HERSHEY - Jersey Shore head coach Shawn Weaver wasn't afraid to admit his Bulldogs wrestling team was outmatched in Thursday's match with Greater Latrobe. They clearly were, as evident by the 60-6 loss they took in the first round of the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships.
Of course, the first round at the Giant Center has never particularly been kind to Weaver and his team. A first-round matchup two years ago against LaSalle College ended with seven losses in the final eight bouts and a 48-27 defeat. Last year, the Bulldogs opened against a Franklin Regional team which is now the favorite to win this year's Class AAA team championship, and lost 54-15.
But Thursday, against District 7 runner-up Greater Latrobe, the task was much taller. The Wildcats featured six state-ranked wrestlers in the lineup, including returning state champion Luke Pletcher. Three of Latrobe's six ranked wrestlers are ranked in the top two in the state. A fourth is ranked in the top 10.
Greater Latrobe’s Ethan McCoy, rear, lifts Jersey Shore’s Isiah Leone during their 113-pound match at Thursday’s PIAA Team Wrestling tournament in Hershey. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
The reality was Jersey Shore just didn't have an answer, despite having maybe the most balanced team it's ever brought to Hershey.
"We've got to be able to stop their momentum and we couldn't do that," Weaver said. "They have studs all throughout their lineup and you have to be able to stop it. We couldn't."
Jersey Shore falls into the consolation bracket and wrestles this morning at 10 against District 2 champion Wyoming Valley West. The loser is eliminated from the tournament. Valley West competed at the Jersey Shore Duals a couple weeks ago, but did not wrestle Jersey Shore.
Five of Latrobe's six state-ranked wrestlers won with bonus points Thursday night. Ethan McCoy won by fall at 113 pounds. Pletcher received a forfeit at 120. Ethan Smith earned a major decision at 145. Dominic Scalise won by injury default at 160, and Zach Zavatsky won by technical fall at 182 pounds.
Jersey Shore had just one win in the match and it came from 106-pound freshman standout Hunter Zondory who won with a first-period fall. Latrobe won the final 11 bouts, eight of which earned bonus points.
The Zondory pin was part of a three-bout streak to open the match in which Jersey Shore wrestled very well. But Jacob Huling lost in overtime at 220 pounds, and Bryce Charles dropped a 4-1 decision at 285. But for as well as the Bulldogs wrestled in that stretch, they got just six points out of it.
"Any time you're coaching or competing, your emotions are a roller coaster. Any time you can get a win early it's good," Weaver said. "Huling battled a tough kid who he had a chance to beat. I thought Bryce wrestled well against a tough kid. We're getting there. We're getting better."
The final score doesn't show it, but Thursday's loss may have been one of Jersey Shore's most competitive efforts in its third consecutive trip to the PIAA tournament, despite giving up the second-most points it's ever allowed in the Giant Center while scoring the fewest points its ever scored.
The Bulldogs lost five matches by decision. And one of those came to Jake Shaffer, the state's seventh-ranked 152-pounder and a returning state qualifier.
"Franklin Regional is the favorite to win this, but Latrobe, in my opinion, is the second-best team here," Weaver said. "It's a tough draw, but it is what it is. You have to come and wrestle and battle. We knew they would be tough. We knew our matchups weren't that great. But we have to come back (Friday) and wrestle. I think with Wyoming Valley West we have a match we absolutely can compete in, and we should compete in it. But we have to be ready to go in the morning."
106: Hunter Zondory, JS, pinned Carson Palmer, 1:59; 113: Ethan McCoy, GL, pinned Isiah Leone, 1:59; 120: Luke Pletcher, GL, won by forfeit; 126: Joel Cawoski, GL, dec. Noah Ulmer, 5-1; 132: Ethan Stas, GL, pinned Coy Killion, 3:51; 138: Jake Willochell, GL, won by forfeit; 145: Ethan Smith, GL, maj. dec. Hayden Swartwood, 10-2; 152: Jake Shaffer, GL, dec. Colton Killion, 8-4; 160: Dominic Scalise, GL, inj. def. Seth Young, 1:35; 170: Justin Short, GL, pinned Max Mason, 3:52; 182: Zach Zavatsky, GL, tech. fall Dominic Loffredo, 18-2, 4:17; 195: Tracis Schmeling, GL, dec. Nate Lose, 4-2; 220: Dylan Davis, GL, dec. Jacob Huling, 3-1; 285: Tyler Mears, GL, dec. Bryce Charles, 4-1.
*Match started at 220 pounds.