Nervous Warriors drop opener

HERSHEY – Hoping to put a little fire into his Montoursville team, Keith Batkowski was a bundle of energy when the whistle blew for his 132-pound match Thursday at the PIAA Class AA Team Wrestling Championships.

Imagine a spring being compressed and the energy it creates when that pressure is relieved. That’s the energy with which Batkowski took the mat at the Giant Center.

Batkowski finished the 132-pound bout with a win, a major decision win. But it couldn’t seem to spark the Warriors. They were flat through the first six weights, eventually losing to District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge, 37-22. Montoursville falls to the consolation bracket where it faces District 9 runner-up Redbank Valley today at 8 a.m. in an elimination match.

Montoursville had taken two tough losses in its first-ever trip to Hershey for the state team tournament, one a third-period fall in a 9-3 match, and the other a 6-0 decision. Batkowski was hoping to put a spark of life into the Warriors. He quickly recorded a takedown of the Lions’ Sam Shank and looked poised to put him on his back, but couldn’t quite get Shank there.

It was a meticulous 9-1 win Batkowski put on the board. A win the Warriors desperately needed. But it just wasn’t enough.

“I don’t know if we were starstruck or what,” Montoursville head coach Jamie Yonkin said. “Coming in, some of the kids (were in awe). For some it didn’t matter. We started off a little flat and weren’t able to rebound.”

“I knew after starting those first few, I had to really set the pace for the team,” said Batkowski, the younger brother of former Montoursville two-time state placewinner David Batkowski. “I came out and did what I had to do and hoped it would help the rest of the team so they would see what they had to do. I think everyone went out there with confidence and tried their best.”

By the time the Warriors were able to flip the momentum when Choate picked up a 3-2 win at 160 pounds, Montoursville was already trailing, 22-4. With having to give up a forfeit at either 106 or 113 pounds, the Warriors had to begin to hunt for bonus points.

Hoffman got just that, running a bar arm for a second-period fall. Lucas Shaheen followed with a gutty 3-2 win at 182 before J.J. Schriner held 26-4 Conner Buttry to a 3-0 win at 195. Ben Cerney got another crucial fall for the Warriors at 220 pounds, sinking in a deep half-nelson with a 3-0 lead to cut Montoursville’s deficit to 25-21.

“That gave us a lot of momentum going into (285),” Hoffman said. “That kept us in the match and kept us going.”

“Half these kids aren’t used to wrestling in stuff like this. Coming into this setting in this arena, it’s a big change. It’s hard to prepare them for that,” Yonkin said. “But once we started settling in, think started going pretty well.”

The Warriors nearly pulled off a huge upset win at 285 when Connor Bassett took returning state fifth-place finisher Austin Buttry into the tie-break. Despite giving up 50 pounds to the Chestnut Ridge heavyweight, Bassett avoided giving up a takedown and escaped from Buttry in the second period.

Bassett hit a good shot at the end of sudden victory overtime but couldn’t quite finish, forcing the tie-break. Starting down in the first 30-second session, Buttry reversed Bassett to his back for a four-point move to win 5-1.

“I think Connor wrestled great,” Hoffman said. “They wrestled each other at the Lycoming camp and Connor lost that. But he went out here and pushed the kid and it just didn’t go his way. But that’s a great effort.”

The consensus among the Warriors was yesterday’s match definitely cleared the team of the butterflies which caused it to be so flat in the early going, as evidenced by the top half of the lineup outscoring Chestnut Ridge, 17-6.

“I think we had a respectable showing,” Yonkin said. “The kids did what they could and they kept fighting, so we’re happy about that.”

“We came in knowing there was a strong possibility we could win this,” Batkowski said. “How we wrestled, we got it into our guys that they’re supposed to be here and this team is supposed to be here.”

106: Aaron Burkett, CR, won by forfeit; 113: Blake Dunlap, CR, dec. Morgan Comini, 7-0; 120: Dustin Uckes, CR, pinned Cortland Stahl, 5:03; 126: Morgan Deremer, CR, dec. Jacob Strassner, 6-0; 132: Keith Batkowski, M, maj. dec. Sam Shank, 9-1; 138: Derek Claar, CR, dec. Nolan Ott, 8-5; 145: Trent Crouse, CR, pinned Bryce O’Connor, 3:00; 152: Colby Hillegass, CR, maj. dec. Michael Forney, 12-4; 160: Triston Choate, M, dec. Brandyn Beaver, 3-2; 170: Garrett Hoffman, M, pinned Ben Clark, 3:01; 182: Lucas Shaheen, M, dec. Kyle Winegardner, 3-2; 195: Conner Buttry, CR, dec. J.J. Schriner, 3-0; 220: Ben Cerney, M, pinned Shane Davis, 5:14; 285: Austin Buttry, CR, dec. Connor Bassett, 5-1, tb.

*Match started at 120 pounds