Making history: Cocalico sends three to States for first time

By on February 28, 2018
Josiah Gehr of Cocalico (right) looks to shoot against Twin Valley’s CJ Morton in the third-place bout at 120 pounds Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Josiah Gehr of Cocalico (right) looks to shoot against Twin Valley’s CJ Morton in the third-place bout at 120 pounds Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

While they had no champions, the Cocalico wrestling team made a little history this past weekend at the District Three Championships held at Giant Center in Hershey.

For the first time ever, the Eagles pushed three wrestlers through to the State Tournament, which will be back at Giant Center March 8-10.

Senior Josiah Gehr qualified for States for the third-straight year after placing third in the 120-pound weight class. Fellow senior Ben Fromm, a State medalist from a year ago, is headed back to States for a second time after claiming District silver at 195 pounds.

And joining those two will be senior Joe Bearinger, who fought off injuries throughout the year to place fourth at 220 pounds and punch his ticket for the very first time.

“Overall we are happy to have three guys going to States,” Cocalico Coach Matt Fittery said following the action Saturday. “The bottom line is punching your ticket and making it through (to States), and having three guys get there is great. We are happy. Obviously there are always ups and downs but overall we are really pleased to have three guys moving on.”

As a team, Cocalico finished with 62.5 points to place seventh overall, tops among L-L League teams. Central Dauphin captured the overall team title with 105.5 points.

Fromm (36-4) was impressive on his march to the finals for the second-straight year.

He majored West Perry’s Jake Quaker, 12-4 in the opening round before knocking off Section Two champion Mitch Talbott of Central Dauphin by a 3-1 decision.

In the semifinals, Fromm had it going on his feet, collecting three takedowns on his way to a 7-0 shutout over New Oxford’s Darrick Rudisill to punch his ticket to the finals.

There, he met an old acquaintance in Northern York’s Jake Koser. A year ago, Fromm defeated Koser 3-1 in the semifinals of Districts, but the Northern senior got his revenge at States with a 5-3 win over the Cocalico wrestler.

In Saturday’s championship bout, Fromm led 1-0 midway through the second period when he tweaked his knee after a Koser shot attempt at the edge of the mat. Fromm returned only to take more injury time 30 seconds later.

He again was OK to wrestle, but clearly was in pain. Then off the second of the two injury timeouts, Koser (29-3) took bottom. Fromm immediately tried to slap a cradle on Koser and throw him to his back. Unfortunately, the move ended with Fromm on his back, the victim of a defensive fall with 18 seconds left in the second.

“I’m sure the injury affected Ben,” Fittery said. “I mean the kid wrentched on (the knee) pretty good, but it is what it is. He got caught in a defensive fall, and I don’t know if he was pinned or not but that’s how it goes. It’s not the way you want it to happen but last year Fromm beat Koser (at Districts) then lost to him at States. I’m confident Fromm can reverse that this year and beat him at States.”

Added Fromm, “It stinks that (my knee injury) happened this late in the tournament but I have two weeks to recover so there are some positives and negatives with it. It really got in my head because you only have two knees, and both of mine are now banged up. But it’s not so much a physical thing as it is mental. I just have to fight my way through it.”

Both Fromm and Fittery were confident the knee will not be an issue at States two weeks from now. He came home with the eighth-place medal a year ago.

“I still have a lot of healing to do, and a lot of improving to do…I think I have more conditioning I need to work on, but the experience is there so I’m not uptight or nervous,” Fromm said.

Gehr (33-5), who recently committed to wrestle at Messiah College next year, had his “A” game virtually the entire tournament. But yet took third place at 120.

After pinning Solanco’s Sheldon Peiffer in 1:28 of the opening round and following up with a convincing 7-0 decision over Dylan Ramsey of Shippensburg, the Cocalico senior faced Carlisle sophomore Rafael Portilla in the semifinals.

Following a scoreless first period, Gehr worked from the top position to try to turn Portilla. Unfortunately, while in control, Gehr was whistled for a leg scissors, which is illegal, and Portilla was awarded a point.

Portilla then escaped with 20 seconds to go to make it 2-0, and while Gehr escaped early in the third to cut the deficit to 2-1, he was unable to get the takedown as Portilla held on for a 2-1 victory.

“The semifinal was obviously a tough one for Josiah,” Fittery said. “A couple things could have gone his way but didn’t. That’s how it goes.”

The loss seemed to fuel the Eagle senior.

He followed it up with a 17-2 technical fall (4:57) against Chase Bricker of Spring Grove to advance to the third place match, where he would meet a familiar foe in Twin Valley’s CJ Morton, whom he defeated 8-7 a week earlier to win the Section One title.

This time, Gehr fell behind 4-0 early in the second before collecting a reversal, three takedowns and a tilt for two back points on his way to an eventual 11-5 victory and the bronze.

“Whether I’m behind or not, I just go out and wrestle like I know how to do and hope for the best,” Gehr said when asked of his offensive explosion. “I rely on my ability, skill and all the training that I do. I put all that on the line and let it fly.”

“Josiah was awesome,” Fittery added. “The kid’s got a lot of heart. He took a tough loss and then came back and teched a kid, and then he gets down 4-0 in the consy finals and rallies off 10 or 11 straight points. He just looked great and hopefully he keeps that going at States.”

Gehr said he feels he can definitely carry it over into States.

“I feel like I wrestled some of the best matches I ever have this weekend,” he said. “I felt really confident going in and I still feel real confident that I’ll continue doing my best. I’m just looking forward to my last year at States. I’m going to let it fly and wrestle my matches and put it all out on the line.”

Bearinger (12-5), who has fought ankle and rib injuries for most of the season, was dominant in his first two bouts of the tournament.

First, he earned a 7-1 decision over Manheim Township’s Myles Desha in Round One, and followed up with a 10-4 win over Jamal Brandon of Dallastown to move into the semifinals.

There, he ran into eventual champ and unbeaten Cole Forrester (34-0) of Shippensburg, who pinned the Eagle wrestler in 1:44.

Needing one win to seal his State berth, Bearinger squared off against Carter Urich of Shippensburg in the consolation semifinals.

The Cocalico wrestler took a 3-1 lead into the third where Urich escaped to make it 3-2. It remained that way until Bearinger came up with a huge takedown with 42 seconds to go which paved the way to an eventual 6-4 victory.

With the State berth secured, Bearinger opted to default in the third place bout against Dylan Byrd of Milton Hershey due to his injuries.

“For Bearinger, he’s struggled with injuries and couldn’t be in the lineup and you feel bad that he never really got a chance, but then at the end of his senior year, he makes the most of it,” Fittery said. “It’s really just an awesome feeling for him to be able to get through there. Anything can happen when you get there.”

Bearinger said he is thrilled to have the chance to wrestle at States.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said after accepting the fourth-place medal. “I wrestled all right…pretty good. I’ve been fighting through some injuries so I’m happy to be able to move on.”

“(Getting to States) was my goal,” he continued. “That’s what I wanted to do. I’m happy to be there now so I’ll just keep working. It feels good.”

In addition to the wrestlers who advanced to state, Cocalico had five others have their respective seasons come to a close at Districts.

Sophomore Kayde Althouse went 2-2 on the weekend at 126 pounds to close up the year at 29-8. Winning one bout this weekend included: senior Owen Zimmerman (20-17) at 170; junior Wyatt Gehman (16-8) at 182; and senior Austin Shaver (19-16) at 285. And sophomore Grant Swann went 0-2 at 132 pounds to close out the year at 27-14.

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