Dominance on the wrestling mat for a stretch of seven straight seasons comes with high expectations.
It might also come with some achievements being overlooked, especially with Spring Grove in the midst of another successful season.
The Rockets dispatched of No. 13 seed Milton Hershey and No. 12 Governor Mifflin in their home gym Tuesday night, 53-18 and 47-24, respectively, to advance to Thursday's District 3-AAA Team Tournament semifinals. It marks the fifth time in program history that Spring Grove has reached the district semifinals, but the first time making it in back-to-back seasons. And the Rockets (20-2) have done so despite losing eight starters to graduation following last season, including six individual District 3-AAA qualifiers.
"We're lucky. We're really lucky," 17th-year Spring Grove coach Tony Miller said Tuesday. "If you really look at what we lost, we had three kids who are wrestling in college right now. I think there were three or four 30-match winners (last season). It's difficult to lose them and replace them. These young kids have really stepped up."
The young wrestlers were on display Tuesday in the opening rounds of the district tournament. First-year starters such as Tahlon Crooks (106), Taylor Gardner (138), Marcus Kehr (160), Hunter Sterner (195, 220) and C.J. Sterner (285) each won both of their bouts, which included C.J. Sterner pinning a returning district qualifier and Kehr coming back from a 10-5 third-period deficit against Governor Mifflin's Wilson Fontanez to win with an overtime takedown.
"I just had to keep working and get in better position and eventually beat the guy," Kehr said.
The Rockets also bounced back from last Thursday's 34-27 loss to South Western in their regular-season finale.
"After Thursday we looked at it like the regular season was over. It didn't end the way we wanted it to. Friday started a new season," Spring Grove senior Dakota Laughman said.
Laughman, who placed fifth at districts last season, won both of his bouts Tuesday.
"I thought it was good we got back in here and got back on the winning track, especially with bigger matches to come," Laughman said.
Spring Grove is the host site for Thursday's District 3-AAA semifinals as well as the consolation matches between the losers of Tuesday's quarterfinal matches, all of which will begin at 5 p.m. The winners of the semifinal matches will meet Saturday at Milton Hershey at 1:30 p.m. in the district title match. The losers of Thursday's semifinal matches will immediately wrestle consolation matches in an effort to advance to Saturday's third-place match at Milton Hershey. The top-four District 3-AAA teams advance to the PIAA Class AAA Team Tournament.
"I'm very happy we're gonna be home," Miller said of Thursday. "It's good and bad. I love it to be here but it does create some work to be here. It's well worth it. Our kids are in their locker room. And they're close to home. We're not traveling."
Up next: The Rockets face a tough test Thursday against top-seeded Cumberland Valley (14-1), who is aiming to reach the district final for the 10th time since 2002, having last won it all in 2006 in what was the program's fourth-straight district title that year. Spring Grove has never won a district title, having only appeared in the finals in 2010. The Rockets are also 0-3 all-time against Cumberland Valley in the district tournament.
"I haven't looked at them," Miller said of Cumberland Valley. "Everything was based on tonight. The first round I had worked on Milton Hershey and I had two of my assistants working on the other match. We'll start tonight working on them for Thursday."
South Western 36, New Oxford 29: The No. 15 seed Mustangs avenged a 35-31 York-Adams League loss to No. 2 New Oxford from Dec. 30 by pulling off the first-round upset in Tuesday's District 3-AAA Team Tournament. South Western won eight of the 14 bouts, including seven of the first eight to open up a 27-6 advantage. The Mustangs clinched the victory when Gage Thomas (160) scored a 3-1 decision over Shane Hoff to push the advantage to 36-17 with two bouts remaining, both of which South Western forfeited. Three of South Western's winning bouts were decided by three points or less. The Colonials are still winless in three district tournament appearances, the first of which came in 1996.
Exeter Township 30, South Western 27: The Mustangs (14-7) then moved on to face No. 10-seed Exeter Township (18-3), which pulled off a mild first-round upset over No. 7 Solanco (5-2). In a match that featured five lead changes in the first nine bouts, South Western tied it 21-21 with three bouts to go following a Gage Thomas pin at 160 pounds. Exeter won the next bout by just two points and sealed the win with a pin at 182 pounds. South Western will try to keep its team season alive Thursday in a consolation bout against No. 6 Wilson (15-4), which will be held at 5 p.m. at Spring Grove. The winner will then face the loser of Spring Grove-Cumberland Valley match immediately following.
Big Spring 62, Red Lion 8: At Cumberland Valley, the Lions trailed 32-0 after the first six bouts and were unable to recover, dropping the District 3 Class AAA first round matchup. Jared Schell (285) and Jac Gemmill (145) each picked up a major decision for the Lions. Red Lion was eliminated from the tournament and fell to 14-4 overall.
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.