BY JEFF FALK
Scholastic championships have been – and will remain to be – few and far between for Lebanon County teams this winter. On Friday, the locale missed out on one by less than one team point.
That’s right, less than a single team point.
In Mount Joy, the Elco wrestling team lost out on a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three title on a tie-breaking criterion – the fifth one or criterion ‘E’ in the grapplin’ rule book. After the Raiders’ winner-take-all, section-finale with Donegal ended in a 33-all deadlock, the tie was broken by the fact that Elco had forfeitted one weight class, giving the Indians four six-point bout results to the Raiders’ three.
Both the Raiders and Donegal had entered their section finale with identical 5-0 marks.
“The guys are really devastated,” said Elco head coach Chad Miller. “In my 14 years of coaching, I’ve never seen a group so disappointed. It was the hardest loss of my career and they (the Raiders) took it that way too.”
The decision came down to the final match, with Elco needing to get a pin out of 120-pounder senior Matt Achey to emerge with the win and championship. All Achey could manage was an 18-0 technical fall.
What made Achey’s tech fall controversial was that he appeared to have his Inidan pinned on a couple of ocassions. Still, the match was filled with ‘What ifs’ and ‘Should’ve and Could’ve Beens’ for Elco.
“I felt pretty comfortable going in,” said Miller. “I didn’t see how they could beat us if we won seven matches. We won seven matches and they won seven matches, and I thought we’d get more pins. There were two pins we didn’t get, and one of those kids lost.
“But it wasn’t just two kids,” Miller added. “There were a couple of kids who can look back and say they could’ve done more.”
Coming into the season, Elco had set a number of goals for itself. But a Section Three crown seemed to be the most rewarding, and the most attainable.
Elco had last won a section championship in 2009, when it shared it with Annville-Cleona. This current version of the Raiders boasts ten seniors and is a very close-knit group.
“That was our only goal,” said Miller, figuratively speaking. “We have lots of goals at the beginning of the season. That’s (qualifying for the District Three Class AAA team tournament) kind of old news for us because we’ve done it so many times.”
On Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Mechanicsburg, Elco will carry a 17-3 mark and the 11th seed into its District Three Class AAA opening-round playoff match with sixth-seeded and also 17-3 Spring Grove. The winner of that dual meet will take on the winner of the Mechanicsburg-Manheim Central battle later that evening.
“It’s a great goal, but it’s gotten to the point where it means nothing,” said Miller of qualifying for the district team tournament. “It’s hard to make a great run. The section is something that doesn’t always come along. The last four years it’s eluded us. What makes it hard is we’re all seniors.”