The bus ride from Hershey to Waynesburg is about four hours.
Most people dread the time it takes to get from the middle of the state to Greene County. The distance probably proved beneficial to the Waynesburg High School wrestling team Saturday afternoon.
Well, after all the hugs and congratulations were over at the Giant Center, there was a lot of time left on the bus to be lost in thought.
Considering what might’ve been for this team was actually beneficial and, hopefully, the wrestlers, coaches and fans were able to make the best use of that time period.
Waynesburg had a magnificent season, coming up just one win shy of becoming the PIAA Class AAA team champion.
Only one team in the tournament was able to stop Waynesburg. But Nazareth should’ve won that match because it is ranked No. 1 in the state.
And the Blue Eagles wrestled like the top team in the state, winning 38-21 over Waynesburg in the final.
And as they handed out the medals to Nazareth at the end of the tournament, the one thought that should have been sifting through the minds of the Waynesburg faithful was this:
“Next year, that’s going to be us.”
Maybe it’s a little soon to make Waynesburg the favorite. With the liberal recruiting, er, transfer policies of the PIAA, one never knows the true strength of a team until the season gets underway.
But judging by the season that just ended, the Raiders, if healthy, should be right back in the team tournament finals next season.
There are no seniors on this team that went 15-1. And the talented freshman core should keep the Raiders competitive in the coming years. This team was helped by the infusion of two outstanding freshmen: Mac Church at 106 pounds and Rocco Welsh at 126. A boost also came with the return of Wyatt Henson, a state champion from Missouri last season. He returned to the area and has been simply outstanding at 138.
Waynesburg already had some strong talent in the lineup from last season, including Cole Homet at 132 and Luca Augustine at 160.
It’s possible Waynesburg could have a top-four finish in four weight classes at the state individual tournament next month.
But let’s not jump too far ahead.
They should use this week off before the individual tournaments start in Class AAA to reflect on just how great a year it was.
Despite Class AA enrollment, Waynesburg wrestles in Triple-A, something that head coach Joe Throckmorton and his staff prefer.
One long-standing thorn in the Raiders’ side was removed by beating arch-rival Canon-McMillan in the finals of the Section 4 tournament in their gymnasium. The bout ended in a 30-30 tie and Waynesburg won on the 10th tiebreaker.
The victory over the Big Macs snapped their 18-year stranglehold on the tournament title.
In Hershey, Waynesburg’s most impressive victory came when the Raiders defeated powerhouse Bethlehem Catholic, 33-31, in the semifinals.
So there are a lot of things that come and go as the mind of these wrestlers wander on a long bus trip. Hopefully, one of them was the thought hoisting the first-place trophy.
That would make the drive home perfect.