Brookville Raiders climb to fourth at PIAA State Championship

HERSHEY — Competing at the state’s highest level is both an honor and a challenge for all of Pennsylvania’s wrestlers.

Last weekend, Brookville traveled to Hershey to compete in the PIAA Class AA State Championships, and the Raiders emerged with a fourth-place medal.

“We felt as a group we were a top-four team, possibly a top-three team,” Brookville head coach Dave Klepfer said. “We went down there, and the competition was great. To come away with fourth place, I think everybody involved was pretty happy with that.”

Four Raiders went undefeated throughout the five-round tournament. Logan Stout earned five victories with four pins, earning several bonus points for Brookville.

Brett Smith, Taylor Cudworth and Brock Zacherl all went 5-0, as well.

“(It was) just a lot of good leadership, a lot of hard nose wrestling and a lot of offensive wrestling,” Klepfer said. “It’s no surprise that those are the type of guys that were turning it on.”

The Raiders’ run to fourth place began last Thursday, as they matched up against Lower Moreland in Round One. Brookville stormed out to a 72-0 victory over Lower Moreland, of District I, to start the tournament off with a bang.

“The biggest reason (it was nice) is the kids got all of their jitters out of their system,” Klepfer said. “They had a couple good kids; we just happened to match up our best kids against theirs.”

The match began with three consecutive pin falls for Brookville, with Stout, Jacob Cieleski and Nate Nosker each picking up wins.

Devin Joiner then earned four points for the Raiders with a major, and Trey Constable added to that with a 17-2 technical fall.

Brookville then went on another series of pin fall victories. Daulton Zimmerman and Cole Clever each earned six points for the Raiders.

Freshman Jimmy Miller then continued the winning streak with a major decision before Brock Zacherl, Brodie Zacherl and Zach Vroman all pinned their respective opponents.

Smith and Cudworth both earned decision victories in the Lower Moreland match, and finally, Tyler Dombrow- ski secured a forfeit win to put the final score at 72-0.

“It was nice to get started off with everybody getting a win,” Klepfer said.

With the dominating victory, the Raiders moved to the quarterfinals, in which they were matched against Wyalusing Valley, of District IV.

The Raiders did not earn as many bonus points against Wyalusing Valley, but they still earned a convincing 35-18 win.

Cudworth started the match with a pin over Tyler Thompson, which Klepfer said was important to keep the momentum going from the previous match.

Stout was the only other Raider to earn a pin against Wyalusing Valley, but the match was also highlighted by big wins in the lower weight classes for Joiner and Constable.

Brock Zacherl also helped the effort, as he forced overtime and eventually pulled out an 8-6 victory over Timothy Kuntz.

Zimmerman and Clever each earned major decisions, 11-0 and 10-0 respectively, to help Brookville’s quarterfinal effort.

“We had a lot of our good kids against their best kids,” Klepfer said. “We matched up really well with them, and we got the bonus points when we needed them.

In the semi-finals, Brookville met the defending state champions in Bethlehem Catholic, of District XI, and the Raiders struggled, falling 46-12.

“We knew we had a tough test in front of us,” Klepfer said of his team’s preparation for the match. “When you’re basically wrestling an All-Star team, it’s tough for any public AA school to compete with a
school like that.”

The Raiders walked away with four decision victories in the match. At 195, Stout won 6-2 over Jose Ortiz; at 138, Brock Zacherl beat Richard Cruz, 9-2; at 160, Smith took down Mark Maloney, 8-1; and at 170, Cudworth pulled out a 3-1 victory over Nick Cortopassi.

In retrospect, Klepfer said he knew the Raiders wrestled hard but thought there were a few matches which could’ve gone the other way. Coming into the match, Klepfer said he thought Brodie Zacherl’s bout against Aaron Morekin was winnable.

He also said at heavy-weight, Cieleski was taken down by Benjamin Bunce with just a half-second left in the match, and Bunce earned the 3-1 decision. Klepfer thought that bout could’ve gone in favor of the Raiders.

But despite the loss, Klepfer said he was not disappointed in Brookville’s efforts against a dominating team.

“I thought we went out and battled hard, even when we were outclassed,” Klepfer said. “That’s what we really preached: On paper, they were better, but we still wrestled hard. ... It was a case where we were outclassed, and it was just a better team. (New Bethlehem) proved that by pretty much handling everybody.”

New Bethlehem did go on to win the championship over Boiling Springs, 52-15.

