BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Bet you didn’t know there’s also rebounding in wrestling.
Last night, Luke Funck pulled off the toughest rebound of his career. Of course what made the rebound so difficult was what he was emotionally bouncing back from.
On Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center, during the second day of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships, Funck recovered nicely from what could’ve been a debilitating setback, and by doing so set himself up to earn state bronze. The Northern Lebanon junior put a 5-2 semifinal loss to Greg Bulsak of South Park behind him, then an hour later downed Meyersale’s Christian Hutzell 6-3 in the semis of the 182-pound consolation bracket.
The loss was just the second of Funck’s season. The win was the 42nd of his year.
What the turn of events means is that Funck will wrestle for bronze on Saturday at 2 p.m back at Giant Center. against 2015 PIAA Class AA champion Dakota Greer of Franklin. Bulsak captured Class AA state gold at 170 pounds last season.
“It was pretty bad getting knocked out, and being that close to getting into the state finals,” said Funck. “It’s been my dream. But I let it to the back of my mind.
“I just went back into the hallway,” continued Funck. “My coaches were calming me down. It definitely helped me.”
“That’s the hardest match to wrestle,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “We talk about that. Semifinal losers drop down, and more than half of them get beat. Most are still thinking about the last match. He just did a really nice job of re-focusing and getting his mind right.
“It’s something we preach constantly,” Wallace added. “We set up our schedule so kids get practice doing that. We go to the toughest tournaments in the state. It’s something we talk about all the time.”
And not only did Funck recover quickly, he came out strong against Hutzell, a competitor he had beaten 8-3 in Thursday’s opening round.
The key was a take-down 35 seconds in that gave Funck a 2-0 lead. Then, 35 seconds into the second stanza, Funck turned Hutzell for a three-point near fall and a 5-0 lead.
After choosing neutral to start the third, Funck did give up a take-down that made it 5-3. But he wrestled well on his belly to protect his advantage.
“It helped a little bit,” said Funck of his earlier win over Hutzell. “We both had to feel what the other was doing. I wrestled like I always do. I didn’t change up at all.”
“I thought Luke did a nice job,” said Wallace. “He got after it early. If you can get that first take-down, it’s a really big deal. He gave up two points at the end, but he knew he had it. His job was to get his hand raised.
“If anything, I think it (the rematch) benefits the other kid,” continued Wallace. “You can game plan better. That kid (Hutzell) changed his style a little bit and took away our strength. Luke did a nice job taking what the kid gave him.”
An early take-down by Bulsak put Funck behind the eight-ball in the semifinals. It gave him a 2-0 lead, an advantage he nursed by riding Funck out from top through the entire second period.
Bulsak added to his lead with a reversal 23 seconds into the final period. The highlight for Funck was his reversal with 25 ticks remaining, but he never seriously threatened Bulsak’s advantage.
“Nothing right now,” said Funck, when asked to recall his bout with Bulsak. “I’ll remember it in the off-season when I’m working my butt off to get back here. But he was really strong.”
“That first take-down in the first period, that was big,” said Wallace. “You’re wrestling a kid who’s in the top ten in the country. The fact that we came back and got ourselves a reversal was important. At the end of the day, that’s a really good kid. Luke has lost two matches this season and both were to defending state champions. That’s the company he’s keeping. That’s the level he’s at.”
Funck had reached the semis with a 3:15 decking of Milton’s Gage Heller in Friday morning’s quarterfinals.
“It definitely motivates me to push forward for our school and help make a name for our program,” said Funck. “It’s (third or fourth) good. Not good enough. But it’s good.”
“If we earn third, we’ll take third,” said Wallace. “He’s in a super tough weight class.There’s three nationally ranked kids at 182. He did a super job this weekend keeping his head.
“We were always top four,” Wallace added. “All four kids who are going to finish in the top four we know. We knew if we wrestled well, those kids were going to be in the top four. It was going to come down to who wins the close ones. It’s a super good tournament for Luke.”
Two of Funck’s Northern Lebanon teammates saw their seasons reach conclusions in Friday’s second round of consolations.
Senior Quinn Blatt finished 41-12 after enduring a 4:19 fall by Joel Leise of Reynolds at 170 pounds. Junior Trevor Leonard ended up 44-11, in light of a 6-4 loss to Jared McGill of Chestnut Ridge.
“The guys who lost today, I felt sentimental for them,” said Wallace. “Trevor took his loss really hard. Being a senior, Quinn has been a tremendous asset to our team, and a team leader. He’s really been a huge part of us taking the program to the next level.”
Annville-Cleona senior Josh Renninger scored a 6-3 decision over Jayden Jamison of Bishop McDevitt in their Class AA second-round consolation bout at 138.But a round later, Renninger’s career was ended by a 4-0 setback to Justin McCoy of Chestnut Ridge.
To this point of the tournament, Lebanon County competitors have gone a combined 7-17.
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