Strouse, Springer lose in first PIAA state girls matches

Mar. 8—HERSHEY — After the first wrestlers to participate in a PIAA state-sanctioned girls wrestling tournament jogged onto the mats for their warmups at the Giant Center, a thunderous applause echoed throughout the arena.

And for good reason.

Out of thousands of female wrestlers that competed throughout the state, 208 girls made it to the final tournament of the season. The two Selinsgrove girls who qualified for the state tournament, Nevaeh Strouse (112 pounds) and Karissa Springer (136), became the first females from the Valley to partake in a PIAA-sanctioned tournament on Thursday.

Even though both girls lost their first-round matches, it doesn't take away the fact that they made history during the first season of state-sanctioned wrestling.

"To me, it's awesome," Springer said. "I know when we walked in this place, I looked up at the ceiling and it was massive, and I saw how many seats there were. It got me a little nervous, but then that soon faded away."

Both Strouse and Springer fell to opponents ranked in the top five in the state. Since her match took place before Springer's, Strouse became the first Valley female to compete in a match at Hershey. In that match, Strouse fell to second-ranked Daylee Watson of Conneaut Area. After falling behind 2-0, Strouse tied it when she secured a reversal in the second period. Seventeen seconds later, Watson registered a reversal of her own to regain the lead. Then in the third period, Watson scored three more points before earning the pin.

Strouse will seek to avoid elimination in a consolation-matchup against Pleasant Valley's Juliette Trout today. Trout is ranked ninth in the state and sits at two spots above Strouse in the rankings.

Springer was pinned by Schuylkill Valley's Kayley Weidner, who's ranked fifth in the state at 136. Weidner scored three points in the second period before ending the match with the pin shortly into the final period.

As a result, Springer was knocked into the consolation bracket where she'll battle it out with Whitehall's Ruth Rivera today. Rivera sits at ninth in the state rankings, which is three places above Springer.

"I think (Thursday) was a lot about nerves. I feel like we were a little nervous being here for the first time," Springer said. "But that's O.K. We have (today) to come up through... The competition here is a lot tougher. Last year at states, there was about 32 girls in each bracket, and this year now there's 16, so competition's a lot harder this year."

"This is by far the biggest stage that those two have ever wrestled on," Selinsgrove coach Seth Martin added. "I think maybe that was part of it because sometimes when you let that get to you, you go out there and your kind of just a body without a mind."

Both Strouse and Springer participated in the girls state tournament last year at Central Dauphin High School.

Strouse believes that wrestling this year at the Giant Center was a huge upgrade compared to last season.

"The energy that everybody brought in cheering for us just made it so much better," Strouse said.