HERSHEY >> Jon Rugg doesn't have to go far to see the last time an Exeter wrestling team competed in the PIAA Team Duals Tournament.
"You're looking at it," he said, pointing to his current crop of Eagle grapplers.
The program is making no shortage of history in its 50th season of competition. It went a step further in that regard Thursday, overtaking Boyertown for a 36-26 victory in their first-round Class AAA match at the Giant Center.
In the early AAA round, Owen J. Roberts was handled by Nazareth, 53-13, in the Wildcats' first state-duals match at Hershey since the 2012-13 season.
"No team before has qualified for state duals," Rugg went on. "But I don't think this shocks them in any way. I don't see them showing any extra nervousness."
Pins by Dennis Karas and John Greenleaf, in their respective 195- and 220-pound bouts, completed the Eagles' comeback from a 26-24 deficit with three weights left to contest. They came against a Boyertown unit with considerably more state-duals experience, but less at the manpower end.
"They're a really good team ... a balanced team," Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca said of his District 1 runners-up, who took leads three times prior to Exeter's stretch run. "We didn't have enough bullets in the gun."
The Eagles (23-1), fresh off a District 3 championship finish last weekend, had a 5-3 edge in wins with bonus points. Along with the pins by Karas and Greenleaf, they benefited from another pin by Gage Moran, a technical fall by Austin DeSanto and Jacob Keller's major decision.
Boyertown's bonus-point victories were Jakob Campbell's pin at 126 and majors by Matt Wilde (113) and David Campbell (120). The Bears' last comeback started with Chris Berry's 4-0 decision at 152, Hunter Vogels' 6-3 verdict at 160 and Jacob Miller's narrow 2-1 win at 170.
"There were a lot of close matches ... bonus points we didn't get," Ventresca said. "We're hoping to rebound (Friday) and show what we got."
The Eagles' next opponent - and chance to add to their current history of state-dual success - will come against District 7 third seed North Allegheny. In keeping with the novelty of its current experience, Rugg doesn't want to look any further into his team's future.
"We're taking it one match at a time," he said.
Exeter's first lead was the 10-0 advantage it got after accepting a forfeit at 285 to start, followed by Keller's major at 106. Boyertown erased it with majors by Wilde and David Campbell and Jakob Campbell's 44-second drop, but DeSanto got it back for the Eagles with his tech-fall.
"We know what we're getting from him," Rugg said of DeSanto, a state-level runner up last winter. "It's nice to get what we do from him."
Brett Breidor accounted for the next lead change, putting the Bears up 17-15 with his 11-5 decision at 138. The flip-flop continued with Moran's pin, and the Bears' three-bout sweep from 152 to 170.
Tyler Bagoly cut Boyertown's lead down to two (26-24) with a 6-3 decision at 182. From there, Karas and Greenleaf completed the winning comeback.
"Our kids have been doing a better job staying up," Rugg said. "And they're doing a great job supporting each other."
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It was an eye-opening return to state-duals competition at the Giant Center for Owen J. Roberts. The Wildcats managed just three wins in their loss to District 11 champion Nazareth.
"We knew what they are," OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said. "We scrimmaged against them. They have an outstanding program, and perhaps the best head coach (Dave Crowell) in the country."
Alejandro Acosta got Owen J. off to a good start with his 35-second pin of Mohamed Tounkara at 285. Luke Resnick followed with a 14-4 major decision of Sean Pierson at 120.
But the Blue Eagles came close to running the table the rest of the way, stringing together four pins and capping the night with a technical fall in the 220-pound finale. OJR was able to provide one interruption of the run, Dan Mancini's 8-2 decision of Ian Pulli at 145.
"Our kids made a match of it," DeRafelo said. "They're gamers. We came out with several one-point losses."
Roberts (18-3) had several wrestlers dealing with illness that kept them out of the lineup. DeRafelo is hoping to have them back in action for Friday's colsolation round against District 2 champ Hazleton, which fell to District 3 runner-up Cedar Cliff in their first round pairing.
"It's been a night-after-night thing," he said. "You have to wonder how long they can keep doing it, but they responded. It's a tough sport."