SHARON — After a one-year hiatus, the Redbank Valley Bulldogs wrestling team has a state qualifier.
Junior Mason Songer, one of six Bulldogs at last weekend’s Class 2A Northwest Regional at Sharon High School, advanced to this week’s PIAA Championships in Hershey with a fourth-place finish at 113 pounds.
He’ll open in the preliminary round Thursday against Northern Lebanon senior Kyler Anspach (34-17), the Southeast Region’s sixth-place finisher. Both wrestlers were unranked by www.papowerwrestling.com going into regionals.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Songer, now 27-13 after his Sharon bouts. “It’s my first year qualifying for states and my second here at regionals. It’s just overwhelming how crazy-excited you get for going to states. It’s nothing else to say, wow.”
Four preliminary bouts are in each of the 14-weight classes followed by eight first-round matchups. In Class AA, preliminary bouts followed by the first round begin at 9 a.m. After that are the first-round consolation bouts at 1:15 p.m.
Friday, quarterfinals and second-round consolations start at 9 a.m. Third-round consolations begin at 11:45 a.m. Later, the semifinals start at 7:30 p.m. with fourth- and fifth-round consolation bouts going at 7:30 and 9 p.m. respectively.
All of that sets up Saturday’s medal round — 7th-, 5th-, and 3rd-place bouts along with the championship bout going on simultaneously weight-by-weight starting at 2 p.m.
Follow the tournament on-line at piaa.org and look for the wrestling page links to live tournament results.
Songer got a taste of states as a spectator during the team dual tournament.
“I went to team states to see team states and how crazy it was and it made me want to go down even more,” Songer said. “I was in the bleachers last year and this year and being down on that floor this year is going to be crazy.”
Anspach wrestles for last year’s state runner-up dual team in Northern Lebanon, which lost 39-28 to Brookville in this year’s tournament. Anspach beat Raiders sophomore Parker Fleming 11-5 in their 113-pound bout to start the match.
“Last year, I was a match away and lost to a kid who finished fifth in the state. It kind of motivated me for this year, so I was practicing harder trying to be able to qualify but also to be in the top eight at states,” Songer said. “I’ll keep pushing myself this week to get every ounce that I can and keep pushing.”
Songer’s in a deep bracket that has eight state qualifiers, four of them returning state medalists from last year led by top-ranked Beau Bayless of Reynolds. Bayless, last year’s state champion at 106, beat Curwensville’s Blake Passarelli, 5-2, in the regional finals. He’s seeking his third state medal.
The Songer-Anspach advances to the first round against No. 3 Nate Smith, a sophomore from Bishop McDevitt who was fifth at 106 last year.
Bayless is on the same side of the bracket as Songer, Anspach and Smith but wouldn’t be a foe until the semifinals. No. 2 Wyatt Lutz of Montoursville, No. 4 Jon Consorti of Wilson Area and No. 5 Josh Boozel of Mount Union are on the other side of the bracket as is the Tide’s Passarelli, who makes his third trip to Hershey.
“It’s huge and Mason has another year,” Bulldogs head coach Mike Kundick said. “He was here last year and was close. This year, he makes it to Hershey and next year who knows what’s going to happen. It’s big.”
Songer was amidst a talented lightweight lineup in the room for the Bulldogs in freshman Trenten Rupp, sophomore Ethan Wiant, and juniors Brayden Altobelli and Hunter Martz. Banging around with them all season paid off in the end.
“Our lower lineup is pretty stacked actually and most of our wins we won with our lightweights,” Songer said. “I don’t know how many times matches came down to me or Brayden or someone like that. They’re the key to how I was wrestling this weekend, because they keep pushing me. And I push back as much as I can to help them. That’s such a key component to how I’ve been wrestling.”
At Sharon, Songer was busy with a 3-2 record. In the preliminary round last Friday night, he opened with a 10-4 decision over Cambridge Springs’ Ayden Miller. Then he dropped a 10-0 major decision to eventual champion Bayless of Reynolds.
Saturday in the consolation bracket, Songer started with an 8-0 major over Mercer’s Carson Filer then a 6-5 decision over D9 runner-up Reese Vollmer of Port Allegany.
In the consolation semifinals with a state berth at stake against Titusville’s No. 9 Hunter Thompson, Songer wound up advancing because of an injury to Thompson with 50 seconds left in the second period.
Thompson suffered an apparent concussion when his head hit the floor when both wrestlers flew off the mat on a flurry.
“He was coming out for one and faced him,” Kundick said. “Thompson was pushing into him and he just threw him. He went out of bounds and I don’t know what happened. … He didn’t want to win like that. He’s a good, solid wrestler and you don’t want to see anyone get hurt. It’s unfortunate, but those things happen in this sport.”
It took Songer a little bit to get through the emotions of advancing to states the way he did.
“I like to throw and be hands on and throwing a lot. I just came out, stood around, turned into him and tried to get at least one point. Whenever I went to roll through to go for a throw, I rolled through and he fell out of bounds and hit his head or something,” Songer said.
“I went into the trainer’s room and talked to him and he and his parents knew I didn’t do it intentionally. I’m OK with it now. I still didn’t want to end up hurting anyone though,” he added.
In the third-place bout against a familiar opponent, Songer dropped a third straight 1-0 decision to Oswayo Valley’s Dylan Pesock. He beat Songer by the same score twice at districts, including the third-place bout and he did it again in Sharon.
“He just couldn’t get out,” Kundick said. “He moved well on his feet, he moved and shot and (Pesock) was warned for stalling and Mason took down and he didn’t get out. He didn’t get any more stalling calls against him. That’s just it, plain and simple.”
Songer knows it’s a matchup problem he’ll have to conquer eventually.
“I need to learn to get out of legs,” Songer said. “That’s what I struggle with being short. They want to throw legs and I need to throw them off when they come in and that’s what have problems with.”