HERSHEY — Wrestling is a physical sport and conditioning plays a major role. Just ask Reynolds coach Casey Taylor how tough it is after winning a fourth straight PIAA State Class 2A Team Tournament Championship.
“My thumbs are getting cramps from texting,” said Taylor with a laugh. “I had 100-plus well-wishers to the team and the community in general. I really appreciate all of that.”
Taylor’s “workout” came after his Raiders put on another incredible finals performance Saturday afternoon at Hershey Giant Center as they beat Southern Columbia, 34-27, in the third straight finals meeting for the two powerhouse squads.”
What’s it like to win four in a row and seven overall, more than any other AA team in the state in history?
“I don’t think it would mean quite as much without our history and tradition of community involvement,” said Taylor. “I’m so happy with our ability to overcome adversity at the beginning of the year. There were injuries and a lot of other things taking place.
“But the kids kept working, listening to the coaching staff and improving. While that happens there is a bond that forms which is always crucial. That happened as well.”
That bond was demonstrated in the finals where the team exploded out of the gates and built a 22-0 lead, a lead Taylor knew would be important because of the great wrestlers that the Tigers had later in the match.
The finals started at 220 with Raider Evan Miller facing Max Tillett, a ranked wrestler. Tillett jumped out with an early takedown and was leading 5-4 late in the match, when Miller nailed a takedown with 6 seconds left to win 6-4.
Raider junior Rocco John-Daniello continued his superb season as a first-year starter at heavyweight against Lear Quinton. He scored an early takedown and led 2-1 after one period. Quinton tied it with an escape in the second. In the third frame, J-D notched a reversal and rolled to a 9-3 triumph.
“That kid Rocco wrestled was ranked No. 4 or 5 in the state. Rocco just wore him down in that third period. On paper for them, I think they had those two wins marked down. I told those guys last night, ‘I believe in both of you, but we have got to win one of the two. Both wrestled fantastic.
“When you lose a 220 and heavyweight who were a state qualifier and place-winner, they are usually not replaceable. But these guys improved all year.”
Turning to the lightweights, Raider Kane Kettering squared off with Toren Cooper. Kettering led 4-1 with a pair of first-period takedowns. He built a 7-1 lead before pinning Cooper in 3:29.
Reynolds junior Gary Steen, former state champ who is verbally committed to Pitt, needed only 29 seconds to deck Edward Zuber. Raider Cole Bayless continued the momentum against Brady Freese at 120. Bayless was in control the entire way for a 10-0 major decision.
“Those pins of course were huge,” said Taylor, “And Cole did a terrific job to keep pushing to get that major decision. Bonus points are so important in a match like this, especially when we knew they had hammers down the road.”
Liam Foore of Reynolds tangled with Kole Biscoe, returning state runner-up, at 126. Biscoe scored a takedown for the early lead and went on to an 8-1 victory that ended the Reynolds run. “I can’t say enough about Liam, how he battles,” said Taylor.
Reynolds’ Kaeden Berger went up 5-0 early on Ian Yoder and the match was never in doubt as Berger scored a fall in 3 minutes. “We had beat that kid, 4-2 and 4-2 before, and I asked Kaeden how he felt the night before and he told me he feels great and he would get a pin. I was getting another kid ready when I heard the mat slap. I was so happy.”
Tigers’ 138-pounder Patrick Edmondson, state place-winner, cut into that lead as he won a 9-0 major decision over Dreyvin Livingston, another Raider who battled to the end.
At 145, Alex Ischo bumped up a weight and faced off with SC’s Brandon Gedman and led 3-1 after one period and 5-2 after two. Ischo went on to a 7-2 triumph.
Wesley Barnes dominated Raider freshman Jalen Wagner at 152 on his way to a first-period pin.
Tigers’ youngest of the powerful Garcia brothers, Gavin, took the mat at 160 against Jordan DeCarmen and won a major decision. Then Cade Linn defeated Cole Toy by major decision to tighten the score and the throat of Coach Taylor. But Bryce McCloskey clinched the bout with a 5-0 win at 182. Reynolds then forfeited to state champ Gaige Garcia at 195.
“The kids were ready to celebrate,” said Taylor of the forfeit. “This is pretty special. I’m just so happy for the kids and the community. The historical or relevant side of things, it will sink in later.
Reynolds wasn’t the only District 10 squad to leave Hershey with a medal. Cathedral Prep finished fourth in the Class 3A tournament, losing in the consy finals to Bethlehem Catholic 45-15.
Meadville native Marques McClorin had one of the Ramblers’ three wins and the only one not by forfeit. He decisioned Landon Muth at 152 pounds, 7-0.
Notes: As always, Taylor gave a lot of credit to his coaches Michael Hills, Marty Taylor, Mike Edwards, Armondo Sciullo, Jamar Henry, Neal Engstrom, Jeff Linn and many more who developed wrestlers in the younger grades. ... Chestnut Ridge finished third in AA with a 36-31 victory over Saucon Valley in the consy finals ... While Corry was eliminated Friday from the AA tourney, the town was still well-represented by Corry native Dave Crowell, head coach of Nazareth that won the AAA title 38-21 over Waynesburg.