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Montoursville Wrestlers Bring Home Hardware from Hershey

Montoursville wrestlers were a force at the PIAA Class 2A Individual Wrestling Championships held at the Giant Center in Hershey. In all, five wrestlers represented their team, high school, and community. Of the five young men, Branden Wentzel (106) and Cameron Wood (220) took gold. In addition to two first place finishes, Dylan Bennett (182)

Montoursville wrestlers were a force at the PIAA Class 2A Individual Wrestling Championships held at the Giant Center in Hershey. In all, five wrestlers represented their team, high school, and community. Of the five young men, Branden Wentzel (106) and Cameron Wood (220) took gold. In addition to two first place finishes, Dylan Bennett (182) took silver, Cael Crebs (170) won bronze, and Isaac Cory (160) finished in seventh place.

Overall, the team finished with a season of 25-3 and qualified for team states where they took 2nd place overall.

Montoursville won 18 of their 22 matches in the state tournament and finished with 103 team points. Notre Dame-Green Pond took 1st with 114 points.

This was the first time Montoursville’s High School has had multiple state champions in a single season, with Wentzel and Wood taking gold, and it was also the the first time the school had had five medal winners and three state finalists.

Branden Wentzel became the second freshman in the history of the Warriors to take a state title, after Luke Frey in 2008.

When asked about Wentzel and Wood and the season leading up to states, Coach Matt Yonkin said, “As a team we had a very grueling schedule this season. We trained hard and prepared for the Powerade Tournament; considered one of the top high school tournaments in the country. You need to be prepared and in top form heading into that tournament. We returned from the Powerade, with both young men placing and the team finishing 23rd out of 53 of the top schools in the county. We then began an intense team schedule in January, where we wrestled 23 dual meets in 31 days (this included winning the Flynn Propane Duals in Towanda and the Bison Duals in Clearfield). We then made the emphasis in practice about making weight and recovering versus conditioning and skill building.”

When asked about Branden Wentzel journey to get to the state finals, his mother Jamie said he had been wrestling since kindergarten and year-round wrestler for the last 5 years. Wentzel had a great freshman season, going undefeated at duals. Not everything went smoothly for the freshman, however, taking just 4th in sectionals after going in as a 1st seed. “It made everyone nervous.”, said Jamie. “We thought he might not even make it to states.” Branden, however, heeded advice from his father, noting that it didn’t matter who was #1 at the beginning of the season, but who is #1 at the end of the season.

Branden was mentally down after sectionals and had to re-group. Lots of people reached out including Chance Marsteller, four-time PIAA state champion and All-American from LHU. “Chance was a big influence and Branden would like to follow in his foot steps by becoming a 4x state champ”, said Jamie. “Montoursville has a great wrestling program. We had just moved there and Branden was a freshman, but it was easy for him to do well because when you are on a great team with great coaches you want to do well.”

His 4th place finish at sectionals motivated Wentzel to win even more. His commitment to winning was evident with Wentzel doubling up on practices at least 4 nights per week where he would participate in the regular team practice, then again at Ride Out Wrestling Club in Montoursville which is owned by Mike Wentzel, his father, and Lenny Cory.

“The young men needed to prepare immediately for individual post season competition. As we progressed through sectionals, districts, regionals and eventually states, the young men were able to get stronger and stronger each week; ultimately doing some of their best wrestling at the PIAA State Individual Tournament.”, said Coach Yonkin.

“As coaches we needed to be strategic with practice to maximize practice time and balance not wearing them out but also preparing them mentally and physically for elite competition. Dodgeball games became a very important part of practice to accomplish this. Practices became more relaxed and laid back at the end of the season as recovery both physical and mental became the most important priority.”

Both young men showed throughout the course of the season that they could win state titles if they wrestled to their potential. Both young men also peaked physically and mentally at the right time.

Blood time was very important in Wentzel’s match as it allowed coaches to communicate with him and keep his mind strong and his confidence high; to clearly discuss the situation and what he needed to accomplish. “He simply refused to lose when it mattered most.”, said Yonkin

Regarding Cameron Wood, Yonkin said much of the tournament, Cameron put together a very workman-like performance in the finals. “He grinded, stayed mentally strong and fought all six minutes.”

Coach Yonkin went on to say that team unity was amazing all season. Different kids stepped up throughout the season at different times to help the team accomplish great things. Team commitment to excellence continued into the individual post-season. The wrestlers were supportive of one another and it showed throughout the tournament. “My favorite story from the weekend was in the quarterfinal round we had multiple kids competing at the same time. Bennett pulled off an overtime win. I immediately left his mat and ran to Wood’s match which was already in progress. At the time, the score was tight and blood time was ordered due to a split lip on Wood. As he came to the corner to have his blood taken care of while in a tight match, his first words were “did Bennett pull that off”. In the midst of his own battle he was concerned about his teammates. I could share many stories like this as there was genuine team camaraderie amongst the young men.”

When asked what had changed since last season, Mitch Wood, Cameron’s father, said Cameron was mentally more mature and invested, he was more focused and had a goal to win states. “Cam always wrested but didn’t really love it. He was All-State in football and has other sports but decided that instead of complaining about wrestling practice and conditioning, he would embrace it. He worked harder at workouts and decided to make a run at states.”

Though he lost some big matches early at Powerade national meet, Wood wasn’t discouraged. “Cam didn’t like losing but it showed him where he needed to improve. He was confident he could win states all year. More confident than I had ever seen him, so I believed him.”, said Mitch. “We had a lot of help along the way. Jim Hoffman would take Cameron to tournaments and treat him like his own son and Carl Lutz, Cameron’s elementary coach, was also a big influence and made wrestling fun.”

When asked what kept him going through the tough matches, Wood replied, “I envision losing and how bad that makes me feel so that I am motivated to win.”

Cameron said that his plans after graduation include wrestling. “I plan on going to college to wrestle, I have plenty of options but am taking my time during the recruitment process. This season was awesome, as a team we couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Hershey, and it felt great to end my career with a state title.”

Branden Wentzel added, “When you understand that wrestling is not just a sport, but a lifestyle, all the hard work invested pays off.”

Wentzel – tournament results: Top Hat Champion, Powerade 6th, Central Sectional 4th, District IV 3rd, Northeast Regional champion, PIAA State Champion.

Wood – tournament results: Top Hat Champion, Powerade 5th, Central Sectional Champion, District IV Champion, Northeast Regional Champion, PIAA State Champion.

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