Vince Lombardi once said that the price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that if we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.
You might say that sentiment fits McCaskey wrestler Journie Rodriguez to a tee. The sophomore 112-pounder became the first wrestler from a Lancaster-Lebanon League school to win back-to-back titles at the My House Central Regional girls wrestling tournament, held Sunday at Manheim Township.
From an armbar to earn a fall in 2:30 over Waynesboro’s Miley Smetzer in her first match to a dump and then cross-face to win her gold with a 14-1 major over Wyomissing’s Renie Harris, Rodriguez was dominant.
“I’m big on faith, and I just trust my training. I know that I belong here and that I work hard for this,” said Rodriguez, who was all smiles after her match. “So every time I step on the mat, I wrestle with everything I have and don’t give up. It’s exciting. Being able to do this twice means a lot. Not many girls are able to experience something like this, and I am so grateful. Winning states next week ... that is my bigger goal because last year I got second.”
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Following her 14-10 win in the 118-pound championship bout, tears in her eyes, Manheim Township’s Isabella Baccio raced over to her mother, who was taking photos, dropped to her knees, and gave her a huge hug. Not long afterward, she was mobbed by her teammates, as she became the first female Blue Streak wrestler to win a postseason title.
Baccio allowed just 11 points in her three matches. In the semifinals, the junior caught Exeter’s Molly Lubenow with a move that two-time PIAA boys medalist Kaeydn Williams taught her at practice. She threw her legs in, got a power half, and kept Lubenow down on the mat for more than a minute in a 12-0 major.
She pretty much did the same in her first-place match over Hanna Govern of Hamburg. While Govern proved to be good on her feet and got a lot of takedowns, Baccio utilized the leg move again en route to a 14-10 decision.
“When the brackets were first posted, I was a little overwhelmed ... I saw 30 girls and said oh my gosh,” Baccio said with a smile. “(Govern) pinned me at freestyle states in 30 seconds, so I was happy to see how I have improved, and that was the greatest feeling for me. And what kept me going was last year I was a runner-up, and every match I used that, saying I can be better.”
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Rodriguez and Baccio were the only two girls from Lancaster-Lebanon League schools to bring home golds at Sunday’s tournament, which featured more than 50 schools and 220 wrestlers from as far away as Chestnut Ridge in Bedford County.
Overall it was a good showing for teams in the L-L. Two other wrestlers, Penn Manor’s Anisa Orr (155) and Trinity Mowery (148), took home seconds. And 12 others qualified for the state tournament, which will be held Sunday at Central Dauphin.
Orr, a runner-up for a second consecutive year, said she was nervous entering the tourney. It didn’t show in her first three matches, as she recorded falls in each — her first over Hanna Beaver of Cumberland Valley in 1:05, the second over Kylie Piersal of Exeter in 1:56, then in the semifinals over Gettysburg’s Kylee Monroe in 1:44.
In her first-place match, she was down 2-0 but got caught in a headlock she couldn’t break, falling in at 2:58.
“It was pretty hard; I was a little upset, but I’m ready for next week,” Orr said. “I don’t know what happened. I knew how to defend it, but sort of spaced out. I think I should have won that.”
Mowrey, recently diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, also recorded falls in her first two matches — 2:04 over Warwick’s Shannon English and 5:42 against Lebanon’s Gabrielle Hetrick. However, in her championship match the POTS really got to her, she said.
“In my finals match, I couldn’t feel anything or see anything, and that doesn’t work,” Mowrey said. “It wasn’t the ending I wanted. ... But I am going to states, and when I woke up today, I knew it was going to be a rough day. I honestly didn’t think I would get top six, so to get second is really good.”
Cumberland Valley, who brought 27 girls to Manheim Township, won the team title — in the first year a team champion was declared — with 228 points. Fittingly, McCaskey, the first school in the state of Pennsylvania to sanction a girls wrestling team, placed second with 141 points.
“I’m pretty pleased and couldn’t be more proud of them,” McCaskey coach Kevin Franklin said emotionally. “We took 13 here, 10 were in the top eight, and seven are advancing to states. They really wrestled their hearts out. I’m happy for them. This is surreal. They worked hard through a lot of different adversities this year, and to get to this point, I hope they see the potential they have in life, not just wrestling.”
Penn Manor’s Kaitlyn Clawson (100) and McCaskey’s Destyni Pagan (148) and Shateya Pettway (235) all took home bronze medals.
Other wrestlers from L-L schools who qualified for the state meet are: Manheim Township’s Yenyia Terry (106) and McCaskey’s Jurelys Peguero (190), who each took a fourth place; McCaskey fifth-place finishers Ytzel Figueroa-Rivera (190), Lounijah LaRue (124) and Kaleia Timko (142); and sixth-place finishers Anna Kreider (118) of Annville-Cleona, Perla Chavez (235) and Gabrielle Hetrick (148) of Lebanon, and Maira Kercher of Warwick.
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