The Spring Grove High wrestling team has taped its goals, written on pieces of paper, around its practice room. The one on the door -- "Beat CD" -- provides motivation for the Rockets' next challenge.
CD is Central Dauphin, a program that has won the last five District 3 Class AAA team tournaments. Not impressed? Search Netflix for "Takedowns and Falls," a documentary about the Rams.
The Rockets have an opportunity to accomplish their goal of beating the Rams in Thursday's semifinal at Central Dauphin High School. Wilson (14-5) and Chambersburg (16-3) will compete in the other semifinal.
To do so, the Rockets (22-0) must display the same balance from their state-qualifying 52-27 win against Manheim Township on Tuesday. They fell behind 9-0 after two matches but earned three consecutive pins for an 18-9 lead they never lost.
"We had to get ourselves going," Rockets coach Tony Miller said. "I'm very fortunate there's a group of seniors there that started pinning people."
Three forfeits, two pins and one major decision later, the match was over. The Rockets cruised to an easy 25-point second-round win -- in about 35 minutes, no less. Only the Rams (19-0) beat their quarterfinal opponent, Cumberland Valley, by a larger margin (28 points).
"We have great balance," Miller said. "That's the difference from some of the other teams I've coached and this team. We have somebody going out there that's pretty strong."
The Rockets don't have many overly impressive wrestlers. Mason Bentzel, a 145-pound junior, is ranked sixth by PA Power Wrestling, but the Rockets have just two others ranked, none higher than 19th.
"I haven't seen a team like that for a while, where, top to bottom, they don't have any weak spots," Blue Streaks coach Tim Rice said. "They have one or two guys ranked in the district, but they got a bunch of guys on the fringe. If they ranked the top seven guys, they'd have the whole team ranked.
"They are, in my opinion, the second-best team in the district. I think they're going to give Central Dauphin a heck of a match."
The Rams have five wrestlers ranked, four in the top three at their weights: Garrett Peppelman (first, 160 pounds), Tyson Dippery (second, 138), Austin Rose (second, 152) and Colton Peppelman (third, 170).
Central Dauphin recently set the PIAA record for consecutive wins, and it has never lost in its new gym. Still, Spring Grove senior Derek Carlisle remains optimistic.
"I think we can handle them," the 113-pounder said. "We've always been trying to beat them. If we wrestle like we have been, it's going to be a battle. I'm looking forward to it."
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