District wrestling championship ends in controversy

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – For the third consecutive year, Central Dauphin and Cumberland Valley met in the AAA District Championship.

After several lead changes in the opening bouts, Central Dauphin extended its lead to 28-16 after Phil Petrina earned a disqualification victory following an illegal slam from Felix Belga. After the slam, Central Dauphin determined Petrina should not return to the match.

The response from the Cumberland Valley section was noticeable, believing Petrina was capable to return.

Entering the final bout, Cumberland Valley trailed by 6 points, forcing a tiebreaker was the best result they could go for. During the 195 lb. bout between Cumberland Valley’s Trent Cook and Central Dauphin’s Hunter Nielson, the match was stopped when Nielson made illegal contact with Cook’s face. Eagles head coach Dave Heckard urged the officials to allow Cook a break to have his eye looked at by the team trainer.

Heckard decided to not have Cook return to the match, resulting in a 6 point disqualification victory (much like earlier in the match), tying the championship at 28 all.

That’s when things got ugly. Heckard incited the Cumberland Valley fan section. Central Dauphin Head Coach Jeff Sweigard tried confronting Heckard. Both had to be separated.

Heckard explained his decision, “I saw my guy grab his eye and I didn’t think it was safe for him to continue,” and why he reacted the way he did once the match was tied, “I was just excited for my kids. Excited for the wrestlers that they were able to get the job done.”

We weren’t done yet. A tiebreaker had to be determined to declare a district champion. So the officials went to the PIAA rule book, which includes a list of tiebreakers, alphabetically ordered, in the event of a tie.

After tallying up the tiebreakers in letters A through G, the officials and scoring staff reached letter H, which is the total number of first points scored per bout.

“They went through A through G, and nothing came up that could break the tie,” explains Joseph Gesey, a PIAA rules interpreter for District III, “When they got to H, they added the total number of first points scored for each team in all the bouts, and that came out 16-7 in favor of Cumberland Valley.”

Cumberland Valley earn the tiebreaker point, winning 29-28, becoming district champions.

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