Redbank Valley wrestlers surging after strong December
On the final day of 2012, Redbank Valley wrestling coach Mike Kundick gathered his Bulldogs during a morning practice and reminded them that while December was a remarkable month for the team, February and March 2013 remained the months when everything mattered most.
“If we're satisfied with what we're doing right now, it might not be good enough in February,” Kundick said. “Wrestling is not a sport where you can sit back and live on what you did in December.”
What Redbank Valley accomplished last month certainly set an optimistic tone for the rest of the season. The Bulldogs had five place-winners and took 10th in their season-opening tournament, the 33-team King of the Mountain. They edged defending District 9 dual-meet champion Brookville, 36-33, in their first match. And they defended their title in the Christmas tournament they hosted.
Now comes the next challenge: Sustain the success through early February, when the PIAA team tournament begins, and into early March, when the state's individual competition starts.
“We have a long way to go,” Kundick said. “But this first month was probably as hard a first month as we've ever had, and they really came out and wrestled well all month.”
The Bulldogs went into Central Mountain's King of the Mountain competition fairly curious about how they'd fare in a tournament that featured 37 state placewinners, many of whom were from Class AAA schools.
To their delight, the Bulldogs discovered they fit in just fine.
Ty Haines (145 pounds) and Cole Shirey (160) reached the semifinals of their respective brackets before they lost. Both finished in fourth place.
After losing in the quarterfinals, Aaron Hook (182) battled back through the consolation rounds to place third, upsetting No. 2 seed Liam Korbul of North Hunterdon, 3-1, in the medal match.
Brandon Bailey (170) placed sixth, and Gruver (113) came in seventh. Two other Bulldogs, Kolbin Altobelli (106) and his younger brother, Tanner (120), were one win short of medaling.
A 36-33 victory at Brookville on Dec. 20 ended Redbank Valley's two-year skid against the Raiders. Haines put the Bulldogs on the right path when he knocked Zach Vroman from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 5-3 decision in the match's opening bout. Shirey, Hook, 220-pounder Cal Haines, heavyweight Ben Carrillo and Gruver won by pin. Luke Hinderliter denied Brookville bonus points when he held his own against Raiders standout Taylor Cudworth during a 5-2 loss in the 195-pound bout.
And Mitch Blose clinched the match for Redbank Valley when he beat PIAA Northwest regional qualifier Cole Clever, 10-8, in the 126-pound bout.
“I can't tell you how … awesome, I guess, is the word for that match,” Kundick said.
January will provide Redbank Valley less rest time between competitions. The team has six dual meets in the month, including one Thursday at Brockway. And it also has two individual tournaments, scheduled for back-to-back weekends at Northeast and Grove City, respectively.
Then comes February and the true start of the pursuit for a District 9 team title, which Redbank Valley last won in 2008 — the Bulldogs claimed that crown through team points at the individual tournament; they, as the No. 1 seeds, were upset in the dual meet tournament.
“I have my older brother on that (2008) team, and Cole has his cousin, so we're all connected to that team,” Ty Haines said. “We all have older people saying, ‘Oh, you're not as good as us. You don't have a title yet.' So we want to get a title just so we can say, hey, we got this.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.