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By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The frustration was visible on Tom Devenney’s face as he suffered a one-point loss to Solanco’s Bo Spiller last Saturday.
The Warwick senior’s dreams for a District Three Triple-A gold medal at 285 were dashed with a 5-4 loss in the semi-finals on the floor of the Hersheypark Arena.
But he didn’t dwell on it.
"What’s my next bout number?," Devenney quickly asked one of his coaches.
Remaining focused on the task at hand, he came back to win his final two matches and clinched a second straight District bronze medal, along with a berth in the PIAA State Wrestling Championships, set for March 7-9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Warwick freshman Devin Schnupp (39-4) showed that same kind of focus in his District debut, rallying to win three consecutive wrestlebacks on his way to a fourth-place medal in the 106-pound weight class and a return trip to Chocolatetown.
"We have two that qualified for States, which is not too bad," Warwick coach Ned Bushong remarked. "It’s a lot better than not having any. When we go to States, it’s a brand new week and if we’re healthy and everything is going good, we’re in good shape. I think we have two guys that are as good as most of the guys out there."
Junior 113-pounder Josh Charles (37-7) fell only two wins short of giving Warwick a third State qualifier, while senior Steve Woolley (33-8) and sophomore Austin Maguire (20-13) also competed at 160 and 220, respectively.
"The kids wrestled well," Bushong said. "Steve Woolley ended up being one match short of 100 wins, so it would have been nice to pick up one win there. But overall he had a great season."
Devenney (38-3) is hoping to have a great finish to his career at States. If that includes another match against Spiller, the Warwick senior wouldn’t complain.
Last Saturday’s clash was the third time this season that they faced off, with each one ending in a one-point decision. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the latest showdown mirrored their first one, when Spiller hit a five-point headlock and held on a for a 5-4 win.
Having already threatened to take a lead on a single-leg shot before going out of bounds, Devenney was intent to finish the second time he got Spiller in that position with 30 seconds left in the first period. But the Solanco sophomore (29-7) turned the tables and took a 5-0 advantage at period’s end.
"The first time I was working a single leg and he went out. So the second time, I wanted to actually score," Devenney said. "I tried to bring it back in and I was just sorta standing there and then he hit me in a headlock. You learn from your mistakes and I get to wrestle him hopefully one more time."
Spiller chose bottom in the second period, and neither wrestler scored, but Devenney felt like he made some headway. The fact that Spiller was cautioned for stalling with :34 left in the period was a sign of things to come and it might have led to Devenney choosing top for the final stanza.
"I took top in the third because I started really working him," he said, "I thought I could tire him out, and maybe finally get a move."
Devenney did, in fact, push the action over the final two minutes and sliced Spiller’s lead to 5-4 by forcing three stalling violations — the last of those with only :03 left –?but that’s how the match would end.
"A five-point move is huge, and especially at this level, it’s really hard to score more than five in a match," Devenney said. "I was extremely frustrated (in the third) because I would start to work a wrist and then he would just grab my wrist and roll them under. He was stalling really hard the last two periods. The last two periods, he didn’t do anything."
Needing to win one more to guarantee a trip to States, he dominated Hershey’s Zach Warren (30-7), the Section Two champ, in a 9-2 victory in the consolation semi-finals. In the second period, Devenney twice turned the Trojans’ senior with a hammer lock for a 5-0 lead and that was all he needed.
"If you’re someone that can muscle the other guy, you just drive your feet and try to drive it over and work a half," he said. "You’ve got to give (Warren) credit. He didn’t give up when I put him on his back. I mean, he was a tough kid, but I able to work some top stuff, so it worked out."
In the bronze-medal match against Shippensburg’s Cary Hess (30-4), Devenney snapped a scoreless tie with a second-period escape and then controlled the third to close out the 1-0 victory. Devenney’s win in that bout ensured a top-three finish for the L-L League in the heavyweight brackets. Hempfield’s Joey Goodhart defeated Spiller 8-5 for the gold.
"Like we’ve talked earlier, we had the three best heavyweights in our Section," Bushong said. "I just looked at Tom in the wrestlebacks and he pretty much dominated the other guys. I mean, his last match (against Warren) was probably one of the easier matches he had."
Going into that match, Devenney knew that he was guaranteed a trip to States, but he still had plenty of motivation.
"Heavyweight this year is loaded, especially at the State level," he said. "So if you get one higher seed, that can be huge. You really want to work as hard as you can. With two weeks off, you really want to do all you can, use all your energy now because you’re going to get it back by two weeks time."
Asked about his goals at States, Devenney said, "Just wrestle my best. Last year I came this close to placing. This coming year, I want to place top five. Top three if I can."
