For Lower Merion senior 138-pounder Christian Hodges, setting the school's all-time record in career wins earlier this season was not his primary goal.
"It felt great to accomplish, but I never really focused on my record or how many wins or losses I had," said Hodges. "It was an accomplishment that came about in my striving to stand on the podium at States after three years of never making it out of Regionals."
On March 7, Hodges proudly stood on the podium at the PIAA 3A state championships at Hershey's Giant Center, proudly receiving his sixth-place medal.
Hodges, whose finished with a career won-loss record at Lower Merion of 138-29 (with 63 pins), picked up four wins at States and lost three matches in his debut at States.
"When it was time for my first match at States. I remember going from a quiet concrete tunnel with wrestlers bouncing and pacing, to walking out to see the tunnel open to a roaring arena of cheers and whistles," said Hodges.
Hodges had a tough draw in the first round, facing eventual second-place finisher Sam Hillegas of North Hills. After losing 5-0 to Hillegas, Hodges moved into the consolation bracket and won his next four matches, all by close scores.
In the consolation bracket, Hodges defeated Zach Rozanski of Upper Perkiomen, 5-3; then edged William Morrow of North Penn, 2-1; defeated Chanz Shearer of Seneca Valley, 3-2, to clinch a state medal; then edged Chandler Ho of DuBois, 3-2.
"My best match at States was in the blood round against Shearer, because I knew what he had and what he was looking for," said Hodges. "I just held good position, stuck to my game plan of attacking his left side with a single leg, and didn't stop wrestling until the end."
Winning three matches in a row by one point, Hodges stayed aggressive throughout.
"The key in those matches was to not wrestle scared," said Hodges. "In the past I may have lost in those situations by trying to protect my lead instead of wrestling as if the match was still 0-0. My coaches have helped me by instilling the mindset that those are the moments where I thrive. When the match gets to the point where either wrestler can break, I just have to do the right things and keep pushing the pace as we've trained."
In the consolation semifinals, Hodges lost to eventual fourth-place finisher John Altieri of Norwin, 5-0; then in the final match of his career, the fifth-place match, lost to Evan Gleason of Bethlehem Catholic, 4-0.
Hodges, who finished the season with a 41-6 record and 22 pins, will be heading to the United States Naval Academy in the fall, and likely major in chemistry of nuclear engineering.
Lower Merion head coach Jim Perri said, "I believe Christian's opening match was pivotal - in a loss, he gained in himself something we all knew he had in him but he had to find out on his own. That opening match with Hillegas thrusted Christian's confidence that was seen and evident in his next six matches wrestling with poise and confidence that we knew he was capable of. Believe me, this sport at this elite level can be brutal on mind, soul and spirit - dealing with disappointment after disappointment, questioning one's resolve, going to dark places.
"So, watching Christian's success at states was a long journey that was chiseled long before his States run. It was done during those lonely runs in the early a.m., long hours in countless wrestling rooms, miles upon miles of driving to tournaments throughout the country, this was only done by a young man that was exceptionally motivated - and dedicated parents [Cody and Karen] going through this with him - to not only be an elite level wrestler but an elite level student. He earned it."
For the first time in more than half-a-century, Lower Merion sent two wrestlers to the PIAA state tournament, and senior 160-pounder James Lledo was the second LM matman to go to Hershey this past weekend. It was his third time at States, and he won one of three matches this time, finishing with a record of 38-4 with 28 pins.
For his Lower Merion career, Lledo posted a won-loss record of 130-27, with 76 pins.
In his opening match at States, Lledo lost to Jack Blumer of Kiski Area, 9-2; then defeated Roman Moser of Methacton, 8-7; then lost to Ethan Richner of Bellefonte, 8-2.
Conestoga senior 182-pounder Matt Hamilton, who finsihed the season with a 33-8 record, advanced to States on the strength of his fourth-place finish at the Class 3A Southeast Regionals.
In his first match at States, Hamilton lost to eventual eighth-place finisher Caden Wright of Emmaus, 10-0. Wright, who posted a 36-9 record this winter, finished with a career record of 123-31 (with 57 pins).
In Hamilton's second match, he lost to senior Giani Gilch (39-11) of Council Rock South, 6-1. For his career, Hamilton posted a 83-36 won-loss record at Conestoga (with 33 pins).
Haverford High senior 170-pounder Shane McAdams, in his debut at States, lost his opening match to junior Andrew Vogelbacher of J.P. McCaskey, 4-0. Vogelbacher posted a 36-3 record this winter, with 14 pins.
In McAdams' second match at States, he lost to junior Lance Urbas of State College, 6-2. Urbas posted a 34-7 recordb this winter, with 25 pins.
For the season, McAdams posted a 35-6 record with 19 pins. For his Haverford career, his won-loss mark is 101-43, with 52 pins.