Fresh­man Craig claims gold for Hill at Bis­sell ‘33

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jeff Stover js­[email protected]­tu­ry­ @Mer­curyXS­tover on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN >> Dave Hoff­man joked about how Jake Craig doesn’t dis­play a par­tic­u­larly for­mi­da­ble or fe­ro­cious de­meanor.

Phys­i­cal ap­pear­ances aside, Hoff­man is quite happy to have Craig on The Hill School’s wrestling team in his first sea­son head­ing the pro­gram. A stand­out wrestler at the Hill around the turn of the cen­tury, Hoff­man knows he has a com­peti­tor of sim­i­lar cal­iber in Craig, who came here after be­com­ing a state cham­pion in Maine.

“He’s ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions,” Hoff­man said as the Hill’s Bis­sell ‘33 Tour­na­ment was wrap­ping up Satur­day. “This is some­thing that’s im­por­tant to him.”

Craig gave the Hill its lone weight-class cham­pion at 106.

The fresh­man from Nor­ridge­wock blew through the bracket, scor­ing two pins and a sec­ond-pe­riod tech­ni­cal fall to come away with the gold in the eighth in­stal­la­tion of this com­pe­ti­tion, which

hosted a field of 13 other prep pow­ers in the Hill’s Sweeney Gym­na­sium.

Craig opened with a first-pe­riod drop of Peddie School’s Pranit Ag­grawal, fol­low­ing it by get­ting the slap at the con­clu­sion of a semi­fi­nal bout with Tabor Academy’s Shay­mus MacIn­tosh. The gold-medal clash saw him dis­patch Green Farms Academy’s Caleb Seyfried with a “tech” 20 sec­onds into the third pe­riod.

“This is a great tour­na­ment,” Craig said. “I’ve been work­ing on moves each match. It’s great prepa­ra­tion for states ... a chance to use time wisely on the mats.”

Craig’s dom­i­nance on the mats last year in­cluded a third-place show­ing in the New Eng­land tour­na­ment. In his de­sire for im­prove­ment, en­roll­ment at the Hill was a well thought-out de­ci­sion.

“First, my brother Cody did a post-grad­u­ate year (2018),” he said. “Sec­ond was Coach Hoff­man. I saw his re­sumé and knew I wanted to be here. And one of the big­ger perks was be­ing lo­cated in Penn­syl­va­nia. This a tough wrestling state, and you have to be ready.

“Penn­syl­va­nia (com­pe­ti­tion) is a huge im­prove­ment,” he said. “I love Maine. It’s great. But here there’s bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion.

“There are minis­cule mis­takes be­ing fixed. When I came here, I was still raw.”

Craig’s only loss of the sea­son, to date, was a de­ci­sion to Troy’s Shel­don Sey­mour in the 106 fi­nals of the My House X-Cal­ibur tour­ney Dec. 16. He closed out the month of De­cem­ber with three pins and a gold medal at the Howdy Dun­can In­vi­ta­tional in New Cas­tle, Del.

Craig’s found the level of com­pe­ti­tion in the Mid-At­lantic re­gion com­pa­ra­ble to what he en­coun­tered in New Eng­land.

“There were some kids in Maine who gave me tough matches,” he noted. “It’s the same level of com­pe­ti­tion here.”

The Hill con­tin­gent had three other grap­plers fin­ish third in their weight classes.

Sam Beck­ett, a trans­fer from nearby Soud­er­ton, scored bronze at 138 with a 4-2 de­ci­sion of Green Farms Academy’s Mikey Bar­tush. Derek Sch­mael­ing and Will Hen­rik­sen scored their thirds at 195 and 220, re­spec­tively, both go­ing 2-2 in the roundrobin for­mat.

“Some of the work we’re do­ing, we’re tak­ing steps for­ward. There are also some (op­po­nents) we let slip away,” Hoff­man said of the team’s pro­gres­sion. “We’re get­ting bet­ter.”

Like Craig, Hoff­man sees con­sid­er­able ben­e­fit from a tour­na­ment the cal­iber of Bis­sell ‘33.

“Some of the teams we’ll be see­ing down the stretch are here,” he said. “We have a cou­ple tough ones ahead as we wrap things up.” NOTES >> An­other high fin­isher for the Hill was Kobe Simp­son, who placed sev­enth at 145. Iron­i­cally, Simp­son faced team­mate Michael Stevens in the Top Eight bout . ... Malvern Prep claimed the team cham­pi­onship, its 249.5 points well ahead of run­ner-up Ger­man­town Academy (119.5). The Hill ended up fifth in the field . ... Malvern’s Nick Feldman, cap­ping his run through the 160-pound bracket with a 3-2 de­ci­sion of Mercers­burg Academy’s Aure­lius Dun­bar, was ac­corded the Bis­sell ‘33 Out­stand­ing Wrestler honors.

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