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Gettysburg’s DeLawder is first girl to medal at Coal Cracker Tournament

The Coal Cracker Tournament has become a showcase event. Now up to nearly 40 teams, the two-day event draws top-flight talent from Pennsylvania and beyond to Panther Valley each January.

Gettysburg’s Montana DeLawder is arguably one of the most accomplished.

The sophomore became the first girl to qualify for the District 3 Class 3A tournament a season ago.

DeLawder made history yet again on Saturday.

With her fourth-place finish at 113 pounds, DeLawder became the first girl to place at the 10th annual event.

“It means a lot, because I know I can kind of set the tone for other girls coming in,” said DeLawder. “And hopefully, that brings more girls into it.”

DeLawder has gone far and wide to master her craft, competing in Texas and North Dakota at national events. She has earned All-American status through her success, and was invited to train in Japan in October.

It was no surprise, then, to see DeLawder reach the semis with three impressive victories to open the Coal Cracker Tournament. She pinned Crestwood’s William Bogdon in 1:05 in her first match, and posted a 7-0 decision over Palmerton’s Gabe Ramos in the second round before topping Jim Thorpe’s Gabe Heaney 4-0 in the quarters.

DeLawder fell 8-0 to Williams Valley’s Mikey Myers in the third-place bout. Myers was a District 11 champion a year ago, and placed fourth at regionals to advance to states.

“I have two daughters, and I’m involved in a lot of girls’ sports. My daughters don’t wrestle but they love wrestling, and they were excited,” said former Panther Valley head coach Tim Robb, who has been instrumental in helping the tournament grow. “They were helping me do something, and they said, ‘We gotta go see her wrestle.’

“That’s awesome, it is. I’m really behind it. I want to see girls’ wrestling grow, because it’s an international sport. It’s getting bigger and bigger. So I was really excited for that.”

It’s something Gettysburg and coach Chris Haines are working toward. The Warriors have three girls on their squad this season.

“We’re looking to assist any way we can in helping girls’ wrestling grow in Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States,” said Haines. “We host a girls’ state championship in March at Gettysburg.

“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the United States, and we want the PIAA to acknowledge that, and recognize it so these girls have an opportunity at the end of the season to have their own tournament.”

New Jersey became the latest state to offer a girls’ state tournament prior to the start of this season. A move for Pennsylvania to one day do the same would be popular in many circles.

“I want to have the PIAA sanction it,” said DeLawder. “But I like wrestling the guys, because it makes me better, and it makes me tougher.

“But at the end of the year, it’d be nice to have a separate bracket.”

Regardless of her competition, DeLawder has proven herself to be among the best everywhere she’s gone.

“I know that there’s a lot I can take away from my performance, but I’m happy with how I did today,” said DeLawder.

“It’s all about improvement,” said Haines. “Whether it’s her or any of our athletes, we’re looking for improvement, and she continues to improve as the season progresses, and she builds upon things, and she learns from her mistakes. Ultimately, we want to peak at the end of the season.”

Competing at the event for the first time, Gettysburg finished tied for fifth in the team standings.