BROOKVILLE — Knowing it wouldn’t be easy this year, Brookville Raiders head coach Dave Klepfer had a very satisfied look on his face after his team copped another District 9 Class AA Dual Meet title.
Last Saturday at DuBois Area High School, the Raiders held off Brockway 32-29 in the semifinals, then pulled away from Port Allegany in the finals for a 45-21 win. It’s six championships in a row now for the Raiders, who take a 16-2 record into Thursday’s state opener against Lake Lehman.
The Raiders, ranked eighth in the latest papowerwrestling.com state dual rankings, face off against the District 2 champions at Giant Center starting at 1 p.m. Lake Lehman is unranked.
“We’ll worry about it when we get there,” Klepfer said. “We’ve gone down there ranked 2-3 in the state and come home with nothing. I’ve been preaching it all year long to the kids. Forget about the rankings. Take offense they have us seventh or eighth or whatever we are. Maybe we’re better. We’ll know when we get there and I’m happy to get the opportunity. I’m real happy we’re getting 19 guys on that floor, the whole team.”
But the D9 title? It’s wasn’t the same power-packed lineup from title teams in the past. Klepfer knew that from the beginning and the team met his challenge.
“I guess the word that come to mind is work,” he said. “They worked extremely hard. I’m not just talking about the last couple of months. We have some guys who lead our team and put a lot of extra work in, but it was work.”
He challenged his Raiders with some extra work at the outset.
“Saturday practices have not been typical for us, but this hasn’t been the team we’ve had in past years,” Klepfer said. “I told them at the beginning of the year that we’ll have to do more work than we normally do because we’re not that type of team. They embraced it. No one said anything, at least to me, and they all showed up and put the work in. It’s a huge credit to them. 19 guys who put in a lot of work.”
Against the Gators, the Raiders faced a team featuring three state-ranked wrestlers at 106, 113 and 126. With the match starting at 106, Klepfer felt they needed to go 2-3 in those bouts.
“I felt if we won two of the first five weights, I felt we would be in pretty good shape and not only did we win two of them, both were pins,” Klepfer said.
The Raiders actually won convincingly in a battle of state-ranked wrestlers at 106 where freshman Owen Reinsel, ranked 14th, tore up returning state qualifier and No. 10-ranked Bryent Johnson, pinning him in 1:37.
“You start talking about the first bout with two state ranked wrestlers and we come away with a pin, that’s impressive,” Klepfer said. “He’s a kid who’s driven, knows what he wants and works extremely hard for it. He’s extremely tough on top and when he gets on top, it’s tough.”
Port Allegany then won three straight. No. 18 Reese Vollmer decisioned Cayden Walter 5-2 at 113 and Isaiah Caden decked Josh Popson in the first period at 120 and No. 21 Braedon Johnson decisioned Parker Fleming 4-1 at 126 to give the Gators a 12-6 lead.
Cabe Park pinned Eli Petruzzi in the third period at 132 to get the Raiders back to 12-12
“As crazy as it sounds, I felt pretty good after Cabe won, but when Wyatt won after that, I felt really good because i knew what we had coming up top,” Klepfer said.
Kulik’s third-period reversal of Montgomery Tanner gave him a 6-5 win at 145. The Gators then took their last lead of the match at 18-15 when Isaac Smoker pinned Cody Hetrick in the second period at 145.
From there, the Raiders won six of the final seven bouts to seal the title, starting appropriately enough with some late-bout heroics from Jacob Cable at 152.
Cable found himself trailing Alex Sanderson 5-3 late in the third period, but after a scramble at the edge of the mat, Cable came up with a five-point move in the waning seconds of regulation for an 8-5 win.
“It was Jacob wrestling and moving and creating scrambles and that’s what it was,” Klepfer said. “That’s what happens when you get moving and create motion and scrambles, I feel pretty good about our guys coming out on top most of the time because we spend a lot of time doing that stuff. It was a case of a senior not wanting to go out like that. Jacob Cable just said I’m going to keep wrestling and see what happens and he scrambled into a five-point move. Credit to him.”
