By Pete Chiodo
It’s hard to ask for a better season than the General McLane wrestling team is having this year.
The Lancers have dominated nearly every event they’ve entered this season, be it the 12 regular-season dual matches they’ve won by an average of 37.4 points each, of their first-place titles at Meadville’s Tool City Tournament and Grove City’s Fred Bell Tournament.
So, it’s hard to ask for more. But it’s not impossible.
Now the Lancers have their sights set on some major hardware. First on the shopping list is the District 10 Class AAA team duals, which starts today at 5 p.m. at Central Tech High School in Erie.
“Being in this tournament and having a chance to compete for a title was one of the team’s goals at the beginning of the season,” said Lancers head coach Ryan Cook. “There are certain competitions that, at the beginning of season, you have earmarked. This was one of them.”
McLane, the No. 1 seed at the event, faces No. 4 seed Warren (9-4) in the semifinals. At the same time, second-ranked McDowell (10-1), the two-time defending D-10 champ and last year’s state runner-up, takes on third-seed Titusville (9-4).
The two semifinal winners will square off in the championship match, which is slated for 7 p.m.
The semifinals will mark the second head-to-head meeting for McLane and Warren. The two teams squared off on Jan. 16. McLane won in a blowout, 68-3.
Tonight’s McDowell-Titusville clash will also be a rematch. On Dec. 18, the Trojans defeated the Rockets 62-9.
If everything goes according to plan, it should be McDowell and McLane in the final, again. At last year’s team duals, McDowell beat GM 44-16 for the D-10 crown. The Trojans later went on to finish second at the PIAA team championships, losing the title match to Canon-McMillan, 35-20.
Last year’s run by McDowell is serving as a template that GM hopes to follow this season.
“McDowell set a precedent for our district at the state duals last year,” said Cook. “For a program in our situation, that’s something we can strive to match. They set the goals for us. And we’re looking to attain what they had and more.”
This season, the Lancers got a little bit of revenge over the Trojans, defeating them 34-23 in an exciting regular season dual back on Dec. 20.
They’ll need another victory like that to keep moving on as a team. The winner of the Class AAA duals will advance to the PIAA Team Championship, which will be held Feb. 7 through 9 at The Giant Center in Hershey.
Class AA is Saturday
The District 10 Class AA team duals are shaping up to be a competitive event, with four of the state’s top 25 squads (according to Off the Mat) jockeying for one of three inter-district berths and, more importantly, a D-10 trophy.
The tournament is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. at Sharon High School.
The day begins with No. 1 seed Reynolds (15-2, ranked fifth in the state) taking on No. 8 seed Seneca (10-8). At the same time, fourth-seeded Saegertown (9-4, ranked 16th) squares off against No. 5 seed Jamestown (14-1).
Quarterfinal matches continue at 11 a.m. Second seed and reigning D-10 champion Fort LeBoeuf (8-3, ranked No. 11) goes head to head with No. 7 seed Maplewood (14-2). Meanwhile, third-seed Greenville (12-3, ranked 22nd in the state) goes up against sixth-seeded Mercer (8-2).
The four quarterfinal winners will meet in the semis, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. The championship and consolation matches begin at 5.
The D-10 champion advances straight to the PIAA Team Championships. The runner-up will host the WPIAL third-seed on Tuesday for a spot at states. And the third-place team will travel to District 9 to face its runner-up in a battle for a state berth.
Saegertown head coach Jim Mulligan believes his team has what it takes to be one of the district’s top three. But first, the Panthers have to get past Jamestown.
“It’s going to be tough a matchup,” he said. “They’re a good team, Jamestown. I’m happy for them. They kind of came out of nowhere this year. They spread out their weights and are having a solid year. They only lost to Greenville by a point.”
The winner of the Saegertown-Jamestown match will likely take on Reynolds in the semifinals.
For Saegertown, that would be a rematch. The Panthers faced the Raiders during the Ultimate Duals in Brookville. Reynolds won it 40-22.
Mulligan said his team is ready to give Reynolds, and the rest of the duals field, a run for their money.
“We’re right where need to be,” he said. “We’re battle tested. Our schedule was brutal. We’ve been wrestling tough. We’re excited. The kids are focused, they’re fresh. No excuses for us. The team is really coming together.”
For Maplewood, their matchup with Fort LeBoeuf will be its first of the season. And while the Bison are the favorites, Tigers head coach Matt Wilcox isn’t prepared to count his team out.
“We know we’re the underdogs,” said Wilcox. “But I’ve been in situations when I was underdog before and I’ve come out on top. You never know. That’s what I tell these guys all the time. That’s why have wrestling matches.”
After all, Maplewood has been surprising people all season long. A year ago, the Tigers ended its campaign with a record of 5-15. This time around, they’ve won 14 of 16 duals, including all five at the Coudersport Duals, and they posted a second place finish at the Slippery Rock Tournament.
“I mean, we’re ecstatic,” said Wilcox. “Our goal this year was to have a better year than last year. And for us to be considered one of the top eight teams in the district, coming out of last year that was unimaginable. To be 14-2, sitting as one of the top eight teams in District 10, is very honorable. And it’s very special to me, because the last time Maplewood was in (the D-10 duals) was my senior year (2003). ... These boys have wrestled tirelessly to improve and get better and it’s obviously showed this year.”