HERSHEY — Success breeds success.
It’s a mantra that has served the Brookville wrestling program well and helped turned the Raiders into a Class AA state power, especially amongst public schools.
So, it should have been no surprise to see a Brookville wrestler competing for a state title Saturday afternoon inside the Giant Center at the PIAA Championships.
This time it was senior Jackson Zimmerman who reached the big stage in Hershey, marking the fifth year in a row Brookville had a finalist and eighth time in the last 10. He followed in the footsteps of former teammates Colby Whitehill, Nathan Taylor and Owen Reinsel, who made the finals during Zimmerman’s first three years at the varsity level.
Whitehill and Taylor captured back-to-back state titles at heavyweight in 2020 and 2021, respectively, while Reinsel won silver at 132. Whitehill, a two-time gold medalist, was also on the floor of the Giant Center all weekend. He now serves as an assistant coach at Brockway and helped lead Rovers Weston Pisarchick (114) and Gavin Thompson (285) to third and fifth-palce medals.
Unfortunately for Zimmerman (38-5), he ran into two-time defending state champion Rune Lawrence (45-3), a junior from Frazier, in the 189-pound finals and had to settle for silver for his first PIAA medal in his second trip to Hershey. The Raider exceeded “outsider” expectations, as papowerwrestling.com had him ranked fifth entering the tournament.
Lawrence pinned the Raider in 2:42, his third fall in four matches at states, to capture his third gold medal, but Zimmerman have Lawrence all he could hand in the first period.
Lawrence opened the scoring on a takedown 27 seconds in and went to work on top. Zimmerman fought the Commodore hard, though, and reversed Lawrence to even things at 2-2 with 34 seconds left in the period.
The Commodore countered with an escape before taking down Zimmerman with nine seconds left to lead 5-2 after two minutes. Lawrence then chose neutral in the second and capitalized on that decision as he took down Zimmerman nine seconds into the period before working to pin him in 2:42 — his 33rd fall of the season.
The only other wrestler to make it out of the first period against Lawrence at states was Saucon Valley senior Jacob Jones, who Lawrence edged 1-0 in the quarterfinals in a rematch of last year’s 172-pound state finals which Lawrence won via fall. The Commodore reached the finals by pinning General McLane’s Magnus Lloyd in 55 seconds in the semifinals.
Lawrence is now 112-7 in three years as he looks to become a rare four-time state champion next season.
As for Zimmerman, his postseason run put an exclamation point on what was the best year of his Raiders’ career. He won his first District 9 and Northwest Regional crowns along the way, then secured his first state medal Friday morning when he decked Mounty Union’s Josh Ryan in the quarterfinals.
He followed that up with a huge 4-1 win Friday night against Bishop McDevitt senior Jake Gilfoil in the semifinals to punch his ticket to the finals. Gilfoil (39-6), a three-time qualifier, was ranked in the state coming and sandwiched between Lawrence and Jones. Gilfoil wound up third and Jones fifth.
“I’m super happy,” said Zimmerman. “I accomplished one of my dreams making the state finals, so now I’m excited for college. He (Lawrence) is a human and people make mistakes, so I was going out there to fight him and see what I could do. Then he got on top of me with those wings and he’s tough.
“It was awesome to make the finals and continue our tradition. Those guys (recent finalists) are guys I’ve looked up to my entire wrestling career, and now I’m kind of one of those guys. So, I’m super happy about that.”
“He really had a fantastic finish,” said Brookville coach Dave Klepfer. “I think to even make it to this arena is something in itself, but to get down here and put a run on and roll into the finals against one of arguably the best kids in the United States is just a fantastic finish for him.
“He deserves everything he got. He works extremely hard and did all the right things. He was a great teammate and great captain, and those are the types of kids who deserve to be here doing the things he did. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
As for being the program’s decade-plus run of success at the state level pushing kids to keep it going, Klepfer said, “I’d like think that’s what’s going on, and I hope that’s what’s going on. Our young kids get to see the older kids have success through lots of hard work, dedication and committment.
“I think if they understand at a young age and put their head down and get to work ... the old saying goes success breeds success, and I just hope we can keep things going here. When you got guys like Jackson Zimmerman being the example for our younger guys, I feel good about our future.
“I’m just really happy for him and his family. It couldn’t have happened to a better kid and a better family.”
Zimmerman finished his career with a 90-25 record.