5 hot takes from YAIAA team wrestling season
Individual postseason tournaments still wait in the wings
The team wrestling season wrapped up in York and Adams counties over the weekend, as YAIAA Division I champion Spring Grove and Division III champion Bermudian Springs each made runs in the District 3 team tournaments but came up just short of state tournament berths.
The 21 area teams will take the next two weeks to prepare for the sectional tournaments on Feb. 20. Several wrestlers from those teams will keep their seasons going all the way to the final day of the PIAA state tournaments on March 12. Let's take this break in the action to look back on the last couple weeks of the team season and look ahead to the individual tournaments:
1. Diocese rule still a concern for Delone Catholic
J.P. McCaskey stirred up quite a bit of controversy in early January by sending out two junior varsity girls to take advantage of a Catholic Diocese rule and secure forfeits in a 42-36 win against Delone Catholic at the Canner Duals. That rule will still be a cause for concern for the Squires in the individual tournaments.
Delone Catholic 106-pounder Andrew Knobloch was forced to take a forfeit against a girl at the New Oxford individuals tournament on Jan. 30, and that loss eliminated him from the tournament since it came during wrestlebacks. This sort of occurrence falls more in line with what Delone Catholic coach Frank Sneeringer feared when the Diocese passed its rule in 2014 than what J.P. McCaskey did. Sneeringer said he always makes an effort to get his kids placed in the opposite side of brackets to reduce their chances of facing a girl, but those matchups can't always be avoided.
It would be a shame to see one of the Squires' season's end due to forfeit under those circumstances.
2. Another lowlight in sportsmanship
Speaking of J.P. McCaskey's controversial win against Delone Catholic back in January, that dual sadly won't go down as the most controversial win by a District 3 team this season. Saturday's District 3 Class AAA team championship match between Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin ended with coaches being restrained and no medal ceremony.
The controversy started when Central Dauphin took a 28-16 lead with three matches left after referees penalized Cumberland Valley's top-ranked 170-pounder Felix Belga for a slam, and the Rams pulled their wrestler off the match and earned six points for a disqualification when they said he couldn't continue due to a possible concussion. After Cumberland Valley cut the lead to 28-22 heading into the final match, Eagles' 195-pounder Trent Cook took a 3-1 lead on a penalty point after getting hit in the eye. Cook walked back to the circle to continue wrestling, but Cumberland Valley coaches pulled him off the mat and started gesturing to the crowd as they told the referees he would no longer be able to continue. That win by disqualification tied the dual 28-28 and the Eagles were awarded the victory by criteria.
It wasn't a great wrestling season as far as sportsmanship goes, and we can only hope there are no more incidents during the individual postseason.
3. What happened to South Western?
South Western went into its March 27 dual meet with Spring Grove in a position to win YAIAA Division I, and in good standing in the District 3 AAA power rankings. After losing that dramatic rivalry dual 31-24, the Mustangs dropped dual meets to Central York and West York in the subsequent days and missed out on team districts.
Looking back on it, that losing skid probably shouldn't have seemed as surprising as it felt. The Mustangs have a lot of strength at the lower weights, but they give up a forfeit at 106 pounds and struggle to score team points at the upper weights. The Panthers have some very strong lighter weights that they got wins from, and the Bulldogs swept the upper weights to score just enough to win.
The Mustangs' team season ended in disappointing fashion, but they could still place well at sectionals. Their lineup lends itself more to tournament scoring, as Chase Mowery (120 pounds), Derek Wilson (126), Gavin Smith (132), Owen Wherley (138) and Gage Thomas (152) will all likely go pretty far. They also get the luxury of hosting the sectional tournament.
4. Bermudian Springs quietly puts together great season
If you haven't been watching closely, you might not realize what an impressive dual-meet season Bermudian Springs had.
Not only did the Eagles win a seventh-straight YAIAA Division III title and place third at districts, but they did so without a full roster. Coaches spoke highly of Chase Dull, the younger brother of last year's medalist Colton Dull, at the end of last season, but the freshman 182-pounder never got a chance to wrestle this season after sustaining a torn ACL during football season. The Eagles also lost starting 113-pounder Bailey Oberlander to a season-ending injury during preseason practice, and then lost his backup, Tyler Rawson, very early in the season.
They forfeited at 106 or 113 all season and struggled to win matches at 182 pounds. But they beat every team they faced expect eventual District 3 Class AA champion Northern Lebanon and eventual District 3 Class AA runner-up Boiling Springs. They even beat Big Spring, a team that finished the season ranked in the top-10 in District 3 AAA.
When the situation got even worse last weekend — with 195-pounder Isaiah Fanning went down with an injury and 132-pounder Brady Sanders not making weight — the Eagles still persevered and beat Hamburg in the District 3 AA third-place match.
5. Who can medal?
It's always the biggest question going into the individual postseason: just how far will the best YAIAA wrestlers go?
South Western 126-pounder Derek Wilson and Biglerville 152-pounder Nate Newberry are the only returning top-eight medalists from last season, and both enter the postseason ranked in the top-10 in the state in their weight classes by PAPowerWrestling.com. Those are two names to keep an eye on, but there are also several wrestlers that went to states last year and didn't medal but are now ranked in the top-10 in their respective weight classes: Bermudian Springs' Austin Clabaugh (126 pounds), Noah Fleshman (170) and Brady Linebaugh (285); Spring Grove's Dalton Rohrbaugh (106) and Marcus Kehr (160); South Western's Owen Wherley (138); Central York's Dylan Chatterton (138); and New Oxford's Zurich Storm (120).
Biglerville 145-pounder Scott Cooper and Red Lion heavyweight Jared Schell didn't make it to states last year, but are names to watch as they are both currently ranked in the top-10 in their respective weight classes. Hanover 132-pounder Caleb Garland is another name to watch since he won a match at states last year and is currently ranked No. 11 at that weight class in Class AA.
And, of course, there could always be a big surprise that no one is paying attention to.