Minus one of its top wrestlers, Redbank Valley wins first PIAA bout
TribLIVE Sports Videos
HERSHEY — Adversity struck Redbank Valley's wrestling team just before its first appearance in the PIAA Class AA team tournament. About an hour before their match, the Bulldogs lost their wins co-leader, senior 182-pounder Aaron Hook, who was ruled out with a skin condition.
That setback, paired with newcomer pressure and the daunting nature of Hershey's cavernous Giant Center, seemed to further test the limits of Redbank Valley's mettle.
But rather than stumble in their debut, the District 9 champion Bulldogs (11-0) delivered a performance to remember. Redbank Valley thumped District 2 winner Western Wayne, 45-30, to secure the program's first state team tournament victory as well as its 500th in history.
“Our plan was to wrestle heads-up like we always do, but when we lost Aaron, we had to shuffle guys,” said coach Mike Kundick, who noted Hook, 26-2 this season, likely will miss the rest of the team tournament. “They really stepped it up.”
Redbank Valley advanced to the quarterfinals where it will wrestle District 3 runner-up Bermudian Springs (25-5) at noon Friday.
The opening weight class of the first-round match, 113 pounds, proved to be vital for the Bulldogs as it afforded them the chance to start with one of two wrestlers who had competed previously at Giant Center.
Junior Willie Gruver, a PIAA individual tournament qualifier a season ago, pinned Western Wayne's Brett Toth midway through the first period.
Pins by Tanner Altobelli (120 pounds) and Mitch Blose followed, and Austin Schreckengost's 9-2 decision in the 132-pound bout put Redbank Valley ahead, 21-0.
“We couldn't have asked for a better place to start,” Kundick said. “We're up (21-0) after four matches, and it was a really big boost for us.”
Western Wayne closed the gap with back-to-back pins, but Redbank Valley reclaimed the momentum for good with decisions by Ty Haines (152) and KeShon Truitt (160), a pin by Cole Shirey (170) and a forfeit victory for Brandon Bailey (182). Truitt's win came against Lucas Karnick, who entered the bout with a 24-5 record.
“Once (the lightweights) got going, our whole team got into the match, and we had it in the bag,” said Haines, Redbank Valley's other PIAA individual qualifier last season.
Lacking Hook, Redbank Valley forfeited at 195, and, certain to win, the Bulldogs had the option to forfeit the three following bouts. But Kundick, aware that his wrestlers must maintain their weight during the next couple days, chose to let his remaining grapplers compete.
That led to further confidence boosting. Ben Carrillo (285) pinned Western Wayne's Virgil Burns, who entered the bout at 24-1.
“I was a little nervous at first because I'm not used to wrestling at a big coliseum,” Carrillo, a junior, said. “When I first lock up with my opponents, I figure out who's stronger, and as soon as I locked up with him, I knew I was.”
Bermudian Springs likely will pose a tougher challenge, as it defeated WPIAL champion Burrell, 34-29, in the first round. But Redbank Valley's wrestlers, buzzing after the win, aren't ready to let doubt creep in their minds.
“When you lose a big guy like (Hook), it gets everybody down,” Haines said. “I knew I had to rally everyone and let them know that we can still do big things.
“I think we can beat (Bermudian Springs). We have to have confidence, but I think we're going to take it to them.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.