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Silver linings: Gehr, Fromm denied gold but both qualify for States, Mounts’ trio falls short
It was a bittersweet kind of weekend for local wrestlers competing at the District Three Wrestling Championships held for the first time at Giant Center in Hershey.
Sure there were some highs, but there were also a few lows for Ephrata and Cocalico matmen.
And in the end, a pair of Cocalico juniors punched their tickets to the State Meet, and will return to the Giant Center in two weeks for a shot to compete against the best wrestlers in Pennsylvania.
Josiah Gehr earned his second straight trip to States with a solid silver-medal finish at 106 pounds. The only negative blip on his screen was a 4-2 loss in the finals to Manheim Central’s freshman sensation Will Betancourt. Joining Gehr at States March 9-11 will be teammate Ben Fromm, who also claimed silver, advancing all the way to the finals at 195 before dropping a 7-1 decision to Blake Barrick of Big Spring.
All told, four out of five Eagle wrestlers at the championships earned medals with freshman Kayde Althouse claiming fifth place at 113 pounds while senior Brady Maxwell earning a sixth at 285.
Unfortunately both Althouse and Maxwell were denied a chance to advance as only the top four finishers at each weight class qualified for States.
“It’s kind of mixed emotions,” Cocalico coach Matt Fittery said following Saturday’s finals. “We weren’t able to come away with a title but overall I do think we wrestled really well. We had four guys in the top six of the District, and that’s really good. Two state qualifiers, two finalists and a fifth and a sixth…they wrestled tough. It was a good tournament.”
For Ephrata, the Mounts got a couple guys close to earning a return trip to Hershey, but in the end seniors Austin Jones and Cam Terry both came up just short.
Jones battled back after losing his first bout of the tournament to grab fifth place honors at 106 while Cam Terry closed out his EHS career with a sixth-place medal at 113.
“Austin and Cam both are our first District medalists since 2005, which are good accomplishments,” Ephrata Coach Josh Clair said. “Not many guys have been able to say that in a long time so I’m proud of them for that. It was not the result we ultimately wanted but still, it was a good tournament overall.”
Gehr (25-4) shook off slow starts in two of his first three bouts to reach the finals. He dominated first-round opponent Liam Strouse of Northern York, taking a 7-0 lead early in the second period before clamping the freshman in 2:46.
In the quarterfinals, New Oxford’s Timoty Uhler surprised Gehr with an early takedown before the Cocalico junior evened it up with a reversal late in the first. It remained 2-2 into the third when Gehr reversed to start the period and held on for the hard-fought 4-2 decision.
Gehr also gave up a quick takedown to Cumberland Valley’s Patrick DeMark to start the semifinals in the hole. Eventually, his third period switch proved to be the difference in a 6-4 victory to clinch a spot in the finals.
While Betancourt (33-2) is known for his dumps and bars, Gehr said he was in “attack-mode” heading into his finals match vs. the Baron freshman.
“All I was thinking about was, ‘just go after it,’” he said.
And that’s exactly what he did, especially in the early going of Saturday’s finals.
Gehr took a couple quick first-period single-leg shots, only to find himself in a stalemate. It remained scoreless until Betancourt prevailed in a scramble with :23 remaining in the opening stanza, resulting in a 2-0 lead after one.
The coin flip prior to the second period went to Betancourt, who deferred, and Gehr chose neutral. That decision nearly paid off when the Cocalico grappler came close to scoring a takedown at the edge of the mat with :40 elapsed.
Although Gehr didn’t get the points, he and his coaches thought the match should have been tied.
“I think the ref didn’t really give me the points that I should have had, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Gehr said. “I can’t change that. I just have to keep going.”
With Betancourt still leading by two heading to the third, he took the bottom position and benefited from a locked hands call against Gehr with 1:41 left, making it 3-0.
The penalty point looked big when Gehr caught Betancourt in an arm bar for two back points with 1:01 to go, cutting Betancourt’s lead to 3-2.
Eventually, Gehr cut Betancourt loose with :18 left, hoping to get a match-tying takedown. Despite his efforts, however, it didn’t happen and Betancourt held on for the 4-2 win.
“Josiah wrestled great today…it wasn’t for lack of effort that’s for sure,” Fittery said. “That was his best match of the tournament I think. He got to his offense but there were a lot of questionable calls…he did his part but unfortunately he didn’t get the points, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Still, Gehr, who was Cocalico’s lone entrant at States last year and finished one win short of the medal stand, would like the opportunity to meet up with the talented freshman again.
“It was a fun match and I’m excited to wrestle him again,” he said. “(Second place) is not where I wanted to be but it’s close enough. I made it to States, which is where I want to be so hopefully I can work my way back up and have a shot at number one.”
Fittery certainly believes his wrestler is quite capable of reaching the medal stand two weeks from now.
