Hirtzel, Stewart collect District Three medals

By on March 1, 2017
Warwick junior Luke Hirtzel (top) works his way toward a 5-3 sudden-victory decision over South Western’s Ethan Baney in a first-round 152-pound bout at the District Three Championships last Friday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Warwick junior Luke Hirtzel (top) works his way toward a 5-3 sudden-victory decision over South Western’s Ethan Baney in a first-round 152-pound bout at the District Three Championships last Friday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Warriors miss out on State Championships

To describe the kind of weekend that Warwick wrestlers Luke Hirtzel and Ryan Stewart had at the Giant Center, bittersweet pretty much sums it up.

Both had wanted to qualify for the State Championships.

And although the two junior grapplers came up just shy of that goal, Hirtzel and Stewart still took home medals from the District Three Triple-A Tournament. Only the top four in each weight class advanced to the PIAA Tournament.

Stewart (35-5) decked Cocalico’s Brady Maxwell to clinch a fifth-place medal at HWT, while Hirtzel (26-14) earned three wins on his way to grabbing a sixth-place medal in the 152-pound brackets. Sophomore 113-pounder Dylan Butzer (18-16) and junior 189-pounder Evan Clark (32-6), who was slowed by a knee injury, also competed at Districts.

“Close, but no cigar,” Warrior coach Ned Bushong said. “Overall, it was a good weekend. It was disappointing on one hand (not to get any State qualifiers), and still a good learning experience. As long as we can grow from the experience, it’s good. It serves as a motivation when you come that close.”

Make no mistake about it, Hirtzel and Stewart will be plenty motivated for their senior season.

“I was happy with how I wrestled the whole tournament,” Hirtzel said. “I didn’t get the result I wanted, I wanted to get to States, but there’s next year and next year the goal is not only to get to States, it’s to be one of the top guys on the podium.”

Added Stewart: “It stinks to not go to States, especially after going last year. But I mean, it’s always awesome to place at Districts. I just wish I would have gotten a place higher, but there’s always next year.”

Stewart was on the right track to return to the PIAAs for a second straight year after reaching the heavyweight semi-finals with back-to-back falls over Dallastown’s Raymond Christas (4-4) in 4:26 and Big Spring’s Hunter Adams (29-13) in 4:17 in his opening two bouts.

Next up, however, was a tough customer in Central York’s unbeaten Michael Wolfgram (34-0), the eventual champ. The Panther sophomore scored two takedowns in the first and took a 4-1 lead.

“I think just his shot (was the toughest part),” Stewart said. “He had a better shot than anyone I’ve seen this year and he was able to take me down at ease. It was hard to stop.”

Still, Stewart was on top to start the second and nearly scored back points with about :30 elapsed.

“I thought I should have gotten at least two (back points),” Stewart said. “but I don’t think that would have changed the match, really.”

Wolfgram ended up escaping and then picking up a third takedown to make it 7-2 after two, then clinched his 11-4 decision with a reversal and takedown in the final stanza.

From there, Stewart had the challenge of trying get on the right track mentally before facing Exeter’s Oscar Daniels with a State berth at stake. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite 100 percent and Daniels scored four takedowns and a reversal in a 10-4 victory.

“Besides Wolfgram, (Daniels) was probably the second-best wrestler I’ve faced all year,” Stewart said. “Takedown-wise, again he was able to take me down at any point in the match he wanted to. He was very good … Like coach (Eric) Resch was saying, it’s one of the hardest things to come out after losing in the semi-final match to win your next match in the consolation bracket. You’ve just got to think that’s your only way of going to States. But I wasn’t able to win that.”

His opponent in the fifth-place match — Cocalico’s Brady Maxwell — was no stranger. In fact, Stewart was 3-0 against the Eagle senior in three previous meetings this winter.

Stewart made it four in a row by pinning Maxwell in a time of 2:22.

“I believe I got in back of him and just tripped him down,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t anything fancy.”

Without States in the future, Stewart will turn his attention toward off-season tournaments and trying to improve his game prior to his senior season.

“I definitely need to work on a shot and shot defense, but besides that, I think I’m at the level of all these other guys that I’m going against,” Stewart said.

At 152, Hirtzel got underway Friday night with a positive result, taking down South Western’s Ethan Baney (22-12) in sudden victory, 5-3, but then dropped a 10-3 decision to East Pennsboro’s Matthew Danner (30-10) in the quarterfinals.

“I liked where I was put in the bracket,” Hirtzel said. “I knew that first match would be tough, I knew the second match would be tough. That (loss to Danner) was probably my worst match of the tournament.”

Thanks to his fall in 3:36 over Lower Dauphin’s David DeNotaris (15-17) in the consolations, Hirtzel advanced and kept his hopes alive.

Then the Warrior junior took another step in his first match on Saturday, moving onto the consolation semi-finals with his 3-2 victory over Gettysburg’s Daniel Ziegler (25-8). Countering a shot by the Ziegler in the third period, Hirtzel’s takedown with 1:23 left was the difference.

“That’s my main thing,” Hirtzel said, when asked about the counter. “I would be considered a very defensive wrestler. I don’t take a lot of shots. I’m not bad at it, but I don’t take a lot.”

When Ziegler tried to throw him in the final seconds, Hirtzel felt like could have pinned the Warrior senior, but didn’t want to be risky.

“I was worried he was going to roll me through,” Hirtzel said. “Rather than anything crazy happening, just take the 3-2 win. I mean, a win is a win there.”

That guaranteed Hirtzel two more matches. In the first of those, with a State berth at stake, he gave Chambersburg junior Drake Brenize (31-10) a battle, but suffered a 3-0 setback.

The bout was scoreless through two periods, but then Hirtzel cut Brenize loose early in the third, and the Trojans’ senior scored a takedown with 1:31 remaining and then held on.

“(Brenize) was really tough to hold,” Hirtzel said. “He’s strong and kinda explosive. I stopped his first move and he just kept moving … He took a nice shot at me, I defended it for a bit — I got a deep whizzer in, and then instead of trying to finish it standing, I got on one knee. He ended up getting his hips higher than me, I was trying to get my hips higher than him, and I gave up two there.”

Naturally disappointed, Hirtzel still came back with a tough effort in his rematch against Danner in the fifth-place match. After the East Pennsboro grappler took a 4-0 first-period lead, Hirtzel cut it to 5-2 on a takedown with 1:11 left in the second.

“I saw he was doing two face shots and then he would go for a low double to a single,” Hirtzel said. “I kinda expected it, he double-faked and went in, I stopped that and got the near ankle, cross-faced and … I had to spin a bit, but finally got behind.”

Hirtzel’s escape at the 1:33 mark of the third got him within two, and Danner only sealed his 7-3 decision late on a takedown with :03 remaining.

“I just had to sell out in the last 20 seconds,” Hirtzel said, “I took a shot — it wasn’t the greatest shot — and he got behind.”

“(Luke) wrestled a really nice solid tournament,” Bushong said. “His fifth/sixth place match was much closer the second time than it was the first time. His confidence built as the tournament went on.”

Standing in a tunnel at the Giant Center after stepping down from the medal stand, Hirtzel summed up the weekend.

“I’m real happy with it,” he said. “I’m not sure how many people actually thought I was going (to place). I think the only people that really believed in me doing this were my coaches, my parents and myself. I feel like these past three weeks, I turned it up a little bit and wrestled better than I have all year.”



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