Pennridge edged by Central Dauphin in PIAA AAA preliminary round

WEST HANOVER — It was good theater. It was also good wrestling. Those are two things Pennridge senior Joe Kracz knows a little about.

The NYU commit gave his Rams a chance to take down the Central Dauphin Rams in the preliminary round of the PIAA Class AAA Team Wrestling Championship. Drama surround the last few bouts, but on Tuesday the District 3 group grabbed the final few points and earned a 31-28 win.

A pin 65 seconds in for freshman Josh Stillings gave Pennridge an eight-point advantage, but Central Dauphin fired right back at 138 pounds with quick first period pin of their own. With Pennridge leading 28-26 in the final match Dylan Gerhart was unable to hold off Zach Elvin at 145 pounds. The 16-1 tech fall gave Central Dauphin the victory in the final match.

“Josh has been performing well all year,’ Pennridge coach R.P. Norley said. “He is one of the best freshman to come through this program, not going to say he is the best, because we have had a couple studs. He is right up there. I am incredibly proud of the team. Win, lose or draw, we can walk out of here proud.’

The loss brought a quick end to the first-ever appearance by Pennridge (11-4 overall) at the state level as a team. Wins were almost a given from the likes of newly-minted 100-win wrestler Kyle Gentile (first-period pin) and the senior captain Kracz. But needing a middle-weight to wrestle one of his best matches of the year, Central Dauphin (20-2 overall) derailed Pennridge’s push for Hershey.

“It is a great accomplishment,’ Kracz said. “We are always hungry and more than what we have. It feels great to be here, but we wanted more. This is the best Pennridge team I wrestled on. The brotherhood is great.’

When Kracz took center stage, his team in a five-point hole, the heavyweight had to deal with Central Dauphin 6-foot-3 sophomore Evan Childs. He grabbed two points in the second period and inched his Rams closer to their first lead of the night. Sophomore standout Matt Parker followed with a tough 4-1 decision over freshman standout Chris Wright. The Parker win gave Pennridge its first lead.

“Everybody could have gotten another point for the team and anything could have helped,’ Kracz said. “It’s on all of us right now. We are taking it pretty hard.’

Pennridge will look back at the 160, 170 and 195 pounds, both 3-2 decisions in favor of Central Dauphin. Stephen Blanchard had a take down late, but could not overcome the slow start. Zack Tuerke battled through an apparent arm injury, even escaped twice, but eventually Central Dauphin denied Tuerke the win. Andrew Reinhold had an early 1-0 lead, but in overtime, the match slipped away, a 2-1 win for Steven McNeal.

“It is a game of milliseconds and milli-inches when it comes to this level,’ Norley said. “It’s not getting a major there or getting majored here and that’s the match.’

While Pennridge exited stage left in Harrisburg, the Rams still can say  they were one of the top teams to ever come out of the Perkaise wrestling room.

Several individuals are far from done this season with everything from the Suburban One League Continental Conference championships to Hershey and the state championships on the horizon. Last year Kordell Rush (17-5 major decision on Tuesday) and Gentile graced the final field, this year the likes of Parker and Kracz hope to join.

For Kracz, his curtain call can wait for a few more weeks.

“After this I am ready for the postseason,’ Kracz said. “I am going to learn from this and I think renewed us never wanting to feel this way again.’

Central Dauphin 31

Pennridge 28

152 – S. Light (CD) tech fall W. O’Shea (P); 160 – M. Pleskonko (CD) dec. S. Blanchard (P); 170 – C. Talbott (CD) dec. Z. Tuerke (P); 182 – K. Gentile (P) pinned T. Gabriel (CD); 195 – S. McNeal (CD) overtime dec. A. Reinhold (P); 220 – E. Outlaw (P) dec. J.P. Marrero (CD); 285 – J. Kracz (P) dec. E. Childs (CD); 106 – M. Parker (P) dec. C. Wright (CD); 113 – K. Rush (P) major dec. J,. Cherry (CD); 120 – M. Visuwan (P) dec. A. Bentz (CD); 126 – T. White (CD) by forfeit; 132 – J. Stillings pinned (P) T. McNeal (CD); 138 – L. Williams (CD) pinned E. Clemmer (P);145 – Z. Elvin (CD) tech fall D. Gerhart (P).


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