Raiders storm through Class AA Championships
CLARION — A successful tournament would be an understatement for the Brookville Raiders' domination at the District IX Class AA Championships Friday and Saturday at Clarion University.
The list of accolades goes on and on: Four Raiders earning District titles; two coming in second place; sophomore Brock Zacherl receiving the Outstanding Wrestler award; Raider head coach Dave Klepfer being named Class AA Coach of the Year; the team placing first overall with 219.5 points; and 13 of 14 grapplers advancing to Regionals.
"I couldn't be any happier," Klepfer said of the weekend overall. "I'm extremely happy for our team, every single one of them. When you take 13 guys to Regionals, I think that's a really exceptional weekend. That's about as good of a weekend as I could've expected."
At 138 pounds, Zacherl was the first Raider to find himself with a crown. He earned a technical fall victory, 21-5 in 3:32, over Ty Haines, of Redbank Valley, to seal up the victory.
"It feels awesome," Zacherl said. "Last year, I didn't even come the second day. Today was way better, and it feels awesome."
Klepfer said he was extremely happy for Zacherl, who earned technical falls over each of his three opponents at Districts.
"He works extremely hard," Klepfer said. "I'm just really, really happy for him. He put together a heck of a tournament. Battling back off an (injury) this year and to come back and do things he's done is pretty impressive."
Zacherl completely dominated Haines from the first period, during which he earned four takedowns. In the second period, Haines started in control, but Zacherl reversed him before taking him down three more times. Once Zacherl was in control, he tallied three back points, flipped Haines and tallied two more for the victory.
"I just think of all the ways I can take him down," Zacherl said of his approach to the match. "I have five shots for a match, so that way, if he adjusts, I can go to something else."
Zacherl, a first-time district champ, was also given the honor of Outstanding Wrestling for Class AA.
The second champion for Brookville came at 160 pounds in Brett Smith, now a two-time District champion. Saturday, Smith took a 2-1 decision from Kyle Caggiano, of Ridgway, whom he also beat his freshman year for the championship.
Smith, who had strong victories in the quarter- and semi-finals, cut it close in the finals. Caggiano was leading 1-0 until about 15 seconds left in the third period, when Smith got the reversal.
"I was getting nervous; he had me flattened out there for awhile," Smith said. "I didn't think I was moving, and I wasn't getting a stalemate call or anything, so I had to get back up and moving. I just kept feeling it was going to have to work out."
It eventually did work out, as Smith worked Caggiano low and elevated his feet to get the reversal and the victory.
"Obviously to get another District title, that was a big deal for him," Klepfer said. "That was his goal for the last four years: To be a District champ. He only lost two bouts in his District career, so he's a great kid to coach, and he really wanted it."
Smith, who had not won a District title since his freshman year, said how important it was for him to win it as a senior.
"I love wrestling the District final; it's a complete- ly different experience than anything else," Smith said. "It feels good to come out of here on a high note and almost no regrets, in a sense."
Tyler Dombrowski was the next champion for Brookville at 182 pounds. Dombrowski won a 3-1 overtime bout against Forest Tuttle, of Coudersport, and the close battles are familiar territory for the senior.
"We kind of sit back, cross our legs, expect it to be in overtime, and he got tough when he needed to, just like he normally does," Klepfer said with a laugh. "He's a two-time District champ, what do you say? He's turned into a pretty good wrestler for us."
Dombrowski and Tuttle each earned an escape in regulation, but it was Dombrowski who notched the takedown in overtime for the win.
"When it's a tight match, we know that I have a pretty good chance to win," Dombrowski said. "I just try not to make mistakes."
The final crown at 195 pounds went to senior captain Logan Stout, who like Smith and Dombrowski, is now a two-time District champion.
Although Stout pulled out the narrow 1-0 decision over Aaron Burnside, of Cameron County, Klepfer said he was not surprised by the victory.
"He's our leader; he's our captain," Klepfer said. "It's no surprise to me that he won another one. He's turned into the type of wrestler that he is because he does all the right things. He diets right; he trains hard; he's very, very coachable; and he has that will to win."
After the match, Stout reflected on his career with Brookville's wrestling program, which has been a very successful one.
"As a freshman, I didn't really think I would ever be ranked, I never thought I would be winning two District titles, and I never thought that I would be looking to wrestle in college," the senior said. "All of those things are happening, and I want to show (the freshman now) that they can do that, too."
But the season does not end here for the champions, who all said their goal is to win a regional title this Saturday in Sharon.
"We preached that to our kids all week long leading up to this: No matter what happens, advance, just get to the next stage and see what happens next week," Klepfer said. "We had a lot of guys that bought into it, and that really worked out for us this weekend."
In fact, 13 of the 14 Raiders who competed at Districts advanced to the regional competition. Trey Constable, at 113, and Daulton Zimmerman, at 120, both placed second, and both were extremely close matches.
Constable lost 4-3 in overtime to Willie Grurer, of Redbank Valley. Grurer had just one escape that made the difference.
"They're dead even; they could wrestle 100 times, and they'd probably go 50-50," Klepfer said. "They're so close, but the difference is we got rode out this time. If you want to win the tight matches, you cannot get rode out."
Freshman Zimmerman lost 5-1 to senior Nate Schwab, of Smethport, who earned two takedowns which ultimately won him the match.
"Daulton's a pretty special freshman, but again, the goal is to advance," Klepfer said. "(Placing) second as a freshman, losing to a former state place-winner, there's nothing to hang your head about there."
Placing third for Brook-ville were Zach Vroman, at 152; Brodie Zacherl, at 145; Cole Clever, at 126; and Devin Joiner, at 106. Klepfer said he was especially impressed with Clever and Joiner, two freshmen who worked their way through the consolation brackets to place third.
"We're just happy to be coaching them because they're wrestling at a pretty high level right now," Klepfer said. "They're just a bunch of ninth-graders that, whether they don't know any better or not, they just keep coming at you, and it's been a lot of fun."
The other advancers for the Raiders, placing fourth, were Jake Cieleski, at 220; Taylor Cudworth, at 170; and Jimmy Miller, at 132.
Klepfer said he was happy with the way the entire team wrestled at the District tournament, despite having a two-week break after states.
"They just thrive on competition, ... and I think that's probably the most impressive thing about them," Klepfer said. "(It is) the thing I like about them the most. Not necessarily their wins, all the records and titles, but they just like competing. If you don't like competing, you're not going to have success in any sport, let alone this one."
But one thing the Raiders, as a whole team, don't have to worry about is being unsuccessful. Brookville also repeated with a team title this weekend. The team title is just the fifth in school history.
"It was definitely on the chalkboard as one of their main goals: Win everything in the district," Klepfer said. "We wanted to be dominant in within the district, and they have been to this point."
If all of the praise for the current Raiders wasn't enough for Brookville, Jeremy Reitz, a 1999 graduate, was also inducted into the District-IX Hall of Fame. Reitz won three district titles, a regional crown and two state medals during his career at Brookville Junior-Senior High School.
He then went on to wrestle at Penn State before transferring to Clarion University, where he qualified for nationals twice. Reitz was honored in an induction ceremony with seven other inductees Saturday before the District finals.
"I was actually shocked; it came out of nowhere," Reitz said. "You just wonder if your time will ever come, so it was a shocker, but I'm excited about it. ... It's indescribable, really."