HERSHEY — Southern Columbia’s wrestling program still isn’t where it wants to be but the Tigers nonetheless are where almost every other AA school in the state would like to be.
The Tigers continued their recent climb up the ranks of the state’s wrestling powerhouses this weekend with a second-place finish and a school record five placewinners, led by two-time state champion Jaret Lane, at the PIAA Class AA state championships at the Giant Center.
The Tigers finished second to Reynolds, the team that beat them for the state team duals title andwhich has won nine team titles in addition to five duals crowns. Southern had 90 points and Reynolds 120. In addition, head coach Jerry Marks was named AA Coach of the Year.
“That’s not my award; that’s the program’s award,” Marks said after Gaige Garcia, the last of Southern’s competitors yesterday, earned third place at 182 pounds with a 36-second pin of Camp Hill’s Luca Colestock. “It’s the staff’s award and the team’s award. I’m just humbled by it.”
Marks said the award was also a sign of the respect the programwas earning, especially from schools and coaches from western Pennsylvania who otherwise might not be familiar with the Tigers. In fact, Southern’s contingent and Reynolds’ spent most of the tournament together in the paddock area where wrestlers get ready for their bouts.
“Casey Taylor (Reynolds head coach) said they’ve known we’ve been coming for some time now and he’s been preaching to their kids that they have to be on their ‘A’ game,” Marks said. “But we can’t be complacent. We have to keep working and improving on things.
“It all startswith the elementary and junior high programs. About seven years ago we got together coaches who had a lot passion. The numbers were so low that we just started promoting Southern Columbia wrestling and we’ve gotten a lot of response.”
Besides Lane and Garcia, freshman Patrick Edmondson (113), senior Connor Fulmer (285) and sophomore Cade Linn (152) earned medals. Edmondson and Fulmer were each sixth, Linn seventh.
“We just missed having seven medals, too,” Marks said. “The two guys that didn’t (170-pounder Anthony Scicchitano and 195-pounder Lear Quinton) both lost close matchesin the bouts that would have gotten them medals.”
The underclassmen who medaled all had their sights set on the future as well.
Garcia, who finished the season 45-3, felt he should have been in the final and took it out on Colestock with a quick pin.
“I’m going to do a lot more wrestling in the offseason,” the sophomore said. “I’m going to do some freestyle, some Greco-Roman, get in the room and do more lifting. Last year I kind of concentrated on track but I probably have to do a lotmore offseason work to get to the top of the podium.”
Edmondson (44-11) had the busiest tournament for Southern. The freshman went 4-2 and although he was beaten soundly for fifth by fellow District Four wrestler Wyatt Lutz of Montoursville, a senior, 11-2, he saw lots to be encouraged by.
“Wyatt just has a little too much for me,” Edmondson said. “But I had two pins and lost to (Reynolds’) Beau Bayless, a defending state champion, by a point. Bayless beat me 7-4 in the duals and he completely changed his styleto wrestle me this time. He was a lot more careful. I feel I could have wrestled McMillen (runnerup Brock McMillen) better (in the first round). I kind of expected to be on the podium here but maybe seventh or eighth. There were a lot of 11th and 12th graders in the bracket so this tells me I should be on top of the podium.”
Fulmer didn’t wrestle Saturday after suffering a concussion in Friday’s consolation round against Valley’s David Schuffert and was awarded sixth place. He finished the season 47-7.
Linn(42-11) dominated Bermudian Springs’ Darren Beall 9-1 in the seventh place bout at 152 to complete a tournament in which he won a bout by an opponent pinning himself and lost to the eventual champion, Frazier sophomore Thayne Lawrence.
“I’m an up and down wrestler,” Linn said. “My coaches kind of yell at me because my style is to make you come to me. The guy today kind of opened up more and I was able to do more things. I lost to a tough kid (Lawrence) but I also lost to a guy (Juniata’s Tyler Wileman) I tech falled at the New Oxford Tournament.”