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Metzler becomes MC’s first State qualifier since 2008
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The drought is over for the Manheim Central wrestlers.
Since 2008, when Jordan Enck captured the PIAA Triple-A 215-pound gold medal, the Barons had sent 14 grapplers to the District Championships in four years, but came up empty advancing to States.
Junior Ben Metzler (30-8) ended that streak last Saturday, claiming the fourth and final PIAA berth in the 138-pound weight class at the District Three Triple-A Championships in the Hersheypark Arena.
He guaranteed himself a return trip to Chocolatetown with a 3-1 win over Susquehanna Township junior Matthew Lepperd (24-10) in the consolation semi-finals. States are slated for next Thursday through Saturday, March 7-9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"It’s always nice to get a wrestler through to States, of course," Manheim Central skipper Troy Sunderland said. "You want your high school to be represented in the State Championships. For him to do that as a junior is nice knowing experience-wise and what he’ll learn by being there this year will hopefully help the program overall, but him also individually and believing in what he is able to accomplish this year and next year."
Barons’ junior Rey LaSanta (26-10) had his run at 195 end two wins shy of a State berth, while 132-pound junior David Fantom (19-12), 145-pound freshman Jared Siegrist (28-10) and 152-pound senior Austin King (18-12) also competed at the District Championships.
Metzler and LaSanta were Central’s only wrestlers to advance out of the first round. In the case of the former, he opened up with a too-close-for-comfort 1-0 decision over Lepperd, capitalizing on a second-period escape and then holding off a near escape by the Indians’ grappler at the end of the third period.
"(Lepperd) has good hips as far as keeping his hips moving from the bottom, looking to get an escape or reverse on Ben and he nearly got it there at the end of the first match," Sunderland said. "(Ben)’s a pretty calm wrestler as far as, on the surface, he doesn’t appear to be too excited or too dejected either way. But to win a one-point match, you’ve got to be pretty precise, know what you’re doing, and there’s sort of an art to winning the one-point match."
Dating back to Sectionals, Metzler won his fourth-straight one-point decision in the quarter-finals, making a first-period takedown stand up as the difference in a 3-2 win over Dallastown’s Ben Hoover (29-9).
But Central Dauphin senior Tyson Dippery, the eventual 138-pound champ, proved to be a tough customer in the semi-finals, earning a 19-1 tech fall in 4:58 over Metzler. Dippery later defeated Big Spring’s Chad Wickard 10-1 for the gold medal.
"(Ben) gave a solid effort," Sunderland said. "I mean, going against one of the toughest kids in the State against Dippery is a tough call, but he did a nice job with two opening-round matches. All his matches were close. He had wrestled Hoover at the Battle at the Beach (in December), so we knew that was going to be a tough one."
The path didn’t get any easier in Metzler’s first wrestleback, drawing a rematch with Lepperd with a trip to the bronze-medal match — and an automatic berth in States — hanging in the balance.
Following a scoreless first period, Lepperd nearly worked for a reversal at the edge of the mat early in the second. But Metzler got a re-start and then managed to earn two back points to go up 2-0.
"The biggest thing we told Ben before wrestling him again," Sunderland said, "was just to control the hips and then he was able to capitalize on a tilt for the two-point near fall."
Lepperd made it a one-point match on an escape with 26 seconds left in the period, but Metzler answered with an escape in the third and then held on for the 3-1 win.
"Ben’s tough on top, he’s strong and he’s able to control the kids a lot of times," Sunderland said. "And (coming off) the match where you won 1-0 the first time and you get a two-point near fall, that was a big margin."
That win set up yet another rematch, this time against Hoover. It remained a scoreless dual at the end of regulation, but then the Wildcats’ junior scored a takedown with 50 seconds left in OT to earn a 2-0 win for the bronze medal.
"I think there might have been just a little bit of a letdown knowing he had qualified (for States)," Sunderland said. "Hoover didn’t have to wrestle a consolation match (in the semis) because he got a forfeit so I think that helped in giving him a little bit extra energy and being a little more fresh. That’s what it came down to ultimately. But Hoover hit a nice shrug in overtime to get the takedown. I almost feel like if Ben had to win that match to qualify to States, he would have won it."
LaSanta will have one more shot to get to States as a senior next year. But he appeared to be in solid shape after decking Conrad Weiser senior Colby Auman (24-9) in 3:13 in his opening-round match in the 195-pound weight class. Then in the quarter-finals, Eastern York’s Alex Coolley (34-2), the Section Five champ, hit a five-point takedown in the first period on his way to an 11-5 win.
The Manheim Central junior rebounded to flatten Harrisburg’s Lemir Isom (13-5) in 1:40 in the wrestlebacks, but his season ended with a 9-0 loss to Central Dauphin senior Dietrik Ferster (34-9).
At 132, Fantom suffered an 11-4 loss to Central Dauphin East’s Cody Cavrich in the first round, then was eliminated after losing by fall in 2:45 to York Tech’s Gary Hake.
Siegrist faced a big challenge in his 145-pound opener and lost by fall in 3:53 to Spring Grove junior Mason Bentzel (39-4), the eventual silver-medalist. The Barons’ freshman gave Central Dauphin’s Nick Varndell a battle in the consolations, but dropped a 3-1 decision.
In the 152-pound brackets, Chambersburg senior Garett Hammond (43-6) scored a 22-5 tech fall in 3:59 over King on his way to winning the silver medal. King was then eliminated after losing by fall in 2:01 to Susquehanna Township’s Arthur Watkins. More METZLER, page B-4