HERSHEY — Standing on the podium at Giant Center, having a fifth-place medal place around his neck was tangible assurance all the hard work over the last year had paid off for Pennridge sophomore Matt Parker. While the 106-pound PIAA state medalist was shooting for a higher spot on the stand, he knows how hard it is to earn one of the eight spots in each weight class.
Parker will eventually be proud of his place in the AAA field, one of the toughest states in the country, and look to climb higher next season. A 4-1 decision against Central Mountain sophomore Geo Barzona notched him his 60th career win (with 10 losses). A loss to the eventual state champion Tyson Klump (Nazareth) and a 1-0 loss to Council Rock North’s Aidan Burke slipped him down to fifth place.
“I am not feeling good at all to be honest,’ Parker said. “I did not do what I wanted to do here and it is upsetting. It is hard, a lot of goes into it, but it stings a little bit.’
Pennridge junior Kyle Gentile did not come to Hershey looking to gain an arch-rival, but he might have in Manheim Central junior Jared Siegrist. The two squared off twice in a pair of intense matches. What the 170-pounder did come in seach for was a medal in the PIAA AAA Championships. While Gentile coveted gold, a fifth-place medal will suffice for now.
Gentile fought back with wins over Drew Peck and Matt Mirth before falling to Jake Shaffer and setting the scene for a part two between the now familiar foes, who were strangers a few days ago. Gentile controlled the tempo almost ran Siegrist around and pinned him. He never got the pin and this one was a low-scoring affair, as all it took was 1-0 decision to earn the fifth-place medal and end the year with a win in the last match.
On the road to a state medal Parker took down Dubois freshman Kolby Ho (10-2 major), Spring Grove freshman Dalton Rohrbaugh (3-2 decision) and Central Dauphin freshman Chris Wright (3-0) decision. While the win over Wright was his second decision over him this season, (a 4-1 decision in PIAA Duals), the third go-around with Burke, a sophomore he beat in districts and regionals, slipped him into the fifth-place match.
“Some controversial calls that could have gone either way (in the 1-0 loss to Burke),’ Parker said. “I repsect Aidan and I knew I needed to bounce back. I knew taking fifth was better than sixth. It is good to win the last match.’
“First medal at states it ended on the high note,’ Rams coach RP Norley said. “We thought we would have a couple guys in the finals, but that is the fuel that starts the fire for next season.’
Disappointed at one end, proud at another as Parker had to overcome an early season shoulder injury to claim the state’s top-ranking entering the PIAA Class AAA tournament this weekend. He took a month off and compiled a 28-3 record in limited action. At times you could see Parker wince in pain with the kinesiology tape on his sore spot. Parker took down his first regional crown a year after not placing as a freshman.
“I am not at 100 percent, but I don’t use it as an excuse,’ Parker said. “I think it hampered it me a little bit. I choose to wrestle and everybody is beat up.
“We don’t talk about it, because there is no point in putting energy into the injury,’ Norley said. “We focused on wrestling and wrestling his best. But he is one tough son of a gun.’
As a freshman Parker moved up to 113-pounds for the postseason and watched his teammate Kordell Rush win a fourth-place medal. The current junior, who qualified for PIAA tourney but was unable to medal this season, held the advantage in the wrestle-offs last year and Parker did what he could underweight.
“I think about (freshman year) all of the time,’ Parker said. “Kordell had good matches in the room. I beat him once, he beat me the rest. But I could have been out here before and this could have been different. Kordell is an awesome partner and we are only going to get better. Hopefully we both get a state title next year.’
Holding a 20-pound disadvantage did not do well for Parker’s state hopes and instead stayed a spectator and in his brother Scott’s corner, who finished his senior career with a second place finish in the 120-pound weight class. Seeing his brother go through the PIAA triumphs and tribulations help him understand and appreciate the medal Parker will wear around his neck on the ride home from Hershey. Until next year.
“If you wrestle tentative you are not going to win,’ Parker said. “I could have opened up more, but this is my first time wrestling at states. I just have to believe in myself.’
ROAD TO STATE MEDAL
Parker (PR) pinned 1:46 Jee Ea Gay (North Penn)
Parker (PR) major decision 9-1 Ray Calderio (CB South)
Parker (PR) pinned 1:26 Mike Megahan (Neshaminy)
Parker (PR) pinned 1:38 Anontion Martoccio (Pennsbury)
Parker (PR) 3-1 decision Aidan Burke (CR North)
Parker (PR) 12-4 major decisionver Max Shepherd (Phoenixville)
Parker (PR) 3-0 decision Brett Kaliner (WC Rustin)
Parker (PR) 3-0 decision Aidan Burke (CR North)
Parker (PR) 10-2 major decision Kolby Ho (DuBois)
Tyson Klump (Nazareth) 2-1 decision over Parker (PR)
Parker (PR) 3-2 decision Dalton Rohrbaugh (Spring Grove)
Parker (PR) 3-0 decision Chris Wright (Central Dauphin)
Aidan Burke (CRN) 1-0 decision Parker (PR)
Parker (PR) 4-1 decision Geo Barzona (Central Mountain)