STATE COLLEGE - Sometimes it just takes a small victory to set the ball rolling toward a bigger one.
State College was probably hoping for that early in Thursday's Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division wrestling match against Mifflin County when the Little Lions' Johnathan Sponsler scored a takedown with just three ticks left on the clock at 145 pounds, winning a decision over Mifflin County's Isaac Habbershon as the home team put points on the board for the first time.
Instead, it was just a bump in Mifflin County's road as the Huskies headed back over the Seven Mountains with a 36-30 victory.
Any hope of a rally developing from that bout - just the third clash of the night - was quickly put to rest by the Huskies' Noah Stewart, who would have been the third bonus-point winner of the night but for another late score, by State College's Will Roeshot at 152.
Sure, State College scored - took the team lead briefly, in fact - on a couple of huge wins through the middle as a pair of Huskies got a good look at the single light fixture suspended over the mat. Both Michael Bielski and Eli Habbershon were unable to get past the second period in their matches.
"They're an improved team and I recognized a lot of names from last year. I knew that there were going to be some matches where, if we didn't wrestle well, we were going to get pinned," Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. "Unfortunately we got pinned."
But in fewer than 75 seconds combined mat time, Trey Hartsock (182) and Tim Pearce (195) made pancakes of their Little Lion opponents, pushing the Huskies back out in front with concurrent falls that each took 37 seconds.
State College found no solace at the top of the Husky ladder. Kyle Kahley managed a late takedown and back points for a major decision at 220. And heavyweight Colton Craig fell just short of the bonus, winning 7-0.
"Our seniors are in the upper weights. I'm really proud of how they're being seniors, and being good leaders out there on the mat," Martin said. "Their success really does help the team. Tonight, they helped to get the momentum back, which was huge."
With a 12-point span between the teams after Mifflin County forfeited 106, 113-pounder Noah Myers was the first of the three remaining grapplers who could clinch the team win with a straight decision. He did, keeping State College's Kyle Catral on the mat for most of the six minutes, winning 6-1 to put it out of reach.
State College won the last two matches, both straight decisions, to make the final score, one that Martin said could have been different without the free points at 106 and one team member expected back from an injury in time for the Husky Duals.
"That's my feeling. If we're at full strength it's not as close of a match," he said. "Still, State College is really improving. They wrestled hard and they deserve some of the credit for tonight's match."
Some coaches might have been concerned with as much action as the Huskies have seen this week, especially after missing a day in the room when cold weather closed schools on Tuesday. But Martin said he was happy to hit the mats in a live match twice this week, and it proved a lift for the Huskies heading into next week's dual with arguably their biggest rival in District 6 - Central Mountain, which they face on the road Wednesday.
"By this point in the year, our conditioning is good. It is just working on the technical things - that's kind of the only thing that we miss out on with having back-to-back matches," he said. "We'll be able to catch up."