York, PA -
Alec Zorbaugh vividly remembers the last time he faced South Western 120-pound junior Cole Sterrett.
Both were freshman, and Sterrett won.
Zorbaugh's second-period escape provided the lone point of their match and clinched Spring Grove's sixth straight Division I title with a 33-19 win at South Western in the YAIAA regular-season finale for both teams.
The two last met in the finals of a Northern York tournament. Sterrett won, 3-0, after catching Zorbaugh in a spladle. This time they again hardly gave each other leeway, and Zorbaugh pulled what he said was the biggest escape of his wrestling career.
Just a few minutes later, after fending off Sterrett, he pointed to the crowd and then was embraced by Rockets coach Tony Miller and teammates. Miller was the one who decided to send out Zorbaugh (17-9) for the 120-pound match, opting to hold Zack Clingan (28-1) for the night's finale.
"He's one of the many that made a difference," Miller said of Zorbaugh. "We had Zack at the end; real confident with him."
Miller sometimes alters the two between weight classes for matchups and other times just to do it. On Thursday, he said their placements were for matchup purposes. The decision came with about 30 seconds left in the prior match. Zorbaugh thought Clingan would go first.
The result was a contrast from Zorbaugh's experience a year ago in this match. In that meeting, his match was the last of the night and never took place because of a forfeit. This night, however, provided for more nerves and drama.
Going into it, South Western (9-3, 9-1) had cut a 25-3 deficit to 25-19 with five straight wins. A match the Rockets (19-0, 10-0) had well in hand was in doubt.
"We knew we had a chance with our swing matches to maybe go seven wins to their seven wins," Mustangs coach Brad Zeigler said. "We knew if that happened, that would be great, but they beat us on bonus points.
"Like Tony said the other day, they're always trying to pin, they're always trying to score on top from the whole lineup."
Spring Grove's aggression and depth took shape early in the match.
Rocket wrestlers did not yield a point for the first eight periods of competition, which began with Dakota Laughman at 132 pounds and finished with Mason Bentzel at 145. Bentzel surrendered the first point to South Western's Gage Thomas with 50 seconds remaining in the third period of their match. Bentzel still won a 9-1 major decision, pushing Spring Grove's lead to 11-0 in front of a crowd that packed both sets of bleachers in the South Western gym.
"It was a crazy atmosphere. Honestly, I think this is the biggest I've ever wrestled in front of, except for districts," said Bentzel, a junior. "It was just tough to go out there and get a good start, even wrestle your own match because it was so crazy."
Bentzel said he stressed to teammates not to get too hyped by the environment for fear of losing precious energy once they were on the mat.
The advice was heeded by many, including Zorbaugh.
SPRING GROVE 33, SOUTH WESTERN 19
132 -- Dakota Laughman (SG) dec. Brandon Huff, 6-0;
138 -- Mike Hartman (SG) major dec. Nick Klecker, 10-0;
145 -- Mason Bentzel (SG) major dec. Gage Thomas, 9-1;
152 -- Bobby Wildasin (SW) dec. Tyler Miller, 6-4;
160 -- Austin Barley (SG) major dec. Gunner Holtz, 10-1;
170 -- Jonathan Gross (SG) pinned Brady Shultz, 4:40;
182 -- Andy Melhorn (SG) major dec. Logan Bowman, 14-4;
195 -- A.J. Jones (SW) dec. Tyler Beckner, 3-1;
220 -- Aram Moffitt (SW) overtime dec. Alex Guinn, 5-3;
285 -- Devon Ackerman (SW) dec. Mike Lentz, 5-1;
106 -- Owen Wherley (SW) major dec. Levi Witmer, 8-0;
113 -- Derek Wilson (SW) dec. Derek Carlisle, 3-2;
120 -- Alec Zorbaugh (SG) dec. Cole Sterrett, 1-0;
126 -- Zack Clingan (SW) tech. fall Aaron Doll, 15-0, 3:08;