HERSHEY >> They have been part of this classic competition for the last four years.
As such, the senior members of Boyertown's wrestling team were feeling a bit more melancholy Friday evening. Part of it was they were experiencing their last PIAA Team Wrestling Championships, and part of it had to do with their final visit here ending with a 42-22 loss to Cathedral Prep in the second round of Class AAA consolations.
"It's gone so fast," David Campbell, one of the Bears' seniors to experience state-duals competition his four years in the program, said. "This one means the most. I wish it could have ended different."
Boyertown was part of the area's exodus on the second day of the tourney. Fellow Pioneer Athletic Conference member Owen J. Roberts, and nearby Berks Conference representative Exeter, fell short of a return for Saturday's action: OJR by a 56-13 count to Kiski Area, Exeter in a 42-21 loss to Canon McMillan.
"It's tough to see these guys go," head coach Pete Ventresca said. "Getting here four years is a testament to this class. I'm impressed with them."
The Bears' 1-2 finish on this visit started with a 36-26 loss to District 3 champion Exeter Thursday. They rebounded Friday morning with a 42-22 win over District 12 champion Father Judge, and in the night's duel with the District 11 champion Ramblers, the locals worked their way back for a 22-18 lead after nine bouts.
But Cathedral Prep, out of Erie, ran the table the rest of the way, posting two pins and a pair of decisions - along with a forfeit at 152 - to end Boyertown's bid that followed up last year's silver-medal finish. It had built an 18-6 lead at the start, only to see the Bears mount a four-bout run that erased the advantage.
"We did what we could," Ventresca said. "We wrestled some tough teams. We needed points, and we didn't get them."
Elijah Jones' second-period pin at 195 actually gave Boyertown an initial 6-3 lead. Its comeback in the middle bouts started with Matt Wilde's 3-1 sudden-victory overtime decision at 113, and continued with Jakob Campbell's major decision at 126 - that after David received a forfeit at 120 - and Christian Fox's 8-5 victory at 132.
Now, the Bears' focus will be on the individual phase of the season. They will host the PAC Championships next weekend ... the first step in the journey to return to Hershey for the PIAA Championships one month from now.
"It helps to get used to the atmosphere here," David Campbell said. "Rather than come in here with large eyes, you'll know what to expect."
"This will definitely be a learning tool," twin brother Jakob said.
Boyertown dispatched Father Judge with help from three pins and Mike Porreca's overtime win at 220. The Bears also received a pair of forfeits from the District 12 top seeds, which proved to be enough to put them over the top.
Falls by Jacob Miller (182) and Jones (195) enabled Boyertown to reverse FJ's early lead to a 12-9 advantage, which went to 15-9 off Porreca's 5-4 UTB decision. Chase Stehman (106) and Wilde (113) scored decisions to precede David Campbell's pin at 120 and the forfeits to Connor Neiswender (126) and Jakob Campbell (132).
Christian Fox closed out the Bears' point production with a decision at 138.
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Owen J. Roberts qualified for the state-duals tournament for the first time in four years. Seeing its run come to the end it did left OJR feeling like something was definitely amiss. A loss like the 56-13 verdict Kiski Area administered the Wildcats definitely took the joy out of the accomplishment.
"I talked to the guys afterward," head coach Steve DeRafelo said, "and said it's tough here. Unless you're standing on the podium at the end, everything else is a loss."
Kiski definitely had OJR's number in their second-round consolation match. The District 7 champion Cavaliers scored six pins and two technical falls, along with one major decision, to end the Wildcats' duals experience.
Owen J.'s points came from a Nick Duliakas major at 195, Luke Resnick's one-point decision at 120 and Ricky McCutchen's pin in the 160-pound finale. Duliakas' win ended up being the closest Roberts stayed with Kiski, which scored 22 unanswered points between the 220 and 113-pound weight classes, then went on another 25-point run to qualify for Saturday's third round of consis.
"The kids battled," DeRafelo said. "This was a tough draw. We won a dual up here, and they were excited."
In its 45-27 win over Hazleton earlier in the day, Owen J. was stretched to its match-clinching win with Cole Meredith's 7-0 decision in the next-to-last bout at 145. But it was able to go wire-to-wire against the District 2 champion Cougars, led by four pins and Resnick's technical fall at 120.
Ricky McCutchen (160), Alejandro Acosta (285), Antonio Petrucelli (132) and Daniel Mancini (152) had OJR's pins, McCutchen's 44-second drop in the 160-pound opener its fastest. Jason Zollers (182) and Duliakas (195) added decisions that helped stake Roberts to a 25-6 lead through 285.
"Competing on this mat says we're a team that's good enough to compete," DeRafelo said.
The Hershey trip capped a busy week of action for the 'Cats. It started with the third-place finish they forged in last weekend's District 1-AAA Duals Tournament, continued Monday with a preliminary-round win over Archbishop Wood, and kept going Wednesday when its victory over Spring-Ford completed a perfect run through the PAC's Liberty Division.
Now, OJR looks ahead to the season's individual tournament run, starting with next weekend's PAC Championships.
"The whole team has been immersed in the team run. Now we have to refocus and get ready for the postseason," DeRafelo said.