Punxsy grapplers find success at high caliber tourney
NEW OXFORD — Traveling across the state to a top-tier tournament can be intimidating for young wrestlers, but for the Punxsutawney Chucks, it was an opportunity to show their skills in front of some of the best teams in the states.
Twelve Chucks traveled Friday and Saturday to New Oxford, and six of them walked away with medals.
"Half of the guys that participated made the medal rounds," Chucks head coach Eric Eddy said. "They performed well, and the losses we suffered were usually only to kids that should've beaten us."
The star of the New Oxford Tournament was Seth Spack, who placed third overall at 152 pounds. He dropped a pin to Jordan Stouch, of Gettysburg. During the match, he was winning 4-1 before making a mistake and being turned to his back.
According to Eddy, Spack attempted to make a big move at the end, but it wasn't enough, and he was pinned.
"That was one of those cases where he made one mistake," Eddy said. "That's the good thing about the competition at that tournament: You don't get too many opportunities to make mistakes. ... In order to do well, you have to wrestle well."
But Spack wrestled well on his way back through the bracket, beating Tyler Miller, of Spring Grove, due to an injury default. He then earned a 1-0 decision over JP Kramer, of Conestoga Valley, to take third place.
"He did a good job all weekend," Eddy said. "He wrestled real smart, and he looks comfortable."
Another powerhouse for Punxsy was Neko Cappella at 132 pounds. Cappella earned fourth place overall in his bracket. During the championship round, Capella knocked off Joel Zeppa, of New Oxford, 11-7, before falling to Daniel King, of Susquehanna Township.
In the third-place bracket, Capella earned a win over Eric Green, of Plum, 3-2, before ultimately falling to Cody Kievman, of Blue Mountain, to settle for fourth place.
"His weight class was a real grind; it was a lot of close matches," Eddy said. "To get fourth in that bracket was an accomplishment because there's a good chance all three of the guys ahead of him will be on the podium at states. It was a really high-level competition, and he did a good job battling through it."
Another medal came at 113 pounds with Joel Bowers earning fifth place. Bowers earned a pin fall victory over Trevor Corl, of Bellefonte, in 2:52, before falling. But he earned a forfeit victory over Kyle Davis, of Southern, to win the fifth-place medal.
"Joel Bowers looked real solid both days," Eddy said. "He wrestled some tough kids and wrestled some real good matches."
At 126 pounds, Josh Shuckers earned the sixth-place glory, notching a major decision over Caleb Shively, of Philipsburg-Osceola, 12-2, before being pinned by Nate Musser, of Conestoga Valley.
"Josh Shuckers also performed real well," Eddy said. "There are still some things we're working on with everybody, but Josh made some big improvements this weekend with some of the things he's been working on."
Carl Langley and Josh Neal also earned fifth-place medals at 170 and 182, respectively.
"I was real happy with them," Eddy said. "They wrestled some top level competition, and they competed really well."
Langley earned fifth with a 12-5 decision over Hunter Delhi, of Pleasant Valley, while Neal won his by forfeit against Derek Matonti, of West Chester Henderson.
"For Josh (Neal), this was probably the best tournament he's ever wrestled," Eddy said. "Hopefully, this gives him a little momentum going into the postseason."
The most impressive wrestler for Punxsy in the consolation brackets was Tanner James, who earned the first place consolation, for ninth place overall, at 160 pounds.
Eddy said James wrestled the tournament two classes above his natural weight of 147 pounds, so it took him a day to get settled in. But James was dominating the second day, going 3-0.
"He wrestled a tougher competition on Friday, then on Saturday, he came out and wrestled really well," Eddy said. "He was undefeated on Saturday. He did a real nice job, and I was super impressed with him."
James' three wins during the consolation came against Ihsan Musrial, of Susque-hanna Township (5-2 decision); Tanner Day, of Bellefonte (7-2 decision); and Matt Hartman, of Hempfield (by forfeit).
Eddy also noted how impressed he was with Caesar Maruca and Andrew Bullers, who both went 2-2 Saturday.
"Everybody performed well in the consolation rounds," Eddy said. "It's easy sometimes to drop down into the consolation and (give up), but they battled back through the consolation rounds, which is definitely good."
Overall, Eddy said he was happy with how the Chucks matched up against some of the toughest grapplers in the state, and he had very few disappointments.
"When the kids lost, it was because they were outwrestled," Eddy said. "It's hard to go through a six-minute match and not make a mistake somewhere, and normally, that's what happened. They made a single mistake, it was capitalized on, and they were, for the most part, close matches."
The Chucks are heading into their last few matches of the season before heading to the Team Duals and regional competition.
Eddy said that while there are still things he would like to improve upon, he is confident with how the team is coming together.
"I think that we've gotten over that mid-season lull, that post-Christmas drag where everybody gets into kind of a funk," Eddy said. "I think we wrestled our way through that, and I think we're out now. We'll just be looking to improve heading into the end of the season."