Metzler falls two wins shy of State berth

By on March 1, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston Whitcraft
Manheim Central's Ben Metzler (top) tries to gain his balance in a flurry with E-town's Owen Bradley in the 126-pound consolations.

Sophomore Ben Metzler was Manheim Central’s last hope for a State qualifier.

And coming off his 12-2 win over Elizabethtown’s Owen Bradley in his third consolation match at the District Three Triple-A Championships last Saturday, there was a real sense of optimism.

Unfortunately for the Barons, though, it didn’t work out.

Metzler, vying to become Manheim Central’s first State qualifier since 2008, ended up two wins shy in the 126-pound weight class, dropping a 9-0 decision to Manheim Township’s Scott Lopez in the consolation semi-finals. The top three place-finishers in Triple-A advanced to the PIAA State Championships, set for March 8-10 at the Giant Center in Hershey.

"We’re disappointed we didn’t get anybody to the State Tournament for the third year in a row since I’ve been here," Manheim Central coach Troy Sunderland said. "That’s disappointing, but we have two sophomores that made it there (to Districts) and both of those guys had a great year in terms of getting a lot of pins and being team leaders in a couple different categories. It’s exciting that we have some good young kids coming up from the middle school and a lot of kids returning to the high school team."

Indeed, the Barons will lose only four seniors, three of whom — Cody Bucher (132), AJ Votano (138) and Ben Wise (152) — were competing in the Hersheypark Arena. Overall, the Barons had five District qualifiers, with Metzler and sophomore 285-pounder Aaron Lefever rounding out the field.

Although Bucher was the only MC wrestler to win his opening-round match, defeating Garden Spot’s Tim Beegle 9-7, Votano and Lefever battled in hard-fought losses and Sunderland was optimistic at that point.

"After that Beegle match, I felt we all looked good, I felt we had good training going into it," Sunderland said. "Aside from the lopsided loss with Metzler, with that first match win over Beegle, I thought, ‘We’re right where we need to be.’ It just wasn’t meant to be."

Metzler (34-12) earned a tough first-round draw against Central Dauphin’s Tyson Dippery (45-2), who rolled to a 15-0 tech fall in 1:41 on his way to the 126-pound gold medal.

But the MC sophomore quickly put that loss behind him, as he jumped to an early 5-0 lead on Fleetwood’s Austin Haas (28-10) and held on for an 8-6 decision in his first consi match.

"He came back real well," Sunderland said. "That match was against a real athletic kid and I think (Ben) really dominated the match."

Next, Metzler again grabbed the early lead, this time going up 4-0 on Dover’s Ross Drawbaugh (28-7), the Section Five runner-up, and clinching a 4-2 decision in his final match on Friday night.

That set up another match against Bradley, who Metzler pinned in 1:55 in a dual meet just two weeks earlier.

"I thought Bradley was going to give (Ben) a real good run for his money," Sunderland said. "I felt like going into this match, Bradley was really going to be gunning for him and looking to pay him back for that loss in the dual meet."

It didn’t happen, as Metzler again dominated and scored a 12-2 major.

"After that match, I felt really good going into the match with Scott Lopez going into the consi semis," Sunderland said.

At Sectionals, Metzler led Lopez 5-3 late in the third period in the semi-finals before the MT junior pulled off a four-point reversal to win 7-5. This time, Lopez (27-7) had control of things the whole way, leading 4-0 after two on a takedown and reversal and winning 9-0.

"Last year, (Ben) missed qualifying to Districts by a 15-second mistake that cost him the third and fourth place (match at Sectionals). This year, he did a nice job coming back and finishing third to qualify for Districts," Sunderland said. "To win three matches at the District Tournament was big in his development."

Bucher (24-17), meanwhile, got a solid start to his final District Tournament in the 132-pound brackets, taking a 2-1 first-period lead on Beegle (29-12), the Section Four champion. Then he turned the Garden Spot senior twice in the second period for five back points and won 9-7.

But he lost his next two matches by fall against Chambersburg’s Colten Arnold (22-14) in 5:38 and Carlisle Area’s Ian Shannon (32-10) in 2:04.

At 138, Central Dauphin junior Nick Varndell (17-6) awaited Votano (27-12) in a first-round matchup, and the Central senior battled back from a 3-0 deficit to pull even 3-3 on a takedown with 1:00 left in the third. But Varndell, the eventual silver-medalist, eventually prevailed 7-3.

"(AJ) really gave (Varndell) a good hard scrap," Sunderland said. "It was a lot closer than the match would indicate and AJ put everything into that match to beat him. So I don’t think the seniors have any regrets."

In his first consi match, Votano suffered a 7-3 setback to Big Spring’s Chad Wickard.

Turning to the 152-pound brackets, Wise (27-18) had his hands full against Cedar Cliff’s Jake Colello (25-9), who took a 5-0 first-period lead and won 9-1. Unfortunately, Wise was then unable to get his offense on track against West York’s Garrett Stauffer (22-10), who earned a 5-1 decision in the consis.

Lefever (26-9), meanwhile, looked to be in good shape after using a second-period escape to take a 1-0 lead into the third period on York Suburban’s Nick Lucchesi (35-3) in a 285-pound first-round match. Lucchesi, though, rallied in the third to win 3-2.

In the consolations, Lefever’s season ended with a 4-1 loss to Mechanicsburg senior Sawyer Mundorf (22-10).

"I think the biggest thing we have overall, as a team, is we only graduate four seniors. A lot of sophomores got good experience this year," Sunderland said, "a couple of juniors will be ready to go for us next year, so I think the youth of our team is probably the most exciting part." More BARONS, page B-4

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