“Absolutely…if he’s on he can win a medal, even a gold medal I believe,” Fittery stated. “I really believe that. It all comes down to how the State Tournament goes. When you qualify, you are there and anything can happen. It doesn’t matter of you got first, second or fourth (at Districts), if you are there you have a shot.”
Fromm (37-5) had an impressive run to the finals at 195. After decking New Oxford’s Derrick Rudisill (5:38) in the opening round, thanks to a nice half midway through the third that set it up, the Cocalico junior broke a 5-5 tie with Donegal’s Keegan McCord with an escape in the final 20 seconds to clinch a 6-5 quarterfinals win and a spot in the semifinals opposite Section Three champion Jake Koser of Northern.
In Friday’s semis, Fromm took a 2-1 lead late in the second period with a single-leg takedown. Then in the third, Koser (35-3) tried to turn Fromm to no avail, so he let him up with about 13 seconds to go, hoping for a tying takedown.
He never got it as Fromm clinch his State berth and a spot in the finals with a 3-1 decision.
Unfortunately, Fromm could never really get going in Saturday’s final against Barrick, who built a 5-0 cushion heading to the third. Fromm took neutral, hoping for a takedown that could lead to a possible comeback. However, it was Barrick who got the takedown with 36 seconds to go and he cruised the rest of the way to the 7-1 win.
“Maybe nerves got to him a little or something,” Fittery said when asked about the final. “But Ben wrestled a great tournament up until (the finals) so you don’t want to take that away from him. Again, he’s going to States so that’s the important thing. Anything can happen there once you get there.”
Getting to States was the plan for Ephrata’s Jones and Terry, and the two came agonizingly close.
After winning three bouts following his first-round loss, Jones (31-7) was just one victory away from moving on to States at 106 pounds when he dropped a 14-4 major decision to Cole Wilson of Northeastern.
The Ephrata senior did return and finish strong in the fifth-place bout, using a third-period escape to capture fifth with a 1-0 win over Cole Baer of Cedar Cliff.
“It was just a pride thing,” Jones said of winning his final bout Saturday. “Obviously I’m not going to States but I just wanted to go out there and win my last match. It was my last match of my senior year, and I just wanted to end it on a good note. It’s tough because I came so close but I gave it my all and that’s all I can do.”
Incidentally, Jones’ victory put him at 106 wins for his career, the fourth most in EHS history.
While Jones’ end result was crushing for the EHS senior, it was even more excruciating for Terry, who was less than 20 seconds from punching his ticket to States when disaster struck.
After taking a 1-0 lead with an escape against CJ Morton of Twin Valley with 47 seconds to go in the consolation semifinals, Terry (30-8) tried to hold on. However, with less than 20 seconds to go, Morton hit a takedown and was able to ride Terry out for the 2-1 victory.
“It was a tough way to lose,” Clair said. “It’s always tough when you are working toward the ultimate goal, which is getting to States, and to come that close and not make it is tough. Being a senior knowing this is your last go, it’s not an easy way to go out.”
Terry moved on to the fifth-place match where he was pinned by Cocalico freshman Kayde Althouse in 4:08.
Althouse (32-14) had himself quite a tournament, advancing to the semifinals with a pair of impressive wins in the first two rounds. In the semis opposite eventual champion JJ Wilson of Cedar Cliff, Althouse was leading 4-0 in the first period when Wilson turned the tables and got the fall in 52 seconds.
But after dropping a 10-5 decision to Rafael Portilla of Carlisle in the consolation semis, Althouse finished strong with the pin of Terry to claim fifth place overall.
Maxwell (34-14) won his first bout of the tournament by fall, decking Greencastle-Antrim’s Ralondas Green in just 1:27. However, the Cocalico senior ran into eventual champion Mike Wolfgram of Central York in the quarterfinals and was pinned in 1:01.
However, Maxwell did rebound with two consolation wins to earn a spot in the consi semifinals and was one win away from qualifying for States when he was pinned by Northeastern’s Blaine Yinger in 4:32.
Then Saturday in the fifth place match at 285, he ran into Warwick’s Ryan Stewart. This was the fourth time the two had met this season, and for the fourth time Stewart had Maxwell’s number as the Warrior heavyweight pinned Maxwell in 2:22.
Rounding out the local competitors at District were Ephrata senior Tyler Mentzer and Cocalico freshman Grant Swann.
Mentzer (28-12) dropped a pair of bouts at 152 pounds to go 0-2 in the tournament. He opened with a 7-0 first-round loss to Drake Brenize of Chambersburg. Then in his first consolation bout vs. Dan Ziegler of Gettysburg, Mentzer fell victim to a fall in a time of 3:00.
As for Swann (19-19), the ninth grader opened with an 8-2 loss to Hempfield’s Jarod Loose, before being eliminated by a 7-2 decision that went to Cedar Cliff’s Michael Cassidy in the first round of consolations.