The dream of reaching states at the Giant Center in Hershey remains alive and well for five Avon Grove High School wrestlers.
Last weekend, a number of Red Devils survived the first leg of a grueling three-part journey on the road to Chocolatetown and the PIAA Class AAA state tournament.
Avon Grove's Greg Smith (125), Mike Chrazanowski (135), Andy Bannon (160), Tallak Behm (171) and Ricky Bivens (275) all finished in the top-four of their respective weight classes at last Saturday's District 1 Section 6 Tournament at Conestoga High School and advanced to fight another day.
Those five will now move on to the District 1 South Tournament on Feb. 24 and 25 at Spring-Ford High School.
"I was hoping for a few more," said Avon Grove head coach Frank McCue. "But there's not much you can do about that now. Our section has been one of the tougher sections in the south over the last four or five years. You need to have a good tournament, and those five did. That's why they're moving on. Now they have to go and put another good tournament together this weekend."
Bivens, a senior, who is 31-8 overall this season, won the 275 pound sectional championship last weekend. Bivens pinned Eric McClenahan of Lower Merion in the finals to earn the crown.
"Ricky has been doing everything right the last month and a half," said McCue. "He's really been wrestling well."
Bannon (18-9) and Behm (23-10), both seniors, each finished third at sectionals. So did Smith (23-10), a junior, who will be making his second consecutive trip to districts this coming weekend.
Chrazanowski was a pleasant surprise for McCue. The sophomore, who is 11-13 overall this season, finished fourth at 135 pounds to advance in the post-season.
"You want to try and have them peak at this time of year rather than in mid-December," said McCue. "We focus on trying to finish as strong as possible. If you can do that, you're in good shape."
At districts this weekend, the top-five in each weight class will advance to the Southeast Regional Tournament on the weekend of Mar. 4 at Norristown High School.
"They all have their hands full this week, but if they put together a good tournament anything can happen," said McCue. "I think we have a good opportunity to move several through. It's going to be tough, but we have some guys that are definitely capable."
Those who do survive this Saturday will be a top-four finish in their weight class at regionals away from reaching the state tournament in Hershey.
Avon Grove's last state qualifier was Nick Piotrowski in 2002.
"I think it's gotten a lot tougher to make states," said McCue. "More and more kids are doing offseason wrestling - freestyling and so forth. As a majority most of our kids don't do much wrestling in the offseason. I'm always encouraging it, but most of them are two or three sport athletes. But now a days, if you want to advance far in the post-season you have to do some work in the offseason."