Just when wrestlers feel good about the way they've been wrestling and they expect to stay on that postseason surf they've been riding, the Southwest Regional Class AA Tournament comes up and smacks them off that board like a 20-foot wave.
The 59-team meat grinder is brutal, especially at some of the weights. Scan the names of the 106-pound weight class that Huntingdon's Collin Glorioso won, and you see five of the top eight kids in the state in the Off The Mat rankings. The unranked Glorioso might have gotten some Outstanding Wrestler votes if the award was given out.
The tournament doesn't care if wrestlers finished sixth or had a bad experience last year, have been a stud in their team's lineup the whole season or made the regional finals before.
It doesn't even care if you've placed at states a couple times like Beth-Center's Zach Swarrow did as a junior and as a sophomore. Swarrow got ridden out by Claysburg-Kimmel's Josh Brown in the ultimate tiebreaker - the most exciting bout of the first day - won by fall in his first consy bout and then was eliminated with a 2-1 loss to Bentworth's Jake Rothka in the consy quarters.
Bedford came in with a seven-man contingent that included five District 5 champions and left with three qualifiers. Chestnut Ridge came in with nine wrestlers and left with three qualifiers. Both had team title aspirations, but finished third and fifth, respectively.
"We had some kids that we feel are pretty good that didn't get out," Bedford coach Brian Creps said, "and I still think they're pretty good. What it comes down to is to get to states means that you're one of the elite in the state. We have some kids who are still within the top 10 percent of the kids in the state, probably, but you've got to be a little better than that to get out of this tournament."
Both Bedford and Ridge wrestle in pretty tough tournaments, but is there any way their kids can be prepared for the meat grinder?
"The Bedford tournament helps out a lot because we see a lot of the schools that we do see here," Lazor said. "Not all of them, but we do get a taste of some of them. This is a grind. I don't know how many schools there are total. It's an outragious tournament when you think about it in that aspect."
"Throughout the season, we go and see good competition," Creps said. "We wrestle at the Thomas Tournament. We go to the King of the Mountain. But you can go see all the good competition in the world and work to get better, but when you come here, you still have to perform. Our kids were performing, but the other kids were also performing.
"Some of the kids wrestled their hearts out, and they went through and wrestled as tough as they could, but it just wasn't to be. It wasn't for a lack of effort. All of our kids gave everything that they had. When they were done, they were exhausted, and that's all you can ask out of the kids. That makes them better people and better men."
One advantage of wrestling in the toughest Class AA regional in the state is you get battle-tested for Hershey.
"The competition you're going to see at states is obviously great, but they've seen some of that competition right here right now," Lazor said. "They've seen the same caliber of competition they're going to see down there. This tournament gets you well prepared for states."
Burket wrestles with injury
Nobody outside of the Central wrestling program would have known it just by watching Kale Burket wrestle at the regional, especially in his 3-2 loss to Brown in the consolation semifinals, but the sophomore was wrestling with a torn meniscus in his knee.
Burket, a sophomore 113-pounder, injured the knee in practice last week, but he was still able to finish in sixth place, losing, 5-3, to Rothka - one win why of making the trip to the PIAA Championships. Burket finished all but one of his bouts, injury defaulting to Derry Area's George Phillipi in 5:32 in the quarterfinals.
His mother, Dena, said Friday in an email he'd undergo surgery immediately.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.