Max Murin of Central Cambria turned into a 7-4 loss.
"I just got impatient riding on top," said Lobeck, a junior. "I thought I had my leg in and then for some reason I got too high and impatient and that caused him to get the space to get out. It was just a little mistake on my part that gave up back (points)."
Still, the battle between the two light-weights offered the many fans a solid display of high school wrestling.
"I expected it to be a little more reserved at first, but then we both started going at it trying to score points and win the match," Lobeck said. "Once somebody starts to open up, the other guy usually has to if he wants to keep in the match."
Nevertheless, both L-L silver-medalists demonstrated the positive outlook necessary to move forward with their careers. While Lobeck admitted to looking ahead to next year, Spiller will resume his mat-work at Bloomsburg University.
"He's just a great role model, a great kid. (I) just wish him the best," Solanco coach John Little said of his senior leader.
After last season's graduation of 285-pound gold medalist Thomas Haines, Spiller's graduation will mark consecutive seasons in which the Solanco program will move into next season without their top wrestler.
"It's been unbelievable," Spiller said of his journey with the Golden Mules. "I had so many ups and downs; coach (John) Little and the coaching staff is great, they definitely got me to where I am today. I could not have done it without them."
Likewise facing disappointment in Saturday's AAA action after a strong showing Friday was Manheim Central junior Jared Siegrist (37-4), who entered the day with a spot in the 170 semifinals before suffering a trio of losses. Siegrist settled for a 6th-place medal after a 1-0 loss to Kyle Gentile of Pennridge, whom Siegrist defeated in the quarterfinals Friday with a 7-5 sudden time decision.
Warwick junior Devin Schnupp (43-5) also garnered 6th-place, coming out of the consolation bracket at 113 to do so. Schnupp wrestled Liberty's KJ Fenstermacher to a 6-5 win in Saturday's early session before Exeter's Austin DeSanto, who last week bested Schnupp in the South-Central Regional finals, ended Schnupp's junior season with a 3-2 loss in the 5th-place bout.
Both Penn Manor's Zeb Pfeiffer (220) and Garden Spot's Chance Norris (170) settled for 8th-place Saturday. Norris, a junior, returned from injury late in the season to finish out with a 16-4 record, garnering some momentum heading into his senior season.
Pfeiffer (41-7), meanwhile, will pick up where he left off at Ursinus University next year.
In all, the L-L garnered two sixth- and two eighth-place medals to go along with the pair of silvers from Spiller and Lobeck. The six-medal sum doesn't tell the whole story, however, for a collection of L-L wrestlers whose careers on the mat are anything but finished.