HERSHEY — The Southern Columbia and Reynolds wrestling teams both entered Giant Center on Saturday looking for three.
The Raiders were looking to get their third consecutive Class 2A team title. The Tigers were hoping for their third PIAA team title of the school year.
Fate sided with Reynolds.
The favored Raiders struck gold with a 31-23 win over Southern, using several close bout victories and doing an admirable job of keeping bonus points to a minimum to claim the crown.
Southern head coach Jerry Marks said there were ways for the Tigers to win the match, but it came down to three specific weights, all of which went Reynolds’ way.
“There were some toss-up matches and unfortunately all of them went their way,” he said. “Second is not what we wanted. We wrestled well against Chestnut Ridge and Brookville. We’ll regroup, go back home, lick our wounds and get back to work.”
Reynolds wrestlers showed intelligence on the mat, wrestling defensively when necessary and taking stalling warnings and deductions in matches that could have ended with pins. The strategy resulted in both Gaige and Gavin Garcia not picking up falls during their bouts.
“Bonus points are the key to any of these matches down here. We tell our kids that all the time,” Marks said. “(Reynolds is) well coached and it showed. You don’t win 10 state dual meet championships without having a good coach. Kudos to Reynolds — they did a phenomenal job.”
Marks said the end result of the match stings, especially for the wrestlers, but also for the coaching staff and fans.
“This is such a grind,” he said of the journey. “We’re not going back into the mat room until Tuesday, so we’ll take two days off and relax a little bit. Our goal since we lost last year was to come down here and win. It’s tough. We’ll just get back to it now.”
Marks complimented his team’s seniors for their dedication to the program as it continues to work towards its first gold at team duals.
“It was the seniors’ last chance. They accomplished something great with two silver medals here and we thank them for their contributions to the team.”
Sophomore Patrick Edmondson said it is tough to see the upperclassmen torn up over the team’s loss.
“Last year it was terrible because I felt like I could do more,” he explained. “It’s tough on those guys. They’re not going to get another chance and it’s hard to see.”
But Edmondson knows the team must now move on.
“Last year, I had the name of the kid who beat me in my head all year. You use it as motivation. I went back and trained harder than I think I’ve ever trained,” he said. “We have to come back Tuesday with fresh minds, win a sectional title and go on from there. We have to forget about this until next season.”
For the entire trip in Hershey, the Tigers ended each team meeting by gathering in a circle, putting their hands in the center and shouting “state champs.”
Following an emotional talk from Marks after earning silver, the squad didn’t break routine.