But the Raiders were not out of the competition after the loss — they were bumped down to the consolation round semi-finals, in which they took on Bermudian Springs, of District III.

Klepfer said it was not hard to get the kids motivated after the loss to Bethlehem Catholic the previous day.

“We didn’t really talk much about the Bethlehem Catholic match; we just talked about what our goals were coming down: To be a top four team,” Klepfer said. “Luckily, they could get a good night’s sleep and come in the next morning with a good attitude, which they did.”

Although Brookville won just 32-24, the Raiders were more dominating than the final score showed. Brookville gave up two forfeits at 106 and 182 but won 10 of the 12 bouts that took place on the mat.

Klepfer said he took the risk of forfeiting at 182 when the score was just 23-9 in Brookville’s favor because he thought one of Bermudian Springs’ best wrestlers, Tristan Sponseller, was at 182.

“We just felt like we had better match-ups at 195 and 220; we came up short there at 195, but Logan came through for us and gave us the pin (at 220),” Klepfer said. “In the end, it worked out for us. You have to have some flexibility when you go down to those tournaments.”

The match started out with Constable at 113 picking up a 7-3 decision over Ted Marines, who was ranked higher than him.

Brookville dropped the following match, but Zimmerman came back with a decision over Briton Shelton to knot the score at six.

Bermudian Springs then led for the final time when Austin Jackson earned a decision over Miller.

The Raiders then went on a five-bout win streak, with a technical fall for Brock Zacherl and four decisions for Brodie Zacherl, Vroman, Cudworth and Smith.

Klepfer said he was most impressed with Smith’s match against Tyler Fitzkee, who was 34-0 on the season entering the match. Smith had no problem taking down the undefeated Fitzkee and took a 5-2 decision.

Brookville then lost two in a row, giving up a forfeit to Bermudian Springs' Sponseller, and Brock Linebaugh earned a 3-1 decision over Dombrowski at 195.

But senior leader Stout combatted that with a pin over Jose Arriola, and Cieleski earned a 4-3 decision over Jonatan Jimenez.

The Raiders then forfeited at 106 to set the final score at 32-24.

“We put together probably our best dual meet of the year,” Klepfer said. “We were happy to come away with a win in that dual meet. We didn’t match up all that great, but our guys showed up and wrestled really well.”

After finishing the victory over Bermudian Springs, the Raiders moved on to the consolation finals, where they faced Fort LeBoeuf, of District X.

Brookville had already faced Fort LeBoeuf this season at the Ultimate Duals, and the Raiders came away with a victory. But it was Fort LeBoeuf’s turn to seek its revenge against Brookville, and edged a close 32-30 victory to earn the third-place medal.

There were several differences in last Saturday’s match and the match at the Ultimate Duals.

At 106, Joiner earned a pin at the Ultimate Duals, but he faced a different wrestler — Tyler Kuzma — at states, and Kuzma earned a 7-0 decision.

Also, Cieleski was pinned at heavyweight by Nate Conti, whom he beat 2-0 at the Ultimate Duals.

“Those were (both) nine-point swings,” Klepfer said. “In those matches, its tough to win when you have that big of a turnaround. But again, I thought we wrestled real hard against them.”

The Raiders did split the bouts with Fort LeBoeuf, winning seven of the 14, but they did not earn the bonus points they needed.

The only Raiders to earn more than three points were Brodie Zacherl, who won a major decision over Jack Middleton; Cudworth was awarded a forfeit at 170; and Stout pinned Gage Salusky in 2:15.

Constable, Zimmerman, Brodie Zacherl and Smith each picked up decision victories to help the Raiders, but it was just not enough.

“Against Fort, I think we played all the right moves; we just came up a little bit short,” Klepfer said. “We got caught there at heavyweight; things didn’t go our way in that match. But again, the guys showed up and wrestled really hard. They just came up a little bit short.”

The Raiders took Monday and Tuesday off this past week but were back in the practice room Wednesday to prepare for the individual District IX wrestling championships, which will take place Friday and Saturday.

Klepfer said he and the Raiders have lofty goals for the individual tournament.

“(We want to) crown as many champions as we can and advance as many wrestlers as we can,” Klepfer said. “If we do well in those areas, the team part of it really falls into place. We just want to advance as many people as possible to the regional tournament.

Friday’s session of the individual tournament will begin at 3 p.m., with the final rounds next Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tournament will take place at Clarion University.