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Metzler falls one win shy of State medal
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
In the moments after Manheim Central’s Ben Metzler wrestled last Friday afternoon, he walked up a ramp at Hershey’s Giant Center and disappeared into a warm-up area.
The Barons’ junior star was on his way to receive some ice treatment for an injured neck as he began the long off-season.
Once his neck heals, however, Metzler knows that he will be taking away something much more positive from his first appearance at the State Triple-A Wrestling Championships.
He will have a valuable learning experience.
Although Metzler fell just one win away from winning a PIAA medal in the 138-pound weight class, he got a taste of the bright lights and even recorded his first State victory prior to suffering a season-ending 12-0 loss to North Allegheny’s Jesse Rodgers in a Round Two consolation match. Metzler finished with a record of 31-10 this season.
"We didn’t go over any of that stuff, but I think that will be stuff for down the road after today," Barons’ coach Troy Sunderland said. "Yeah, it’s critical to be here, see this, be in this environment. It certainly would have been nice to win that one and get on award stand. But just being here and being in the environment and at least getting a win will help confidence-wise and preparation-wise for his senior year."
Rodgers (40-7), the Southwest Region runner-up, was coming off a 9-0 loss to Altoona’s T.J. Brandt when he faced Metzler, a 3-1 winner over DuBois senior Garrett Brown (33-12) in the first-round of consis. Metzler had been hoping to ride the momentum from that win and get on the scoreboard first, but Rodgers instead took a 2-0 lead on a takedown with 26 seconds left in the opening stanza.
"We didn’t get off to a good start and I felt like if we could have scored first," Sunderland said, "I think just having (Rodgers) coming back from a loss there in the quarters, mentally that can be a big, big hurdle. Then we got down 5-0 and it’s a tough road to hoe."
Metzler took the bottom position to start the second period, and Rodgers used a bar to score three back points with 40 seconds elapsed to build his lead to 5-0. Another bar led to three more back points on his way to a commanding 9-0 advantage after two.
"(Rodgers) is long, has good reach," Sunderland said, "but he’s quick, has good snaps, controlled ties."
In the third period, Rodgers escaped from the bottom position with 1:35 left and then completed the scoring on a takedown with 1:10 to go.
Asked how Metzler was dealing with the loss, Sunderland said, "He’s pretty even-keeled as far as not getting too down. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but I’m proud of the effort and proud of what he did to get here."
That effort included a 3-1 last-second victory over Brown in the first-round of consolations. Metzler nearly got on the board on a first-period takedown, but Brown defended the shot and kept it scoreless after one.
But the Barons’ junior eventually opened the scoring with a second-period escape, and then Brown, the Northwest Region bronze-medalist, pulled even with an escape of his own with 1:38 left in the third.
With just over a minute remaining, the Beavers’ senior caught Metzler in a headlock at the edge of the mat, but the two wrestlers went out of bounds before Brown could get the takedown.
"I think Ben pushed in a little bit and (Brown) had good hips and a good throw there," Sunderland said. "Fortunately, it was just out of bounds. It was close, though."
Having dodged that scare, Metzler executed a late ankle pick and secured a takedown with just two seconds to go which proved to be the difference in a 3-1 victory.
"I just had to go for something in the last couple seconds and see if I could catch him in anything," Metzler said. "I got lucky, caught the ankle, lifted it and got the two at the end … (Brown) is definitely a great wrestler, very strong, very quick. Just a close match the whole way through to the end."
"(Brown) was trying to counter using the funk position and sometimes you get that call, sometimes you don’t," Sunderland said, "and (Ben) was able to hold him there and secure it, so I think that’s why the referee gave the two and started counting back points. I sorta try to call out the times at the end of the periods to get that extra little bit of focus, and plus it’s the ideal time to score so that you’re getting that takedown without any chance of an escape. He capitalized when he needed to."
Metzler admitted that it was easy to feel intimidated when first walking into the Giant Center, so he was glad to get that first win under his belt.
"It’s pretty sweet," he said. "Looking up at the lights in this huge arena and seeing all the people, it’s special."
"(The nerves are) usually gone for the most part by the end of that first (match)," Sunderland said, "and I think his dad, Mark Metzler, said it best — you win a match and it’s like, ‘I believe I can wrestle here. I’m part of this and I’m good enough to be here,’ and it gives you a little bit more of that confidence and self-esteem to say, ‘OK, let’s go.’"
Metzler had a tough first-round opponent in Father Judge’s Northeast Region champ Joe Galasso (37-1), the eventual 138-pound gold-medalist. The Crusaders’ junior began his run to the title with four takedowns in the first two periods on his way to a 9-3 lead. He added one more takedown and three back points in the final stanza to complete a 14-4 victory.
But despite that loss and Metzler’s eventual season-ending loss to Rodgers, Sunderland was pleased with his season.
"The main thing (we talked about) is just to keep his head up, not to get down," Sunderland said. "He had a good year." More METZLER, page B-6