High School Sports

High school wrestling: Penns Valley finishes third in Class AA duals

Penns Valley avenged a loss Saturday. The triumph arrived one round too late.

Penns Valley defeated Huntingdon 42-29 to finish third in the District 6 Class AA team tournament. The showing equals the program’s best performance in the event. The Rams also finished third in 2003.

Current Rams greeted the victory, which avenged last month’s 34-27 loss, with a lukewarm response because of Saturday’s beginning.

An opportunity to avenge another loss — and more importantly grab a spot in this week’s PIAA duals — eluded Penns Valley when it fell to top-seeded West Branch 39-24 in the semifinals.

“It feels good,” junior 145-pounder Seth Decker said of finishing third. “I still wish we would have made it to states. I think we could have beaten West Branch.”

Penns Valley (20-5) fell to West Branch twice in a nine-day stretch. The Warriors edged the Rams 33-31 on Jan. 24.

The meets, along with West Branch’s 43-17 victory over Mount Union in the final, proved the Warriors are a difficult group to break.

Penns Valley opened a 12-0 lead through four bouts. But it wasn’t the start the Rams (20-5) envisioned.

The meet started at 160, meaning Penns Valley quickly unveiled some of its best wrestlers. West Branch held Drew Hurd (160), Corey Hazel (170), Mike Rogers (182) and Maverick Swartz (195) to decisions. The Rams outscored the Warriors 18-3 during the same stretch last week.

West Branch (24-22) won eight of the next 10 bouts, receiving falls from Dustin Deliman (106), Jacob Brown (120), J.P. Hayles (132) and Morgan Selepack (285)

“Our guys battled,” West Branch coach coach Jason Bainey said. “They stayed off their backs, and when we got to our studs, we got the bonus points.”

Curtis Decker and Seth Decker produced falls for Penns Valley’s only other victories.

“Everything just had to fall right for us to win,” Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said.

The loss dropped Penns Valley into the consolation final – and the Rams didn’t need to search for motivation. Losing to Huntingdon in the regular season resulted in Penns Valley taking a seeding plunge. Instead of entering the ultra-competitive duals as the second seed, the Rams were seeded fifth.

Brinker offered his team a 2012-13 wrestling history lesson before the Huntingdon dual.

“The message was: ‘These are the guys that bumped us in the bracket, so let’s get a little redemption here and end on a good note,’” he said. “The West Branch match was over and done with. There was nothing we could do about it.”

A 29-0 start against Huntingdon, which included pins by Hurd, Rogers, Swartz and heavyweight Mike Confer and Jason Thomas’ technical fall at 182, reinvigorated Penns Valley.

“You have to pick it up and wrestle,” Seth Decker said. “There’s not much you can do. Last time it was close with Huntingdon, so that motivated us.”

West Branch also avenged a frustrating defeat by hammering Mount Union in the final. The Trojans defeated the Warriors 43-15 in last year’s final.

Both teams qualify for the PIAA duals, but West Branch qualified for Thursday’s opening round in Hershey. Mount Union must visit District 3 runner-up Bermudian Springs on Monday.

Winning their first title since 1995 continued West Branch’s impressive rise under Bainey, a former Philipsburg-Osceola standout. The Warriors had just six wrestlers when Bainey took over the program in 2008.