Cocalico wrestlers compete in Penn Manor Tourney

By on December 17, 2014
 Adam Miller (left) of Cocalico squares off against an opponent at the Penn Manor Tournament this past weekend. Miller went on to place sixth overall at the 126-pound weight class. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Adam Miller (left) of Cocalico squares off against an opponent at the Penn Manor Tournament this past weekend. Miller went on to place sixth overall at the 126-pound weight class. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

The Cocalico wrestling team kicked off its 2014-15 season over the weekend by participating in the 28th annual Penn Manor Holiday tournament in Millersville.

A total of 28 teams, including one each from Delaware and Virginia, went toe-to-toe on six mats that covered the Comets’ entire gymnasium floor.

The Eagles tallied 26 points over the two-day, double-elimination tournament, headed by junior 126 pounder Adam Miller, who finished sixth, losing to eventual champion A.J Wilson of Solanco in the semifinals.

Miller talked about the overall tournament experience.

“I thought it was a really good learning experience,” he said. “It was good for the younger guys to start with a tournament instead of a dual meet.”

Cocalico finally got that first dual experience last night (Tuesday) at Conestoga Valley where the Eagles fought back from a big hole to cut the deficit to 26-24 on Miller’s big 3-2 decision over Pavel Dariychuk with two bouts to go.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, that’s as close a they would come as CV’s Bradlee Ditzler pinned Lukas Lees in 5:32 at 132 pounds and Vincente Maldonado followed suit with a fall in 2:13 over Cocalico’s Hunter Garmen at 138 to give the Buckskins a hard-fought 38-24 victory.

Abdul Saad (182) and Josiah Gehr (106) both had falls to pace the Eagles. Ben Fromm (195), John Fry (285) and Justin Moyer (113) all pulled out tight decisions to add to the Cocalico attack.

Back to this weekend where Cocalico entered the tournament missing the five heaviest weight wrestlers, all football players, as Coach Matt Fittery held them out of the Penn Manor Tournament.

“We wanted to be cautious,” Fittery said. “They had a hard season. In the grand scheme of things, it was not that important for them to take part in this tournament.”

Fry, the only senior on the team and slated to wrestle at 285, had no problem with Fittery’s decision.

“Coach thought it best that we take off this tournament. We’re pretty banged up after 16 weeks of football,” he said.

He also spoke about the difference between football shape and wrestling shape.

“In football, the energy is quick, play by play,” he said. “In wrestling, it’s all out for the entire six minutes. We’re working hard the entire practice and putting in extra morning workouts to get ready.”

Of the nine who did wrestle in Millersville, four were freshmen, coming off a Junior High championship season. Only Miller was able to place at the tourney.

“It’s a totally different level, a huge step up, but some are tough and ready for the challenge,” noted Fittery.

One of those is Gehr, who was a Junior High champ as an eighth grader last year.

“Junior High was a little different,” Gehr said. “At 95 pounds (106 class), I’m smaller than everyone else and I have a lot to learn.”

Gehr was the hard luck Eagle of the weekend, dominating his third match until 15 seconds left in the final period.

“I just got caught in a headlock,” he said. “Win or lose, I always take something from the match.”

What kind of an impact will these freshmen have as the year progresses?

“We all kind of lift each other up. We can all relate to each other as freshmen,” said Gehr. “Coach told us to expect to be nervous. He said to leave it all on the mat and don’t worry about anything until it’s over.”

Fellow frosh Nate Fritz was also an eighth grade champ.

“In the end, it will be a big advantage,” he said. “It’s great to move up half of the Junior High team at one time. By the time we are juniors and seniors, it will be tough to beat us.”

Fritz talked about his goals for the year.

“This is an experience year,” he said. “I want to train harder than I ever have, and get as far as possible.”

Coach Fittery talked about team strategy for the tournament.

“Most of the help comes during individual matches,” he said. “Our team concept is to always look to score points and get falls.”

The other way to speed up the learning curve for young wrestlers is to schedule multiple dual meets on the same day.

“We try to do both,” said Fittery. “At the duals, everyone is involved, while at a tournament, everyone is challenged.”

So how did his young Eagles do at Penn Manor?

“Miller wrestled well,” Fittery said. “We hoped to get a couple further but it didn’t happen. There were a few freshman mistakes that we’ll learn from.”

Fittery also echoed his freshman about their desire to learn.

“You learn a lot from a loss, actually more than from a win. We have to learn how to control a match,” he said.

Leadership is one thing that they will have to develop very quickly, including the selection of team captains.

“We haven’t elected them yet,” said Fittery. “When we do, it will be a combined vote of the team and the coaches.”

Fry gets the last word on this young club’s prospects.

“I’m very excited about Cocalico wrestling,” he said. “Last year’s junior high champs were all eighth graders, and we only lost two seniors. The freshmen will face a jump in skill level. They’ll have to overcome the experience factor.”

Up next for the Eagles is another Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two bout at Garden Spot tomorrow night (Thursday) followed by the re-scheduled match with Manheim Central (December 23) before the Damascus Holiday Tournament at the end of the month.

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