Parkland takes second at D-11 Duals
Parkland had to take a tough road into the PIAA wrestling tournament, losing what turned out to be a tight match to Nazareth for the District 11 Championship and then bouncing back to beat Liberty in what the district termed the "ultimate qualifier" match for the district's second spot in the state tournament. The PIAA Tournament got under way Tuesday night with Parkland taking a 35-20 win over Garnet Valley to advance.
The District 11 Tournament was wrestled under a new system this year where the seedings were determined strictly by the power point system as opposed to having district wrestling officials gather to consider other factors such as strength of schedule to determine the seedings.
The new system also put into place a new way of determining the second team to qualify for the PIAA Tournament with the addition of the ultimate qualifier, which required the team that lost the title match to wrestle against the winner of the consolation bracket for the district's second spot in states.
For Parkland, it meant having to face Liberty for the second time in the tournament, which coach Ryan Nunamaker felt put his team in a tough position.
"I would say after the Nazareth match we were extremely disappointed," he said. "We've been in the finals now four times in the last five years and we've come up short every time. Last year was tough, but this was even tougher, because we were seconds away in some matches to win that title, so coming back to wrestle after that is extremely difficult."
After beating Easton and Liberty to advance to the district finals against Nazareth, Parkland took an early 16-9 lead after the first six matches. The Blue Eagles came back to win four straight matches and led 22-16 when Josh Ortman pinned Nazareth's Dane Guggenberger in 1:10 in the 152-pound match to tie the team score.
Nazareth took the next two decisions to lead by six, but Marques Sturdivant pinned Connor Williams of Nazareth in the 182-pound bout to tie the score at 28-28.
At that point, the match was decided by criteria points and Nazareth was awarded the victory because it won eight of the 14 bouts, giving the Blue Eagles the district championship and forcing Parkland into a return match with Liberty, which defeated Easton in the consolation finals for a second chance at gaining a berth in the PIAA Tournament, thanks to the new system.
"I don't like it [the new system] at all to be honest with you. I don't think it's fair," Nunamaker said after his team downed Liberty 36-27. "Both of the teams in the consolation final [Liberty and Easton] we had beaten earlier in this tournament and I don't think that it's right that we have to wrestle again after a match like Nazareth where your heart gets ripped out. You have to say 'hey guys, we have to wrestle another match.' We had to face a team that was on a roll, because they're in the consies and we have to beat them in order to go out to states.
"I think the system needs to be tweaked, it needs to be changed. I think they would have been fine if they went to the old system of seeding teams. I think it was much more accurate that way than it was this year. You wouldn't have an eight seed winning the tournament; that's never happened in the history of the District 11 Tournament."
In an ironic twist, Parkland was matched up in the first round of the PIAA Tournament against another team that it had wrestled and beaten during the regular season in Garnet Valley. The Trojans downed Garnet Valley 32-27 exactly one month before their preliminary round meeting in the PIAA Tournament and were able to pick up a second win against the Jaguars on Tuesday.
Parkland will now meet Central Mountain, champions of District 6, Thursday in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA Team Wrestling Championship at the Giant Center in Hershey.