District 4 Duals tourney today offers plenty of possibilities

Cael Hembury and Muncy could see a rematch with Southern Columbia in Saturday’s District 4 AA Duals final.
MARK NANCE/
Sun-Gazette

Cael Hembury and Muncy could see a rematch with Southern Columbia in Saturday’s District 4 AA Duals final. MARK NANCE/ Sun-Gazette

It’s easy to look ahead and start planning about how a potential rematch between Southern Columbia and Muncy could go. Round 1 between the two state-ranked teams was so glorious, it’s understandable why fans would clamor to see a rematch.

Don’t let the beauty of the day be lost in the anticipation of just one match, though. Today’s District 4 Duals tournament could have the best battle for third place we’ve seen since the district earned a third qualifier to the state tournament in 2013.

Of the eight teams left in the tournament, a reasonable argument can be made for each one to find their way into the top three somehow. But if we’re being realistic about the tournament, there’s separate tiers of plausibility for teams to get into the top three. Let’s take a closer look at those tiers:

CHAMPIONSHIP TIER

Southern Columbia

This isn’t much of a surprise. The reigning PIAA third-place finishers have been the top team in the district all season. The Tigers have just one match this season in which it hasn’t won by at least 25 points, and that was their dual last week at Muncy. Southern Columbia has pitched more shutouts this season than Corey Kluber, but yet didn’t receive a single vote in the American League Cy Young race. This is the most talented team in the district. It’s the deepest team in the district. Its spot in the district final has been the biggest foregone conclusion at the District 4 Duals in quite some time. But … This is not an unbeatable team.

CHAMPIONSHIP

CONTENTION TIER

Muncy

If there’s any team in the state which believes it can beat Southern Columbia, it should be Muncy. It came within a win of doing just that in the teams’ regular season dual meet more than a week ago. That confidence is crucial going into a potential matchup with the Tigers. This is a confident group. Jacob Blair is the top-ranked 106-pounder in the state. Hunter Poust is the third-ranked 220-pounder in the state. Joe Klock just came one point shy of beating state runner-up Cole Rhone. And the cast which fills in the weights around those three is as talented a group as there is in the district.

STATE QUALIFYING

CONTENTION TIER

Montoursville

The Warriors have been the surprise team of the season in the district. It wasn’t until a loss in the finals of the Clearfield Tournament on Jan. 20 that Montoursville was knocked out of the top seed for the tournament. And it was only a three-point loss to state-ranked DuBois in the finals at Clearfield which kept the Warriors from being that top seed. Montoursville poses one of the biggest quandaries in the tournament in the form of the nation’s No. 1-ranked 195-pounder Gavin Hoffman. Teams have to decide whether to take their chances against the two-time state champ, or bump up to face Cameron Wood who is having an outstanding season at 220. And don’t discount Wyatt Lutz being down to 113 pounds for just the second time this season. It could stand to be a crucial change for the Warriors.

Line Mountain

The Eagles have been to the state tournament three times in its history, including last year when it was the District 4 runner-up to Southern Columbia. Line Mountain entered last year’s tournament as the undefeated top seed. This year, Line Mountain enters as a three-loss fifth seed, and the team might be better off for those five losses. The Eagles have found a hidden gem in heavyweight Jaron Renn. The senior has gone 15-4 since moving to 285 pounds with impressive wins over Owen Maryott, Lance Klinefelter and Justin Kriner.

Wyalusing

No team has represented District 4 at the state dual-meet tournament more than Wyalusing, who qualified for the eighth time last season when it took third place. Even under a new head coach, the Rams haven’t lost what always makes them so tough. Since a loss to Muncy for third place at the Zephyr Duals, Wyalusing is 9-0 and hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in a dual meet. The Rams still can run out state champion Creighton Edsell at 160 pounds. Luke Yonkin-O’Connor picked up his 100th victory this season, and three other wrestlers are ranked in the top six at their respective weight in the regional rankings.

NEED TO HAVE

ITS BEST DAY TIER

Warrior Run

The Defenders are a scary team because its lineup has eight seniors who never seem to be fazed by the moment. Jeremy Hanford, Noah Hunt and Christian Wachter present the possibility for bonus points every time out, and there’s not more than a weight class or two where teams feel like they can take advantage against Warrior Run. It’s not a team to be looked past.

TOO SOLID

TO LOOK PAST TIER

Mount Carmel

and Danville

Danville turned heads Wednesday night not just because it beat Athens, but because of the way it beat Athens. As the only road team to win in the tournament’s first round, the Ironmen did by posting bonus points in each of its victories in the dual. Mount Carmel had a very similar kind of win against five-time state qualifier. The Red Tornadoes won eight bouts with seven earning bonus points. Neither of these two teams will overwhelm you with state-ranked talent, but what they will overwhelm you with is toughness and an ability to win at any weight. Take either of these teams lightly and you could walk away with a loss.

MITCH RUPERT’S PICKS

• Quarterfinals.

Southern Columbia over Warrior Run; Line Mountain over Wyalusing; Muncy over Mount Carmel; Montoursville over Danville.

• Semifinals:

Southern Columbia over Line Mountain; Muncy over Montoursville.

• Consolation quarterfinals:

Wyalusing over Warrior Run; Danville over Mount Carmel.

• Consolation semifinals

Wyalusing over Montoursville; Line Mountain over Danville.

• Third-place match

Line Mountain over Wyalusing

• Championship match

Southern Columbia over Muncy

CRAWFORD DEBUTS

There was a healthy level of excitement at the start of the season for Milton freshman Kyler Crawford. His dad, Bobby, is one of just 12 four-time state champions in PIAA history, and while that kind of expectation hadn’t been heaped upon Kyler’s shoulders, it was thought he could be a key component for the Black Panthers.

But his season was derailed before it even started when he broke his wrist during the team’s preseason wrestleoffs. The 106-pounder finally made his debut Wednesday night, picking up a crucial fall for Milton to nearly help it pull the upset against Warrior Run.

“We didn’t know if we were going to wrestle him or not. Zane (Neaus) has done a fantastic job for us all season there,” Milton head coach Josh Anspach said. “But Kyler said he wanted to go. We let him loose and he performed. He went out and dominated the match.”

Crawford didn’t wrestle in Milton’s dual against Shamokin on Thursday night. Anspach said they were going to monitor the soreness in Crawford’s wrist and just how he was feeling following his first bout of the season.

Crawford has been running since doctors cleared him to do so to make sure he was in capable shape for when he was able to get back on the mat. But even that clearance to run took four or five weeks after the injury because the break he sustained was so severe.

Anspach said the team will figure out over the next couple weeks what direction they’ll go at 106 pounds for the postseason, but that Crawford is hoping to wrestle off for the spot.

“He’s been picking it up in the room in the last couple weeks,” Anspach said. “Obviously he’s not in wrestling shape yet. But I told him if your goal is to wrestle off for the postseason, there’s no better way to get in wrestling shape than to wrestle.”

WRESTLER OF THE WEEK

Dan Beckley, Montgomery, 195 pounds

Montgomery didn’t have a whole lot to be excited about in its trip to Wyalusing for the first round of the District 4 Duals. But one of the three bouts it won was an impressive victory for Beckley. The junior had just four wins on the season prior to Wednesday’s match, but he pulled out his best win of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Rams’ Jackson Chilson. Chilson is a 21-win wrestler who was ranked in the top 10 at 220 pounds in the Northeast Region before making the drop to 195 on Wednesday. The win was the first six-minute victory of the season for Beckley, who had previously picked up a pair of falls and a forfeit.

Mitch Rupert covers wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.

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