HERSHEY — The Reynolds High wrestling team is a perennial competitor at the PIAA State Class AA Dual-Meet Championships. But even coach Casey Taylor would admit that the 2012-13 squad was not considered to be up with some of Reynolds’ best squads for overall talent that visited Chocolatetown.
But now this year’s squad is certainly up there for state finishes with some of the Raiders’ best because determination and guts are sometimes better than potential.
And that’s why a group of over-achieving Raiders was able to finish 2nd at the state championships in Hershey Giant Center Saturday, adding to the lore of the storied program that has won 3 state crowns and now 3 runner-up trophies since the dual-meet tournament was initiated in 1999.
Bowing in the finals to a powerful Bethlehem Catholic squad, 43-16, is certainly no disgrace for the District 10 champion Raiders. It marked the 3rd straight title for the nationally-ranked Golden Hawks, who dominated everyone in the tournament and won matches by scores of 81-0, 39-18 and 48-9 prior to the finals.
Consider that the Hawks have 5 returning state qualfiers, including a champion, runner-up and 5th-placer, while the only Raider back who was at the individual state championships last season was superstar Austin Matthews, runner-up and 3-time placer.
“That was a tough match,” said Taylor. “ We were not in about five matches, but we were in some others and it just didn’t work out. We could have wrestled better in the overall sense, but we wrestled hard and I’m proud of the kids for that.
“At the start of the year our expectations were high, but the reality of it was that it was a low percentage that we would even get here. It was a topsy-turvy start of the year, with injuries. But these kids overcame injures and weight obstacles to jell as a team.
“And when you don’t have success (at state) in the last two years like we used to, it can collapse real fast on you. But seniors Austin Matthews, Jamar Henry and Neal Engstrom molded this team — with the help of coaches — into what they are today. We beat some really good teams to finish second in the state.
“Did I want to be champ? Without a doubt. Am I disappointed? No!”
The finals started at 113 and Raider Mike Bartolo got his team off to a good start by defeating Stephen Maloney, 9-5. But then Beth Catholic took control of the match.
At 120, Reynolds sophomore Nick Nottingham faced a tough draw against defending state champion Darian Cruz, who picked up a pin in 3:47. It didn’t get any easier at 126, as BC sent state runner-up Zeke Moisey onto the mat against Mason McCollum. Moisey notched a pin in 3:00 to give the Hawks a 12-3 lead.
The Beth Catholic momentum continued at 132 as Mason Angstadt built an early 4-0 lead over Matt Leise with a takedown and near-fall. Leise battled back, but bowed by a 4-2 count. Raider senior Neal Engstrom took the mat at 138 against Ryan Todora, a 5th-place finisher last year at 145. Todora dominated the bout, building an 8-0 lead before scoring a fall in 3:12.
At 145, Reynolds junior Levi Stoyer finally stopped the bleeding with a tough, 1-0 victory over Adam Soldridge. That cut the BC team margin to 21-6 and set the stage for senior Matthews at 152. The Raider standout used a cradle to deck Mark Maloney in 1:38 to pull the Blue and Gray within 21-12.
Connor Hedash put on a takedown clinic against Raider senior Curtis Arnold for a 18-6 major division win at 160. At 170, Reynolds’ Mike Millero took on Nick Cortopassi, but Cortopassi eked out a 1-0 victory to expand the Hawks’ lead to 28-12.
Hawk Jose Ortiz, a returning state qualifer and champion at the King of the Mountain tourney this year, topped Austin Moffett at 182 by an 8-4 count. Another state qualifer, Josh Alpha, took the mat for BC at 195 against Henry. The match went into overtime, with Alpha pulling out a 2-1 decision.
Raider Logan Rickert was in control of the 220-pound match as he rolled past Ryan Johnson by major decision, 13-4.
At heavyweight, the Hawks’ Andrew Dunn slipped past freshman Gene Ringer, 3-1. The final bout of the day came at 106, where Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Karam pinned Seth Hogue.
“It was an insurmountable mountain (against Bethlehem Catholic),” said Taylor. “But nobody quit. And that’s all I ask of the kids.
“We had a ton of fun, but we’re not done yet. I watched relationships get built with these kids, the coaching staff and families.The whole community responded.
“In the past we’ve had some letdowns after these things (at the postseason tournaments). Our job as coaches is not to allow that to happen.
“We are going to put the trophy in the showcase and be proud of it. But we’re not done yet!”
Notes: Reynolds lost to Bethlehem Catholic, 32-19, in 2011 when the Golden Hawks were en route to their 1st of 3 straight state crowns. Reynolds and BC are the only Class AA 3-time winners of the state duals ... The consolation rounds opened Saturday with a meeting of two other District 10 teams. Fort LeBoeuf defeated Saegertown, 37-23. LeBoeuf next beat Boiling Springs, 31-24, to move to the consolation finals against Chestnut Ridge. LeBoeuf won that one 38-19 to finish in 3rd place ... Area referees Eric Mount and John Butch worked the tournament, including the Class AAA championship bout won by Canon-McMillen over Central Dauphin, 34-31. ... Franklin Regional, coached by former Sharon High mat star Eric Mausser, finished 3rd in the AAA tourney, edging Easton, 29-26, in the consy finals.
PIAA DUAL MEET CLASS AA
BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC 43, REYNOLDS 16
113 -- Mike Bartolo (R) dec. Stephen Maloney, 9-5; 120 -- Darian Cruz (BC) pinned Nick Nottingham, 3:47; 126 -- Zeke Moisey (BC) pinned Mason McCollum, 3:00; 132 -- Mason Angstadt (BC) dec. Matt Leise, 4-2; 138 -- Ryan Todora (BC) pinned Neal Engstrom, 3:12; 145 -- Levi Stoyer (R) dec. Adam Soldridge, 1-0; 152 -- Austin Matthews (R) pinned Mark Maloney, 1:38; 160 -- Connor Hedash (BC) major dec. Curtis Arnold, 18-6; 170 - Nick Cortopassi (BC) dec. Mike Millero, 1-0; 182 -- Jose Ortiz (BC) dec. Austin Moffett, 8-4; 195 -- Josh Alpha (BC) dec. Jamar Henry, 2-1; 220 -- Logan Rickert (R) major dec. Ryan Johnson, 13-4; 285 -- Andrew Dunn (BC) dec. Gene Ringer, 3-1; 106 -- Luke Karam (BC) pinned Seth Hogue, 3:33.