Four exit Hershey with state medals
Pennridge duo leads pack
Matt Parker’s eyes were tinged with red.
The Pennridge senior was hurting on Saturday evening.
“I worked my whole life to be a state champ and that didn’t happen, so I’m not happy at all about this,” Parker admitted in Hershey’s Giant Center runway after being awarded his medal for finishing third in the Class AAA 120-pound bracket. “This is probably the worst day of my life, but things are going to get better.
“I’m going to get back to work, and I won’t let this happen again. I won’t let myself down again.”
The only loss Parker suffered at states was a 10-7 decision to Liberty’s Luke Werner in the semifinals. He bounced back to take bronze with a 4-3 decision over Central Dauphin’s Chris Wright in the third-place bout.
“I didn’t work to be No. 3 in the state this year,” Parker said. “I worked to be No. 1, so anything short of that is unacceptable to me.”
Parker ends his remarkable career in a Rams singlet with a mark of 142-17, having placed in the state’s top 5 his last three years.
“Matt trained and wrestles for one reason and one reason only and that’s [for] a gold medal,” Pennridge head coach R.P. Norley said, “and he didn’t get it. To him, second, third, 10th, it doesn’t matter. He didn’t get what he trained for, what he worked for. I understand his disappointment.”
Norley doesn’t expect the loss to keep Parker down, though.
“There’s more to life than just wrestling, and there’s more to life than winning,” he said. “And the character that he’s going to build from working through this and processing through this pain is going to make him a man. And that’s really why we coach.”
Rams junior Josh Stillings, who is already 120-26 for his career, improved on his fourth-place finish at states a year ago; he was second at 160 pounds on Saturday, dropping a 5-3 decision to undefeated Mifflin County junior Trent Hidlay in the final. Hidlay used a takedown 11 seconds into the match to set the tone.
“I just wasn’t ready, I guess,” Stillings shared. “I don’t know. [I] didn’t wrestle my best match, didn’t go after him.”
Stillings expressed sadness that he won’t have a Parker for a teammate next season. Matt is scheduled to join his brother, Scott, on the Lehigh wrestling team.
“Yeah, they’ve definitely paved the way for me,” Stillings said. “Everything that they’ve been doing I’ve been trying to follow them and trying to do as good as them, fill big shoes. They’re great kids.
“I’ll be back next year, and [Matt’s] going to go on and do great things in college.”
Stillings made the final by doubling up Penn Manor’s Jonah Barley by 6-3 decision in Saturday morning’s semifinals.
“Josh had a great tournament,” Norley said. “He’s a really smart kid. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, so I think he’ll do fine processing this and getting back to the grind and working in the weight room and getting ready for freestyle.”
Parker and Stillings were half of the four state medalists from the Herald’s coverage area. Also in Class AAA, Central Bucks East senior Collin Stevens came in eighth (top 8 receive medals) at 182 pounds. He had to fight through the consolation bracket to earn his place on the podium.
A 16-7 major decision over Governor Mifflin’s Ben Maack in the third round of consolations guaranteed the Patriots standout a medal. He fell by 7-4 decision to McDowell’s Jake Paulson in the seventh-place bout.
Stevens went 39-5 in 2016-17; he was 69-21 over the last two years.
In two years, Palisades sophomore Nathan Haubert is 68-9. He went 4-2 at states in Class AA last Thursday through Saturday and wound up fourth in the 145-pound bracket. He dropped a narrow, 4-3 decision to eventual champion Justin McCoy of Chestnut Ridge in the quarterfinals and won three in a row in consolations before running into Freedom Area’s Kody Komara for third place. Komara prevailed, 3-1.
Quakertown’s two-man contingent of Josh Stahl and Noah Wood combined to go 1-4 at states in Class AAA. Stahl, a sophomore, was eliminated on Thursday; he went 0-2 at 106 pounds. A senior, Wood, meanwhile, won his pigtail match over Bethlehem Catholic’s Jody Crouse, 3-2, at 195 pounds before losing his final two bouts, the final one coming in the second round of consolations.
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