Don’t look past anyone come District 4 Duals
I took the time Friday night to find every District 4 wrestling team’s record and winning percentage, seed them, and create a bracket for what the district duals tournament could look like after the cutoff in two weeks.
Other than a few coin flips which needed to be decided, it looked like a worthwhile endeavor, and a fun one. I’m too impatient to just wait for Steve Gobble to send out the brackets on Sunday, Jan. 26. I need to be ahead of the game. And my assumptions had been proven true when I started the process.
There was no clear-cut favorite to win this tournament. It might be just as much fun to draw school names out of a hat and determine a bracket, because that’s essentially what you’ll be getting.
Then I noticed I messed up. I somehow forgot Troy in my calculations. The hour I spent gathering records, winning percentages and formulating seedings and a bracket was for naught because Troy’s 8-4 record (prior to its dual-meet Friday night with Towanda) would have placed it smack-dab in the middle of the conversation for a seed right around eight, ninth or 10th.
But it was a valuable lesson which can be carried over into the evaluation of this year’s Class AA District 4 Duals tournament, don’t forget about anybody in this tournament. In the past we’ve discussed wide-open tournaments in which any of the first four or five seeds might be able to make a run a the district championship and a spot in the state tournament.
And now that the district has added wrestle-backs to the tournament from the quarterfinals, it’s going to be an amazing day in Milton to try and determine the three most deserving teams of a trip to Hershey for the state tournament.
“It’s all about matchups. All about where your good kids are and where their good kids are,” Montoursville head coach Jamie Yonkin said following Thursday’s loss to Benton. “It’s a matchup game. It’s a coin-toss game.”
That’s how tightly this tournament is going to be contested. Let’s be honest, this year’s tournament isn’t going to feature a dominant team the likes of Wyalusing, Bloomsburg and Towanda of the past. What this year’s tournament is going to feature is balanced teams with wins capable of coming from any spot in the lineup, with a couple state medal-winning caliber studs mixed in.
Make a list in your mind of who you would call a favorite heading into the tournament in two weeks. Start with Towanda, the only double-digit win team in the district. Follow that with a Warrior Run team which was probably the preseason favorite and is just starting to put its best lineup together. You clearly can’t forget the likes of Hughesville and Montoursville, two teams loaded with potential state medalists mixed in with fighters.
You can’t ignore a Williamson team which has one of the most dangerous lightweight lineups in the state. Canton’s combination of Garrett Wesneski, Tyler Cole, Connor Route and Brady Bryington will give any coach cause for concern.
Then there’s Lewisburg, the team which would be the tournament’s top seed if the tournament started today. Its only loss was a three-point setback early in the season to Warrior Run in which both lineups were missing key pieces.
No disrespect to any team which wasn’t mentioned, but you could make a run through the 16 teams currently with a .500 or better record within District 4 and make a case as to why each one is a threat.
Benton lost a three-time state placewinner (Colt Cotten) and a two-time state champion (Zain Retherford) from its lineup and is putting together one of its best dual-meet seasons under head coach Russ Hughes. The Tigers are going to wrestle a lot of single-digit matches, but it may be the most battle-tested team in the field, should it qualify.
Anybody willing to step up to Hughes and tell him his Tigers don’t have a shot? Nobody? I didn’t think so.
“These guys that have moved on to better and bigger pastures, someone has to step into their shoes,” Hughes said Thursday night. “We still expect them to go out and win. You can look at this lineup and nobody knows some of these guys. They see (Jeric) Kasunic because he’s placed twice at states. The rest of the guys might not be the guys of years past and most people might say they’re mediocre. Mediocre is a C, and I’m not a C-level guy. I always strive for the top and we’ll see how far they can go.”
It’s sentiment likely to be echoed by the coaches whose teams qualify for the tournament in two weeks. Because, really, who’s to say who the favorite will be? Just make sure not to forget about anybody.
A COOL-EY RETURN
Roshaun Cooley has been in the wrestling room since an injury just prior to the season kept him from competing. It’s not in his blood to just skip out on practice. Williamsport head coach Joe Eaton and his staff had to regulate just how much the junior was doing so as to make sure he wasn’t overdoing it in the room.
Now, the Millionaires’ best hope at ending its near two decade-long streak of not having a state placewinner is back competing. Cooley made his debut wrestling at 120 pounds a week ago for Williamsport in a dual-meet against Loyalsock. The return has been about as seamless as possible for the wrestler with a 51-7 career record.
Cooley is 3-0 with two wins by fall since returning a week ago.
“It was hard for everybody for him not to wrestle to this point,” Eaton said. “He hurt his thumb riding a scooter. But better in November than March. What we always say is the ultimate goal is a state medal and that doesn’t happen in November or December.”
During Thursday’s match between Benton and Montoursville, the coaching staff intentionally had Jacob Strassner step on to the scale heavy at 126 pounds. The thought by the coaching staff was it would then make him eligible to compete at both 132 and 138 pounds. Under a new rule, Strassner was only eligible to wrestle at 132 pounds because he stepped on the scale during the 126-pound weigh-ins over the allotted 128 pounds a wrestler can weigh to be eligible to compete at 126.
Montoursville was forced to forfeit at 138 pounds when it sent Strassner out to compete. Benton won the match, 39-24.
WRESTLER OF THE WEEK
South Williamsport, 138
The junior regional qualifier wrestled just one time this week, but he made it count. Jones put up a 6-3 win over Bloomsburg district qualifier Cody Klinger on Thursday night to add another chapter to what has been an absolutely stellar season. It was the 12th win of the season for Jones who has yet to suffer a loss. He got his season started with wins over Central Mountain’s Emery Watson, Schuylkill Valley’s Tanner White and Montoursville’s Keith Batkowski – wrestlers with a combined 41-13 record this year – on his way to his first Top Hat tournament title. He’s added wins over Wellsboro’s Nathaniel Ingerick (8-3) and Klinger. Jones is currently ranked 16th in the state and fourth in the Northeast Region at 138 pounds behind two state placewinners and a state qualifier.
CAN’T-MISS MATCH OF THE WEEK
Hughesville at Warrior Run, Thursday, 7 p.m.
The Spartans put together a solid run at the Zephyr Duals last week after two tough losses heading into the Christmas break, and Warrior Run is getting all its pieces into place to become the team it thought it had the chance of being at the beginning of the year. These are two teams likely to be favorites when the District 4 Duals roll around in two weeks. Why not get a sneak peek at a potential final?
Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.