DuBOIS — On a day where the Brookville Raiders won their fifth straight District 9 Class AA Dual Meet title and had their 10th wrestler in the last five years reach 100 career wins, perhaps the most uplifting story of Saturday was 132-pound sophomore Wyatt Kulik.
Sporting a 6-19 record going into the day with three of those wins via forfeit, Kulik went 2-0 and notched a pin in the Raiders’ 51-18 rout of Brockway in the finals.
Kulik was majored 16-8 by the Rovers’ Noah Bash during their regular-season matchup back on Jan. 18. This time around, Kulik reversed Bash for a 3-2 lead and pinned him with seven seconds left in the second period.
It was one of two bouts the Raiders avenged from their 42-23 win over the Rovers the first time around and for a team that came in as solid favorites to win it all again, avenging losses as the season goes along is big on the checklist.
“It was a big focal point,” said Raiders head coach Dave Klepfer, who was holding another championship plaque afterward. “We knew there were five or six close ones in the last one and we lost a couple and won a couple. But we just focused a lot on those four or five individual guys.
“I’ve been telling Wyatt for a couple weeks now that he’s going to beat that kid who majored him. He’s a sophomore who’s had a rough go of it this year, but he works through everything with a good attitude and I kept telling him that he’d work his way out of this hole and something will happen for you coming down the stretch. I told him he could beat this kid. Just believe it. You’re going to beat him.”
Braden MacBeth also avenged a 5-3 loss to Eric Johnson at 170 by beating him by the same score to start the match, which sparked the Raiders to a 27-6 lead after five wins in the first six bouts.
“That was a big match at the time,” Klepfer said. “We talked about that it was on him to get us off to a good start. He’s one of our leaders. He’s been around awhile and is doing the right things. It worked out for him today. it was another big reversal.”
The Raiders also got pins from newly-minted 100-win senior Xavier Molnar at 195 pounds, Tyler Cook at 220, Colby Whitehill at heavyweight, Cayden Walter at 106 and Kai Sorbin at 126. Jacob Cable, who lost to the Rovers in the first matchup, won a 3-1 decision at 145. With the match already decided, the Rovers forfeited to the Raiders’ Caleb Hetrick at 152.
Similar to their regular-season matchup won by Walter, 9-7 in sudden victory, over Morelli at 106, the two locked into another classic struggle that saw Morelli jump on Walter early with a five-point move.
Walter eventually tied it and went ahead 10-7 with a five-pointer of his own in the third period and after reversing Morelli for a 12-11 lead in the final moments, he pinned Morelli with 12 second left.
“We just dug ourselves a big hole,” Klepfer said. “Both kids got after it and it was a good match. I just thought we dug ourselves a 5-0 hole early and that’s tough to do against good kids. Cayden is one of those guys you cannot teach what he has and he just keeps coming at you for however long that clock is ticking. He just stayed after it and was hungrier than the other kid at the end. That was the difference.”
That took much of the air out of any Rovers’ upset hopes, giving the Raiders their 27-6 lead. Kulik’s pin clinched the five-peat.
“(Brockway) is a talented team, have good kids and are well-coached,” said Klepfer, whose team started the day with a 60-10 rout of Port Allegany in the semifinals. “A big goal of theirs was to knock us off this year. I thought we put together two of our better dual meets of the year today. I just told them that this all goes back to our training situation, the way the guys work in the room.
“Some said it was easy doing this and I said it’s not easy because they put in piles of work in the practice room. It may seem easy out there but the hard part is inside our doors eight, nine months a year and I’m real proud of our group. I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time and that’s you have to be doing this time of the year.”
In Molnar’s first-period pin of Dalton Distrola in the Port Allegany opener, he became the third Raider this year to reach 100 career wins — Hetrick and Cook preceded him — and 17th overall. Senior Kai Sorbin won twice Saturday to raise his career total to 92.
The Rovers, meanwhile, managed to earn their first trip to states since 2003. It was short-lived, however, with a 51-18 loss at Muncy in Monday’s preliminary round.
“We had 10 team goals and one of them was top two in District 9 and our other goal is to qualify to wrestle in Hershey,” Rovers head coach Eric Grecco said after Saturday’s loss in the final. “It’s a tough goal, but we’re super-proud of what these kids were able to accomplish. They stuck together as a team. We’re really happy. For 15 years to not reach the state tournament, we’re happy to end that drought.
“With Brookville, we were hoping to compete a little bit better but Brookville came out firing and credit to them. We’ll try to work and improve and get them back at (individual) districts.”
While the Raiders routed Port Allegany, Brockway advanced to the finals with a 40-30 win over Ridgway.
The quarterfinal round had Ridgway beating Redbank Valley, 37-26, and Port Allegany ousting Johnsonburg, 34-29.
In the consolation final, Ridgway beat Port Allegany 41-30, but had to have Brockway beat Brookville for a true-second match to happen since Ridgway lost to Brockway in the semifinals.