Three YAIAA wrestlers earn PIAA Class AA medals
HERSHEY - Dakota Mackley started wrestling with the Red Lion youth program before he was in elementary school.
And with two older brothers in the sport, his training continued at home once the organized practices ended.
“In my younger years, they would always beat up on me,” said the Eastern York wrestler. “And I would tell them one day I’ll be better than them and I’ll beat up on them.
“The day has come.”
Saturday, the senior finished his scholastic career at the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships with an eighth-place finish in the 170-pound weight class at the Giant Center.
Biglerville’s Nate Newberry (152) and Bermudian Springs’ Ashton West (145) were the only other YAIAA small-school wrestlers who earned medals at the three-day event, finishing fourth and eighth, respectively.
With a state medal in hand, as well as sectional and regional titles to his credit, the youngest Mackley brother could have rubbed it in to big brothers Aaron and Dillon but chose the higher road.
“He’s been pretty humble about,” said Aaron. “He did let us know a little bit after winning the sectional title because neither of us won one.”
Eastern head coach Dan Garner has coached all three brothers and sees only one common trait.
“They always had their motors running,” he said. “Dakota took bits and pieces from the other two, but he definitely had his own style. They each had their own style.”
In the seventh-place match, Mackley (30-6) was in control against Benton’s Jeremy Walsh. Two sets of near-fall points had built an 8-2 lead for the local grappler.
But Walsh hit two headlocks, racking up nine points in fewer than 30 seconds of the third period, and then Walsh held on for an 11-10 victory.
“I got in bad position and he caught me. It was kind of lucky,” said Mackley, who is hoping to continue his wrestling career in college.
The loss left him tied with Aaron for most career team points scored. That is just one of many records he shares or owns. But Garner sees his impact going beyond just numbers.
“He had tremendous year for us. … He’s among the leaders in many career and season records,” said Garner.
“He’s really set an example for the program and for kids coming forward in the future in setting goals and giving them something to aspire to be.”
Newberry caps career: The Canners senior’s shot at revenge in the third-place match at 145 pounds fell just short.
Facing Nick Monico of Saegertown, Newberry took an excellent shot at the start of the overtime and got in deep on a leg. Monico countered it with a funk roll, ending up in control and pinning Newberry 41 seconds into the extra period.
Monico had beaten the Biglerville wrestler in last year’s quarterfinal round of the state tournament.
Newberry, who finished with 146 career wins, was disappointed with his finish but happy with how he got there.
“Not doing any of the bad stuff — keeping clean and staying a good well-rounded kid through high school — ultimately, it’s going to pay off,” said the four-year starter. “It’s not as high as I wanted, but it paid off in the long run.”
West looks to next year: Bearing the cuts and contusions of four weeks of postseason wrestling, the Bermudian Springs junior also had a smile on his face.
After getting pinned in his opening match, the Eagles' 145-pounder won three consecutive consolation bracket matches, including a tiebreaker victory in a medal-clinching match Friday evening.
“The goal was to make it to states. Once I got here, I thought (medaling) would be a possibility,” said West, who finishes his season 38-15.
In Saturday’s seventh-place bout, West couldn’t generate offense against Keith Batkowski of Montoursville. The District 4 wrestler managed the lone takedown 36 seconds into the final period in a 3-2 decision.
Despite losing his final match, West believes he’ll be taking home some valuable lessons from his first trip to the PIAA championships.
“Don’t give up and all the cliché things you can think of,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing wrestling at the Giant Center.”
Courtney makes history: The 126-pound weight class was unquestionably the best weight class in the state tournament with three returning state champions. And Brian Courtney won the class in the toughest way possible, beating all three.
After knocking off two state champions Friday, the Athens junior finished the greatest single run in tournament history by earning a 3-2 decision over Max Murin of Central Cambria, the difference being a second-period takedown. Murin had won the same weight class last season.
Courtney, a runner-up last season, received two standing ovations from the appreciative crowd. For his efforts, he was awarded the media’s Outstanding Wrestler award.