MECHANICSBURG — “When you step on the mat, you really don’t have friends.”
That was Tucker Brough’s mindset heading into Saturday’s District 3 Class 3A Section III Individual Wrestling Championship at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High.
The Big Spring middleweight was headed to the 145-pound final after a successful first session, defeating West Perry’s Caden Morrison (technical fall 15-0, 2:09) in the quarterfinals and Carlisle’s Kyle Seibert in the semis (pin, 1:37). It all came down to the last bout, and frenemy Cumberland Valley’s Cal Reichart stood in the way of a gold medal.
Reichart and Brough go way back.
Wrestling since they were younger, Brough and Reichart never really had a chance to wrestle against each other at the high school level until this year. Brough holds the upper hand in the head-to-head battles, bringing his record to 3-0 after a 10-2 major decision over Reichart in Saturday’s finals.
The senior notched a couple takedowns to exit the first period up 4-0 before a takedown and a reversal put Brough in a comfortable 8-2 lead in the second. One more takedown for Brough early in the third secured the 10-2 win and the margin of victory surprised him.
“I kind of surprised myself,” Brough said. “Once I got the first takedown, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m building a lead.’
“I gave up a takedown, which is one of the little mistakes I need to correct. I focus on how many points I score, but I also focus on how many points I gave up. That’s what counts.”
On the mat, Brough was focused on beating Reichart, but off the mat — as he will remind you — he and Reichart are very close. The friends had a conversation before they hit the mat to compete for gold.
“We’re good friends, but when we step on that mat it’s go time and we get after it,” Brough said. “Everyone I’ve wrestled here today I think I’ve known since I started, really. I guess you could say we’re all good friends to each other.
“That’s how this sport is. You’re friends off the mat, but when you step on the line you’re enemies.”
Brough, a state qualifier last season, joined Britain Shields (170) as the lone Bulldogs to medal at sectionals.
Big Spring went 1-6 last season in sectional championship bouts, with both Shields and Brough losing in the finals. The Bulldogs got redemption this time around. Blake Barrick (195) and Hunter Adams (285) lost their final bouts, leaving the Bulldogs at 2-2 on the day — a definite step up from last year.
The last Bulldog to clinch one of the four guaranteed spots in each weight class in next week’s District 3 Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships was Hunter Gregoris (113), who picked up a 9-4 win over CV’s Ben Monn in the third-place bout.
‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda’
Cumberland Valley’s Will Kaldes is no stranger to championship bouts.
A year after a loss to Chambersburg’s Garrett Kyner in the sectional finals, Kaldes stepped onto the mat at 152 to face a familiar foe: Mechanicsburg’s Brayden Wills.
To get to the final match last season, Kaldes took down Wills in the semifinals in a close 7-5 decision.
This final bout was déjà vu from last season through the first two periods. Kaldes managed to get Wills onto his back, but the refs deemed he didn’t have full control for the takedown points. The start of the second brought quick takedown points for Kaldes before he took a start in the down position, swiftly escaping for one point and a 3-0 lead.
Kaldes then got another quick takedown for a 5-1 lead. The third period came to a quick close when Kaldes finally got Wills on his back again, keeping him there this time for the pin in 5:07.
“Coulda, shoulda, woulda, but they didn’t give me the two, so I just gotta keep going and going,” Kaldes said, who announced his verbal commitment to the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday. “They don’t work two, and you don’t have two and I respect that, so I just have to keep going.”
The two, like most wrestlers confined to the gym at Mechanicsburg, are very good friends off the mat, as well. As with friends sharing a lot with each other, knowing each other’s style of wrestling could be the make-or-break factor for a bout.
“We’re really good friends — I know what he does, he knows what I do,” Kaldes said. “I think it’s just my conditioning (that was the deciding factor), I just kept going and going and I didn’t get tired. I just kept taking good shots. I felt him getting tired and I felt him starting to break, so I just kept putting the pressure on him.”
Kaldes was one of three Eagles to walk away with a gold medal, joining Patrick DeMark (106) and Wyatt Long (132). The Eagles also took home the team title with 194.5 points — just 7.5 ahead of No. 2 Cedar Cliff with 187.
Kaldes, Long, DeMark, Brough and Shields were five of a grand total of 12 locals to take home gold. Joining them are Cedar Cliff’s J.J. Wilson (113), Michael Cassidy (120) and Francis Duggan (220), Shippensburg’s Chandler Olson (126) and Cameron Tinner (285) and Northern’s Micah Hoffman (138) and Jake Koser (195).