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Redbank Valley returns with 2 PIAA medals

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Redbank Valley's Cole Shirey (top) attempts to pin Fairfield's Nick Mort during their 160-pound match during the opening round on Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the PIAA Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey. Shirey won by a 8-4 decision. (Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review)

HERSHEY — Redbank Valley wrestling coach Mike Kundick at first suggested the year 2000, but then he paused and dug deeper into his memory Saturday afternoon at the Giant Center during the PIAA Class AA Individual Championships' medal round.

After a few more moments, he came up with the correct answer to the trivia question: When did the Bulldogs last bring home two state medalists?

For the first time since 1990 and just the second time in program history, two Redbank Valley wrestlers left Hershey with hardware. Junior 113-pounder Willie Gruver placed seventh with a 6-2 win over Bentworth junior Jacob Rothka, and senior 160-pounder Cole Shirey took eighth after South Fayette sophomore Jared Walker reversed and pinned him in the tiebreaker period of overtime.

Their accomplishments added to a season in which Redbank Valley secured its 500th win in program history, claimed both District 9 team titles and advanced to the quarterfinals in its PIAA Class AA team tournament debut.

“It's been a dream season for us,” Kundick said. “To come down here and win two medals is just a fantastic ending.”

Gruver, in his second state tournament appearance, went 3-2. His losses came against the eventual champion, Derry Area freshman George Phillippi and to fourth-place finisher Justin Patrick of Ligonier Valley.

“It feels great to medal,” said Gruver, whose loss to Patrick by pinfall in 33 seconds dropped him into the seventh-place match. “I think (that loss) was just nerves about what place I'd be going for after that. The nerves just got to me. … But it got me ready for the next round.”

Shirey, who went 2-3 in his tournament debut, also struggled with stress, which sapped him of energy by the third day of wrestling.

“The previous couple matches I wrestled, I never really got to a point where I felt tired or exhausted; I was just so in the moment,” Shirey said. “But something about (the seventh-place) match, I got out there and just felt tired, and that's what decided the match. He was in better shape.”

Shirey, who plans to wrestle at Mercyhurst, said he needed some time to get past his medal-round loss before he could find satisfaction in his tournament experience. But he explained that the season, as a whole, brought him plenty of joy.

“We've accomplished more than anybody would give us credit for,” Shirey said. “Nobody thought we'd do as well as we did. I'm glad I got to go out on top with those guys.”

Redbank Valley's two medalists in 1990 were J.P. Kirkpatrick, who placed second at 119 pounds, and Toby Allen, who took sixth at 140.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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