HARRISBURG – All sports are difficult. But more than any other, wrestling is a struggle.
No one locally has epitomized that struggle more this year than Brandon Breidegan. For it is the struggle that makes Breidegan a warrior.
On Saturday at Central Dauphin East High School, the Northern Lebanon senior’s noble quest produced a silver medal, at the two-day District Three Class AA Championships. After battling his way through the 138-pound weight class bracket, Breidegan was defeated 3-2 by East Pennsboro’s Adam Jacob in the championship match.
Breidegan was one of three Northern Lebanon wrestlers and one of five Lebanon County competitors overall to qualify for the next step in the journey, next weekend’s Class AA Southeast Regional Tournament at Freedom High School. The top six finishers from each weight class at the regional tournament will move on to the PIAA Class AA Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center, March 6-8.
“The only way to look at is that you want to get everyone through,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace of regionals. “Sometimes it’s disappointing for some of the guys. You can always do better. But at the same time, you’re happy for the kids who make it through.”
“I was definitely trying to win,” said Breidegan. “But I was happy with the way it turned out this weekend. We were trying to take six, but we only got three through to regionals. I was happy to get to the finals and represent my team.”
After struggling to score throughout his final match with Jacob and trailing 3-0, Breidegan registered a reversal with ten seconds left in the bout. But he was left with too little time to complete his comeback bid.
“He (Jacob) was strong on the bottom,” said Breidegan. “He only had to be strong for eight seconds. He was also tough in neutral. He was good on his feet, and moving.”
Jacob had established an early 2-0 lead with a takedown 1:12 into the bout. He added an early escape in the second period to up his lead to 3-0.
“Jacob keeps really good position,” said Wallace. “He’s tough to score on. You’ve got to do whatever you can to get the first takedown. Brandon got a reversal at the end, but it was just too late, there wasn’t enough time.”
Breidegan, now 34-8, had reached the final at 132 with a 16-2, semifinal major decision of Gary Deyarmin of Schuylkill Valley. He recorded a similar 10-0 victory over Bermudian Springs’ Caleb Mantz in the quarterfinals.
After finishing fifth at the District Three Class AA tournament in both of the past two seasons, Breidegan’s showing as a senior was a significant improvement. Last year, Breidegan qualified for states after finishing fifth at districts.
“I was hoping to make it to the finals, so it was a plus,” said Breidegan. “In the semifinals, I was just pushing through, going on the attack and staying after it. I want to be a state qualifier, a state placer. That’s what I’m looking for.”
“Brandon had a great tournament,” said Wallace. “He wrestled some really good wrestlers. He lost to a really good kid in the finals. Hopefully this will put him in a position to get back to states.”
Also for Northern Lebanon, Owen Lehman finished fourth at 106 pounds and Levi Arms came in seventh at 195 pounds, to advance to next weekend’s regional event. They will be joined by Annville-Cleona Little Dutchmen Ethan Missimer, who took fifth at 106 pounds, and Matt Inman, who was sixth at 113.
“The guys who qualified had a great tournament,” said Wallace. “They had some losses, but they were able to battle back. The other guys, mostly underclassmen, got good experience. Hopefully it motivates them to work hard in the off season.
“Nick Winters, a senior, lost last night due to an injury he suffered during the week of the team district tournament,” Wallace continued. “Being the kid he is, Nick wanted to try and wrestle. He gave it a go, but it didn’t work out for him. He got to states last year, but it breaks your heart when a kid works so super hard and something happens that’s out of his control.”
Concurrently at the District Three Class AAA Championships at Spring Grove High School – which also served as the Class AAA South Central Regional qualifier – Cedar Crest senior T.J. Moore punched his ticket to states for the second straight season, with a 5-1 decision in the consolation final at 220 pounds. Moore became one of just a handful of Falcons to ever qualify for the PIAA event on multiple ocassions.