Muncy confident as it enters team championships

MUNCY — The circumstances around Muncy’s last trip to the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships were vastly different than the ones the Indians face this year.

Back in 2011, Muncy was without one starter for academic reasons and went into the tournament forfeiting a pair of weights. Its stay in the tournament didn’t last very long, just two lopsided losses to Huntingdon and Boiling Springs.

The feeling around this year’s Muncy team is much different, though. It picked up its first state duals win in program history with a preliminary-round win over Brockway on Monday night. And now it’s entering the tournament with not only a full lineup, but a full lineup which has garnered attention statewide.

“I had a couple real hard-nosed kids back when we had Zack (Strickland) and Ryan (Hembury). It doesn’t come any tougher than those guys,” Muncy coach Denny Harer said. “But as a group, this team has a little bit more all the way through.”

Just look at how the Indians have twice stood toe-to-toe with Southern Columbia, the No. 2-ranked team in the state and a presumed favorite this week to at least be in the final of the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships. Never have any of the wrestlers in the Muncy lineup backed down. Never have they felt they weren’t on par with one of the deepest and most-talented teams District 4 has ever produced.

Muncy feels it’s the same caliber of team, and two losses to the Tigers haven’t done anything to dissuade this group of that. So it enters today’s first round of the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships against District 7 champion Burrell with confidence and a hunger to prove just where it stands on a statewide level.

“All those teams down there are going to be tough just like us,” Muncy’s Coleman Good said following Monday’s win over Brockway. “It’s a tough road there and it’s going to be a tough road to make things happen, but we expect the best from everyone. We don’t overlook anyone and we don’t back down from anyone. We’re going to go wrestle and see what happens.”

Both Muncy and Southern Columbia are going to be fighting history if either plans to reach its goal of reaching the state final. No District 4 team has reached the state duals final since Bloomsburg won the Class AA championship in 2004. And since District 4 started sending three teams to the state tournament in 2013, it has never had two teams place in the top four in any state tournament.

But that’s exactly what both teams will be trying to do this weekend. The only team ranked ahead of Southern Columbia by is defending state champion Reynolds. Muncy has held steadily all season with its No. 6 ranking.

The Indians’ first-round opponent, Burrell, is the 12-time defending Class AA District 7 champion and is ranked eighth. Should Muncy win, it would likely face fifth-ranked Saucon Valley in the quarterfinals with Reynolds likely waiting in the semifinals.

But all of that is white noise to the Indians at this point. Even after another tough defeat at the hands of Southern Columbia on Saturday, Muncy is still hoping for Round 3 against the Tigers potentially in the state final.

It’s something the Indians feel like they’re prepared for. The schedule was ramped up slightly this year with the addition of the King of the Mountain on the second weekend of the season. Then there was the annual trip to the Zephyr Duals where Muncy took a loss to Class AAA state-ranked Bethlehem Liberty. And then there was the late-season test against Southern Columbia in which is sent shockwaves throughout the PIAA when the Tigers needed a last-bout fall from state champion Jaret Lane to defeat Muncy.

It has the rankings-makers believing as picked Muncy to advance to the state semifinals in its predictions earlier this week. But Muncy believes its toughness and grit have been built partially by the intensity of the practice room, where there’s enough competition to make every day a fight just to compete.

“We try to carry over what we do in the practice room to the matches,” Harer said. “We have brawls in the room. Our kids have good workout partners, so you’re not going to get anybody who’s tougher. So we tell our kids to go out and pick a fight and win a fight.”

This year’s incarnation of Muncy wrestling feels better prepared to handle the rigors of the state tournament than the 2011 team. Members of this team have done what’s necessary to prepare themselves for this weekend. All that’s left is to go out and prove what they already know, which is that the Indians are a force to be reckoned with.

“We’ve been building our program, and the coaches have done a great job with that over the years,” Good said. “Some of us were talking about how we’ve watched our older siblings and older guys from Muncy wrestling at Milton (for District 4 Duals) at the end of the year and none of them ever make it out and we’ve never won a match at states. But this is the year to do it. So we’re all pressing to accomplish that.”