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Montoursville takes silver in duals, earns trip to Hershey

February 1, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
MILTON – Jamie Yonkin looked at his brother Matt in the Montoursville coaches' corner during Saturday's District 4 Duals finals and pointed out each time the Warriors missed an opportunity to beat Towanda.

There was a 2-0 loss at 160 pounds, a one-point loss at 195 pounds when the Warriors' J.J. Schriner thought the score was tied at the end of regulation. Then there was a two-point loss at 285 pounds, a reversal of the two wrestlers' previous bout.

Jamie Yonkin could have pointed out any of those bouts following the Warriors' 31-27 loss to Towanda in the finals, but he was focused more on the big picture. Montoursville is headed to Hershey for the first time for the PIAA Team Championships which begin Thursday at the Giant Center. The Warriors previously qualified for the state tournament in 2009, but lost in a pigtail match to Pen Argyl by two points, failing to advance to Hershey.

Towanda won its fourth District 4 Duals championship Saturday. It was the Black Knights' first duals title since beating Muncy in the final in 2011.

Wyalusing finished third in the tournament, securing District 4's last qualifying spot in the state tournament. The Rams defeated Hughesville in the third-place match, 37-36. The Spartans' Matt Heinreich won the final bout to tie the team score at 36-36, but Wyalusing earned the win on Criteria H, the most first points scored. The Rams had a 16-12 advantage.

Montoursville opens the state tournament Thursday at 4 p.m. against District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge.

“In the moment it stinks,” Yonkin said. “When we wake up (today) and the sun comes up again, we're going to realize we're going to Hershey, and that's pretty exciting.”

“We weren't really expected to go to Hershey, so just to make there is a big accomplishment to us,” Montoursville senior 182-pounder Lucas Shaheen said. “The last time we wrestled Towanda is was more of a blowout. This shows that we're improving a bit and that we're working hard in the matroom.”

Hughesville missed out on its second consecutive trip to the state tournament with the loss to Wyalusing in the third-place match. The Rams avenged a 35-26 loss to the Spartans in the morning's quarterfinal round. Hughesville then lost in the semifinals to Montoursville, 33-30, when Keith Batkowski earned a fall in the final bout. Hughesville responded with a win over Lewisburg in the consolation semifinals before falling to Wyalusing.

“The first thing I said to them out in the hall is I can't believe they day they just went through,” Spartans head coach Steve Budman said. “The emotional toll and the physical toll that you just went through was incredible. It was really something.”

Towanda has put together one of the best season in District 4 in recent memory with more substance than style. The Black Knights are 27-2 this year, including a 13-0 mark against teams which qualified for the District 4 Duals. But they do it with only one wrestler in's state rankings.

Hall of Fame head coach Bill Sexton built a team with depth which is unmatched by any other team in District 4. When Montoursville forfeited at 113 pounds like it has all season, the Black Knights sent out Mike Alberico to take the forfeit. Alberico hadn't stepped foot on a varsity mat since taking a forfeit on Dec. 12.

But the move allowed Sexton to bump up some of his lightweights. Jared Lines responded to the move by scoring a crucial fall at 120 pounds against Cortland Stahl, giving Towanda a 24-18 lead. And Nick Secules followed with a 4-1 win over Jacob Strassner, one of four matches Montoursville lost by three points or less. The 27-18 lead for Towanda with three bouts to go was the biggest lead for either team in the match.

“You look at our lineup and say there's no superstar there, but we have a lot of kids who can wrestle,” said Sexton, who has 588 career dual-meet victories. “We have great team chemistry. The kids work hard in the room and they're as good as can be. On most given days, they're 14-man team is good enough to beat most people.”

Not even a fall from Keith Batkowski at 132 pounds and a 5-4 win for freshman Nolan Ott at 138 pounds, which tied the score at 27-27, was enough for Montoursville. Towanda's Tristan Decker won a 14-0 major decision in the match's final bout to give Towanda its fourth district title.

“It was exciting. We were just hoping the momentum would swing our way so the next guy could use it in his match,” Shaheen said. “We were hoping to get some falls and try to bring it back. We just ended up a little bit short.”

“My brother and I said during the match. There's (a missed chance). There's another one,” Yonkin said. “We had opportunities and we just didn't seize them.”

The loss in the finals didn't do anything to take away from the stellar day the seventh-seeded Warriors put together to reach the finals. The Warriors beat No. 15 seed Mifflinburg in the morning quarterfinals, 55-21. They then wrestled a near-perfect match to beat a Hughesville team which hadn't lost since Jan. 4, and went 10-2 in the month of January.

Sophomore Garrett Hoffman put together a stellar effort to beat Robert White, 4-0. Ott scored a huge fall over Heinreich early in the match, and Ben Cerney and Connor Bassett came up with key decision victories at 220 and 285 pounds.

Now Montoursville is tagged with maybe the program's biggest team test, competing in the state tournament. It faces a Chestnut Ridge team on Thursday which lost to Towanda, 37-27, in December.

“We want to go down there and see what we can do,” Yonkin said. “We're going to start wrestling teams from all over the state that we haven't seen. All we want is for our kids to go down and give it 100 percent and see what happens. One of our goals when we started this thing 8 or 9 years ago was we wanted to take the team (to Hershey). We've been down there individually, but we always said how great it would be to take down the whole team. We're excited.”


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