Wyatt Griffin pinned Tara Tanaka at 160, Elliot Park pinned Ethan DeBockler at 170 and Braden MacBeth pinned Derek Kallenborn at 182 to put the Raiders up 36-18. Nathan Taylor’s 8-1 decision over Dalton Distrola at 195 clinched the title with two bouts remaining.
The Gators’ last win came from Justin Young’s 10-6 win over Tanner LaBenne at 220. Colby Whitehill notched a forfeit win at heavyweight to set the final score.
“We wrestled for six minutes in every bout, not 5:50, not four, but six minutes,” Klepfer said. “I was happy with the results because of that. Jacob Cable is a prime example. He was losing and just kept wrestling. I guess the words that come to mind is that we earned it. We put the work in and we had a Saturday practice every Saturday this year.”
Port Allegany knocked off Redbank Valley, 35-26, in the other semifinal matchup to earn a shot at the Raiders. It was Port’s first finals appearance since losing to Ridgway three straight years from 2008-10.
The Gators, now combined with Smethport in a co-operative setup, won back-to-back titles in 2005-06.
It’s the seventh title in eight years for the Raiders, who have won 10 overall. Their first three came in the first year of the dual meet setup in 1999 when they won the PIAA title and the other two were in 2001 and 2004.
In the Raiders’ first matchup in the semifinals:
Brookville 32, Brockway 29
The Raiders won the rematch in a tight one after beating the Rovers 38-22 earlier in January. This time around, the Raiders and Rovers split the 14 bouts at 7-7, but the Raiders notched bonus points in four wins — forfeit wins at 106 and 170, a pin from Colby Whitehill at heavyweight and Cabe Park’s technical fall at 126.
But still, it was a down-to-the-wire battle as the teams were knotted at 20-20 with five bouts left. Griffin led wire to wire and nearly scored bonus points in a 10-5 decision over Andrew Hickman at 160 to give the Raiders the lead for good. The Rovers forfeited to Cole LaBenne at 170 to put the Raiders up 29-20.
In a showdown at 182, the Raiders bumped up No. 20-ranked Elliot Park from 170 to face No. 3-ranked Garrett McClintick, who pinned and majored him last year in two meetings.
This one went down to the wire. Park, giving up about 10 pounds and several inches in height, reversed McClintick for a 4-3 lead with under 40 seconds left in regulation. Trying to control McClintick in the final seconds, Park was hit with a stalling point to send the bout into overtime.
McClintick countered a Park shot attempt with five seconds left in the 60-second takedown period for a 6-4 win, but the Rovers needed bonus points in that one.
“Elliot wrestled really smart and well, and a lot of people are probably surprised because he lost to him twice last year,” Klepfer said. “But it’s no surprise to me. Elliot was wresting in July in Fargo. It’s a match we’d like to have back, that’s for sure, to be called for stalling with two seconds left, that’s a tough way to go into OT. That’s what was called and I felt we were as good today. It just didn’t work out.”
The Raiders’ clincher came at 195 when Braden MacBeth reversed a 1-0 loss to Eric Johnson in their first meeting with a 4-3 win. MacBeth took down Johnson to break a 2-2 tie with under 40 seconds left and Johnson escaped late to set the final.
Up nine with one bout left, the Raiders forfeited to Justin Smith at 220 to set the final.
The Raiders also got a win from Cody Hetrick at 145. He downed Linkin Nichols 4-1 to put the Raiders up 20-17.
“We needed it at the time,” Klepfer said. “It was a very solid win and he has turned the corner the past two or three weeks. He’s a different kid now and I’m happy for him. He works really, really hard.”
For Brockway, Mark Palmer avenged his pin against Cayden Walter in their first 113-pound matchup with a 6-4 win. Dom Inzana pinned Josh Popson at 120, Anthony Glasl slapped a 16-1 technical fall on Parker Fleming at 132, Santino Inzana decisioned Kulik 5-2 at 138 and Noah Bash edged Cable 4-2 at 152.