Brockway’s Palmer wins silver, Stewart 6th at states – The Courier-Express

HERSHEY — Coaches talk all the day about how they want their athletes or teams to peak at the right time.

That’s just what the Brockway duo of senior Mark Palmer and and junior Seth Stewart did this postseason on the wrestling mat.

Palmer not only won District 9 and Northwest Regional titles at 126 pounds in recent weeks but also made a run to the Class AA state final at the weight this weekend in Hershey before ultimately having to settle for a silver medal.

Stewart also made a strong run to the 189-pound semifinals at states in his first trip to Hershey before coming home with a sixth-place medal around his neck.

“I feel like we’re doing some stuff right as a program, and year in and year out our kids seem to be wrestling well at the right time,” said Grecco. “We kind of get them peaking in the postseason. Mark and Seth are good examples of that.

“They took a handful of losses throughout the year that maybe weren’t the greatest. But, you learn from those losses and there aren’t as important when you get them wrestling the best in the postseason.”

Palmer, a state qualifier as a freshman, saved the best wrestling of his career for the last couple weeks. He followed up a strong showing at regionals in Sharon with an even more impressive one in Hershey.

The Rover wasn’t really on anyone’s radar in other parts of the state prior to regional, as he sat 18th in the rankings. He jumped up nine spots to No. 9 following that regional title but proved even that ranking was off as he reached Saturday’s state final at 126 pounds.

And, he did so the hard way with a trio of wins, including an 11-6 victory against third-ranked Robert Johnson of South Williamsport in Friday morning’s quarterfinals and a thrilling 4-3 triumph vs. second-ranked Kaden Milheim of Warrior Run in the semifinals Friday night.

That victory made Palmer Brockway’s first state finalist since 2006 when Andy Rendos captured the second of two straight gold medals for the program. He also is the only Rover without the Rendos last name to make a state finals.

Scott Rendos was a three-time finalist, placing second as a sophomore in 2002 before winning back-to-back gold medals in 2003 and 2004. Younger brother Andy cashed in on both his title shots in 2004 and 2005.

The only person to keep Palmer from joining them as Brockway’s only state champs was Muncy junior Scott Johnson (41-1), the top-ranked wrestler in the state who was a returning silver medalist.

Johnson proved too much for Palmer to overcome, as he took the Rover down four times in the match — once in the first and third periods and twice in the second — in a 9-2 victory Saturday afternoon. Palmer’s lone points came on escapes in the second and third periods.

Palmer finished with a 34-8 record as a senior, with that win total being more than the previous two seasons combined (27-14). He missed some time because of injury as a sophomore before last year was shortened because of COVID-19. He still nearly got to 100 career wins, finishing with a 94-34 record.

“Knowing this would be the last time I’d ever get to come here and be my last hooray, I knew I had to put it all out there and hoped I could get a medal,” said Palmer. “I came in here with a good mindset and thought I’d get eighth or sixth at the best.

“I just kept grinding and staying in good position and made it all the way to the final. The finals didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but that kid is a stud and good luck to him the next couple years. That’s all I can say about this weekend. I put it all out on the mat and left it there. I’m glad with where I got.

“Overall, I think I had a great performance this year. The postseason was amazing and all went my way until this last match. I can’t help that because that kid was good.”

“We had talked with Mark and had the game plan he was going down to 126 all year,” said Brockway coach Eric Grecco. “He wrestled 132 and 138 all year, and when he made that cut down to 126, his strength was such a factor. I felt that played the biggest part in it.

“With his speed and strength, he was just blowing through kids. Yet, they weren’t giving us too much respect in the state ranking, but I kind of knew after last weekends regional final that we were going to be in the hunt this weekend for a state title or possible state final match.

“He put it all together. He didn’t have the best final match, and I feel like we let a little slip away there. Overall, the whole weekend, though, he started out with a technical fall, then beat the No. 3 kid and second-ranked kid to reach the finals. That’s a heck of a weekend to end your senior year.”

Stewart joined his teammate in the state semifinals Friday night after a memorable pin of Tri-Valley’s Jacob Schieb in the quarterfinals while trailing 6-2 before the pinning combination.

His run ended in the winners’ bracket there, although a 4-0 loss to eventual state champion Isaac Cory of Montoursville was hardly anything to hang his head about.

The junior was then pinned in the consolation semifinals in 2:03 by Jersey Shore’s Hadyn Packer, who went on to place third. That setback dropped Stewart into Saturday’s fifth-place match, where he was pinned by Saegertown senior Landon Caldwel (45-7) in 1:43. Stewart edged Caldwell, 2-1, in the Northwest Regional semifinal in Sharon.

Despite the tough ending to his weekend after reaching the semifinals, Stewart was still excited about winning a medal in his first trip to states.

“It was a great experience,” said Stewart. “It was awesome coming down here. The stadium is nice and the atmosphere is great with everybody in the stands cheering you on. That quarterfinals match to make it into the semis, that was something else.”

As far as his goals entering the tourney, Stewart said, “I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was just coming down here to wrestle and whatever happened, happened. It was great to win a medal, and with Mark making the finals, that was really awesome and I was really happy for him.”

“Seth really had a great postseason,” said Grecco. “From being a district champ, to making the regional final in a very, very tough regional weight class and then down here started off with a big win. We weren’t even sure if he was going to win and he won 6-2.

“Then of course, he was losing 6-2 and was pretty much getting dominated (in quarterfinals) but was able to lock up a nearside cradle and pin that kid to guarantee himself a Top 6 finish. That’s a match we never seem to have go our way and it finally went our way and was pretty awesome to happen.

“Overall, he had a solid weekend, and he’s thrilled to be standing on the podium. I just talked to him and told him his goal now going into next year should be to win a state title.

“We know only one kid wins it in all of AA, but that should be the goal now after placing sixth in his first time here as a junior losing 4-0 to the eventual state champion.”