The Reynolds High Raiders make their perennial trip to Hershey today for the PIAA State Class AA Dual Meet Championships.
The District 10 Champion Raiders, who have captured three state duals titles (2006, ’07 and ’09) in the 16 years of the tourney, finished 2nd last year at state to powerhouse Bethlehem Catholic.
Beth-Catholic is favored again to win the crown and it could be another finals matchup with Reynolds if both win through their brackets.
Reynolds has been state runner-up in 2005, ’10 and ’13).
Reynolds earned an automatic berth in the state tourney by winning the program’s 12th D-10 title Saturday. Runner-up Fort LeBoeuf and 3rd-place Greenville moved on to compete in “wrestle-in” matches.
LeBoeuf routed Jefferson-Morgan, WPIAL 3rd-place team, 41-19 on Tuesday, but Greenville lost at Redbank Valley, 37-28, on Monday. LeBouef takes on District 4 champ Towanda at 2 p.m. today.
Reynolds opens competition at 4 p.m. against Saucon Valley, the No. 2 team out of District 11. It is a rematch of last year’s opener for the Raiders, which Reynolds barely won, 35-29.
“We pretty much have the same kind of bracket as last year,” said Raiders’ coach Casey Taylor. “If we win our first two matches, we’ll probably see Boiling Springs against in the semifinals.”
Boiling Springs is coached by former 3-time Lakeview High state champion Rod Wright. Taylor was a 3-time state winner for Reynolds. The only other 3-timers from Mercer County were Farrell’s George Lewis, and Reynolds’ Justin Nestor.
“That first match last year (Saucon Valley), was a tough one,” recalled Taylor. “I don’t think we were ready for that kind of competition, the coaching staff all the way to the kids. You don’t expect your toughest match first, but sometimes that happens. That woke the kids up early.
“No matter how much you preach to the kids, ‘You can’t look ahead,’ I think that happened a little bit last year.”
The Raiders’ probable line-up:
106—Freshman Gage Bayless; 113—Sophomore Seth Hogue; 120—Freshman Chaise Hauck; 126—Junior Mike Bartolo; 132—Freshman Joel Leise; 138—Senior Alex DiGregorio; 145—Senior Levi Stoyer; 152—Senior Mason McCollum; 160—Senior Kegan Miller; 170—Junior Mike Millero; 182—Senior Austin Moffett; 195—Senior Denton Zeronas; 220—Freshman Cole Rickert; 285—Sophomore Gene Ringer.
Other Raiders who could see action as Taylor shifts the line-up are: Sophomore Alec Reiter, 126; Junior Nick Nottingham, 132 or 138; Senior Trevor Griswold, 182; Junior Jake Stoyer, 195; Senior Rob Foulkrod, 220.
“Everybody’s healthy; so far so good,” said Taylor, “I think we’re peaking right now, that’s the exciting part for this team. We have four freshmen starting and they seem to be more comfortable in their roles. And the seniors are doing an excellent job of providing leadership.
“I told the kids that I’m really proud of them. I’ve probably been harder on this team than on all the teams I’ve coached. But that’s because I was seeing their potential and I acknowledged that and pushed them harder. The great thing is how the team responded to it. At this point in the season, they’ve taken control of their opportunities. “This is a fun time of year. The kids get to enjoy time away from home; they’ve worked hard for this. And our administration and boosters club are very supportive in getting the team what they need.
“But there’s something that Coach (Neal) Lineman and Coach (Brian) Hills have always taught: Never go for a vacation. Our mission going down there is to win!”