HERSHEY — If handled properly, the revenge factor can be a powerful motivator in sports — and that was certainly the case for the Brookville wrestling team Thursday in Hershey.
For the second straight year, the District 9 champion Raiders opened the PIAA Class AA Team Championships against Northern Lebanon, the third-place team from District 4.
A year ago, Northern Lebanon slipped past Brookville, 29-27, on its way to reaching the state finals. The Vikings weren’t so lucky Thursday as Brookville came out on the winning end, 39-28, to reach today’s state quarterfinals against Southern Columbia.
Brookville won eight of the 14 bouts — the same number the Vikings won a year ago — while finishing with a 15-10 edge in bonus points.
“We had a bit of a chip on our shoulder. This is the team that knocked us off last year and kind of crushed some kids dreams of maybe being back in the finals again,” said Brookville coach Dave Klepfer. “The big focal point (this year) was not to look past anyone and be ready to roll, and I thought we wrestled a really solid dual meet.”
Brookville captured a handful of key wins on the day, including a first-period pin by heavyweight Colby Whitehill, who flipped the outcome of one of the two rematches on the mat from a year ago.
Viking Kye Sonnen edged Whitehill, 2-0, in their heavyweight bout in 2017, but that matchup was all Whitehill on Thursday. The Raider took down Sonnen just 17 seconds into the bout and never let the Viking up.
Whitehill eventually turned Sonnen on his back and secured the fall in 1:34 to put the Raiders up 39-22 and seal the Raiders’ victory with one bout remaining.
“That kid (Sonnen) beat us last year 2-0,” said Klepfer. “Obviously, Colby is a different wrestler this year, but that’s one he definitely had marked on his calendar.”
In the other rematch, Viking Kyler Anspach beat Parker Fleming by the same score (11-5) as last year.
Up next for the Raiders is a rematch with Southern Columbia. The Tigers beat Brookville, 33-29, in the consolation finals last year in Hershey.
“That’s going to be a big matchup,” said Klepfer of facing the Tigers. “They get tougher as you go at this tournament, that’s for sure. But, we’re excited about that opportunity.
“They beat us last year for third in a real tight dual. We feel like we can get in there and scrap in eight or nine bouts, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The winner of today’s quarterfinal matchup will keep alive their dream of winning a state team title, while the loser will be forced to battle back through the losers’ bracket like both teams did a year ago.