Ringgold High School has sent its share of wrestlers to the PIAA championships. The Rams have had their share of placewinners as well.
What the Rams had never done before was send more than one wrestler in a season to Hershey – until today.
Senior Devin Fallenstein and sophomore Doug Gudenburr made history Saturday when they became the first pair of Ringgold wrestlers to qualify for the PIAA Class AAA championships, which begin today at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Adding a little more history to the mix is the fact Gudenburr, the WPIAL’s third-place finisher at 113 pounds, also is the youngest Ringgold wrestler to earn a trip to the state championships.
“It’s our first time ever taking two,” said Fallenstein, a 170-pound senior. “Dougie’s fortunate because he’s the first sophomore to go from Ringgold. It’s cool. It’s cool to be a part of that.”
Those two will be part of a six-wrestler contingent from the area to compete in the Class AAA portion of the tournament. They’ll be joined by Canon-McMillan’s Solomon Chishko, the returning 145-pound champion, and Dalton Macri at 126 pounds, Waynesburg’s A.C. Headlee, also at 126 pounds, and Peters Township’s Ty Buckiso at 132 pounds.
Gudenburr, who takes a 27-5 record into today, faces Southeast Regional champion Derek Gulotta (33-5) of Owen J. Roberts in his first-round match.
He admits nerves are a factor.
“A little bit,” he said. “It will be the first time with a big crowd. But I’ll be kind of used to it from back when I was younger, (Junior Olympics) and states. It will be exciting to see all of the good wrestlers.”
That doesn’t mean he isn’t planning on bringing home a medal.
“You feel like if you come out of the WPIAL, you’re more than likely going to place because we have the most placewinners at states,” Gudenburr said.
Not that it will be easy.
Fallenstein (30-2), who faces Downingtown West’s Gabe Hale (37-4), the Southeast Regional runner-up, is making his first trip to the PIAA tournament and knows there won’t be any pushovers.
“I’m just looking to win two before I lose two,” said Fallenstein, whose only loss in the WPIAL tournament came 3-1 to eventual champion Kyle Coniker of Central Catholic in the semifinals. “I think if I can keep wrestling good, I can accomplish that. It’s my last year, so I want to give it everything I’ve got.
“I lost to the WPIAL champion. It could have gone either way. It was a tight match. You win some, you lose some, you just can’t let it bother you.”
One of the most difficult things for wrestlers to overcome in a double-elimination tournament such as this is rebounding quickly after a loss.
Fallenstein did just that in the WPIAL tournament after losing to Coniker. He came back with a pair of victories to earn his trip to Hershey.
If he and Gudenburr avoid a letdown following a loss – if that happens – at the state tournament, they could pull off another Ringgold first and become the first PIAA placewinners in the same season.
“I don’t have anything to lose. It’s my first time going,” Fallenstein said. “A lot of the guys are returning to states. I don’t anything to lose. I just have to go out and do my best.”