Certainly, Schnupp will set high goals for himself at States as well. He was one of three wrestlers in the lower half of the 106-pound brackets to advance to the Giant Center, joining Central York freshman Dylan Chatterton (28-2) and Central Dauphin sophomore Zach Elvin (27-6), who lost to Solanco junior Connor Sheehan (33-4) in the championship match.
"I think that’s pretty good (for Devin to place fourth)," Bushong said. "It’s a tough weight class. From everything I’ve heard from different people, 106 is probably the toughest throughout the state that it’s been in years. I thought Devin did a good job. There’s some tough kids there."
One of those is Chatterton, who capitalized on a takedown and three back points in the first period to go up 5-0. Schnupp’s takedown with 1:09 left in the second made the score 5-2, but he eventually suffered a 6-3 loss.
There was no lack of offense, however, in his first consolation match against Dover’s Brandon Rodriguez (20-11), taking a 12-2 lead after two periods and cruising to a 17-2 tech fall in 4:30.
Next, Schnupp hammered Oley Valley’s Ryan Fretz (32-7) by an 11-2 major to advance to the consolation semi-finals against Palmyra’s Evan Bogdan, who lost by fall in 1:35 to Sheehan. Following a scoreless first period, Schnupp reversed Bogdan with 1:13 left in the second to open the scoring. The Cougars’ junior escaped, and then Schnupp nearly had a takedown at the buzzer, but had to settle for a 2-1 lead going to the third.
"That was pretty big getting the first points with a reversal, not an escape," he said. "Eventually (Bogdan) got out and I almost took him down twice (including a first-period shot). I didn’t have him, but I knew I could take him down."
Schnupp proved that when he did, in fact, finish a single-leg takedown with 1:04 to go in the third, and that was the difference in a 4-3 win earning him a spot in the third-place bout.
"I could tell my shot was there, I think, the whole match," Schnupp said, "and I got a better shot and I got a little deeper to bring it up and grabbed his other ankle and pulled it in for the two."
Standing between Schnupp and the bronze medal was a rematch with Chatterton. Neither scored in the first, but then the Central York freshman was able to tilt Schnupp for two back points in the second period, then he added an escape in the final stanza and held on for a 3-0 decision.
"I didn’t get caught, but the score essentially was a three-point difference again, so it was kind of the same match. I just couldn’t score," Schnupp said. "(Chatterton) stayed in really good position and it was hard to get to my attacks, so it was tough. And I couldn’t get out, which was a big bummer."
Qualifying for States, though, was not a bummer.
"I’m happy with (placing fourth)," Schnupp said. "I could’ve maybe done a little bit better, but I got to States — that’s a good thing the first year (as a freshman). So it’s exciting."
He could add to that excitement by reaching his goal of winning State hardware.
"I guess (my goal is) placing as high as I can get," Schnupp said. "First is always amazing, but I just got to go out and wrestle and do my best. I think if your goal is just to make it to States, you would stop there. But I don’t want to just stop there. I want to do more and try to place. It would be nice to get a State medal."
Charles wasn’t ready to stop at Districts, but his 6-2 loss to Solanco’s Austin Laws (24-11) ended his season with a 37-7 record. Earlier, Charles defeated James Buchanan’s Hunter Faith 8-2 and then after suffering a 4-2 loss to South Western’s Derek Wilson (25-9) in the quarters, he knocked off Exeter’s Tristan Watts (26-13) in his first consolation bout.
That set up his match with Laws, whom Charles had defeated twice earlier this season. On Saturday, however, it was meant to be.
"Josh wrestled well," Bushong said. "He got caught with that takedown right at the end of the first period against Laws. But he’s had a real good year — Sectional champion and he goes to Districts and wins two matches there. That’s good. You can’t ask for anything else."
In other action, Woolley took Cumberland Valley’s Brandon Rudy (18-14) to OT before suffering a 5-3 loss in a 160-pound opening-round match and then he was eliminated with a 10-5 setback to Middletown’s Steven Cain (28-12).
At 220, Maguire suffered a 9-1 defeat to Mechanicsburg’s Lucas Chestnut (24-14) and he was ousted after losing by fall in 4:39 to Harrisburg’s Andrew Brown (18-9).
The good news for the Warriors is that Schnupp, Charles and Maguire will all be returning next winter with some valuable post-season experience under their belt.
"(Maguire)’s a sophomore, he got (to Districts) and gets an idea of what it’s like to be there and he can look around and see what he has to do to be back next year," Bushong said. "Hopefully he’ll come back next year and do better than he did this year. Looking on to the rest of the season, I think we have two guys going to States that have a chance to do very well. We have three returning kids for next year that have been to Regionals and they have a better idea of what they have to do and that gives us something to build around for next year." More WARRIORS, page B-3
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