Eagles down PM, fall to Rams in District quarters

By on February 4, 2016

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Cocalico had less than an hour Tuesday night at Central Dauphin to enjoy its first win at the District Duals under six-year Coach Matt Fittery.

After knocking off fellow L-L opponent Penn Manor in an exciting 38-34 affair in the first round, the Eagles had to immediately get back on the mat and face host Central Dauphin, the top seed in the tournament, in the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, the latter match didn’t go well for ninth-seeded Cocalico. The Rams, one of the top programs in the State of Pennsylvania, flexed their muscles against the Eagles in an eventual 59-6 verdict.

With the win, Central Dauphin (18-0) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals at Spring Grove High School (5 p.m.) where it will face Exeter Township (19-2).

The good news for Cocalico is the Eagles (13-3) are still alive for third place in the District and a spot in States. Cocalico will enter the consolation round and face Spring Grove (11-2) Thursday, 5 p.m. at Spring Grove.

The Eagles would need to win three more matches to take third and qualify for States. The consolation semifinals will be held at Spring Grove immediately following Thursday’s first match. The consolation finals are slated for Saturday, 1:30 p.m. at Milton Hershey.

“It’s just awesome for us to get a win tonight,” Fittery said after the big win over Penn Manor. “It’s a great experience, and now that we are past that single-elimination round we can at least get in a couple more matches, hopefully three or four or five…Just to be competing at this level is a huge boost to our kids. Individually they get to wrestle some awesome teams, and it’s great for the program. I actually don’t think Cocalico has ever won a District Duals match at the AAA level so that’s pretty cool that we’ve done that already. Hopefully there will be more to come.”

In Tuesday’s nightcap with the Rams, the lone winners for Cocalico were Josiah Gehr, who edged Mitch Arch 7-5 in a tight one at 106, and Abdul Saad, who decisioned Hunter Nielson 10-3 at 195.

Cocalico actually got off to a tough start in the thrilling opener against Penn Manor.

The match started at 160 and the Eagles were forced to deal with the strength of the Penn Manor lineup early. The end result was a 22-0 hole as Jonah Barley pinned Max Martin (2:42) at 160, Matt Loiseau decked Devin Sensenig (1:21) at 171, Jack Zimmerman headlocked Tyler Gehman at 182 and Jesse Kann majored Cocalico’s Abdul Saad, 11-1 at 195.

Despite the slow start, Fittery wasn’t worried.

“To be honest when I saw the draw weight at 160 I knew that’s the strength of their lineup so I kind of knew we might be down a little bit,” he said. “I really wasn’t too concerned. Again, we don’t like giving up the falls that we did, but it wasn’t all that alarming. I knew our strengths were coming.”

They came in a big way as Ben Fromm scored the Eagles’ first points of the night and stopped the bleeding when he decked Nate Rachor in 1:10 at 220. Cocalico’s Brady Maxwell then followed with a 36 second pin against Clay Kniesley at 285 to draw the Eagles to within 22-12.

One of the key bouts of the night came at 106 where Cocalico’s Gehr met up with the Comets’ Nick Fafel, This past weekend at the L-l League Tournament, Fafel bounced Gehr with a 2-0 victory in the semifinals at 106.

Tuesday night, Gehr was determined not to let that happen again.

The Cocalico sophomore opened the scoring with a nice duck under late in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. Gehr got another takedown late in the second for a 4-0 cushion before riding out Fafel for an eventual 5-0 decision.

“We knew coming in that was going to be a huge match,” Fittery said. “I knew…I could see Josiah’s face after leagues. (Ephrata’s Austin) Jones won the tournament (at 106) but Josiah had just beaten Jones 9-4 in our dual meet. I knew he wanted this one bad. I knew Josiah wasn’t losing to Fafel again.”

After the Gehr win which made the score 22-15, Penn Manor got six points back on Brandon Miller’s third-period pin of Harry Gerhart at 113. But Cocalico’s Adam Miller collected four takedowns and two back points in an impressive 10-8 major at 120 to cut the Penn Manor lead to 28-19.

That set the stage for the exciting conclusion.

Cocalico took its first lead when Nate Fritz (126) and Mason Patterson (132) received back-to-back forfeits to put the Eagles on top 31-28. But Justin Rupp’s first-period pin of Devon Fichtorn at 138 made it 34-31 Comets with two bouts to go.

In perhaps the biggest bout of the night at 145, Cocalico freshman Wyatt Gehman hit an early five-point move against Penn Manor’s Dustin Horn. Horn did eventually close the gap to 6-4 early in the third but Gehman held on for an eventual 7-4 decision to lock it up at 34-34 with one bout to go.

“That was huge,” Fittery said of Gehman’s performance. “That was one we had penciled in as a toss up. We kind of thought we were going to get 38 but that didn’t happen. Wyatt needed to step up big for the team and he did. I’m really proud of him for that. He wrestled tough the whole match. That was awesome.”

The entire match came down to the bout at 152 pounds where Cocalico’s Trevor Fichtorn took charge early against Evan Phelan and never looked back en route to a 9-0 major to clinch the team win.

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