Bonus points send Trojans to semis

MOUNT UNION – Leading into his team’s District 6 Class AA quarterfinal match against Blairsville, Mount Union coach Corey Wertz said he knew bonus points would be important.

Call Wertz a prophet – or just a guy who knows the sport – but in either case his words couldn’t have been more true.

Eight bouts into the match Mount Union, the defending District 6 champion, trailed the Bobcats 26-15 – but in the next five bouts the Trojans recorded four pins and a major decision to blow past Blairsville for an eventual 43-29 win.

Blairsville earned the right to take on Mount Union with a 55-21 win over Ligonier Valley in the first round, in the Trojans’ gym.

This surge forward began with Sage Moist when he pinned Judah Napolitano just under a minute at 113 pounds to cut the Bobcats’ lead to five points, and from there it was all Trojans. Tyler Foor pinned Ayrton LaMantia in their 120-pound bout to give Mount Union a 27-26 lead, than Jake Boozel caught Dillan Palmer in a cradle to add another Mount Union pin at 126.

Robbie Steel took the 132 weight class with a 10-1 major decision, and Kord Aurand sealed the win when he pinned Nick Pecze to give Mount Union a 43-26 lead heading into the last bout of the night.

“We got down, but our lightweights really picked it up,” Wertz said of the meet, which started at 152. “We thought we could get bonus points from just about all of our lightweights and we did. That’s something we knew coming in, that was part of our game plan, and then that’s what we did.”

In the bout that sealed Mount Union’s victory, Aurand and Pecze were scoreless after the first period, but Aurand turned it on at 1:38 in the second to put Pecze on his back.

“We looked at (Pecze), saw some similar opponents and felt pretty confident going in that (Aurand) could win, and he was just patient and waited for the kid to make a mistake, and he did,” Wertz said.

In the previous bout, Steel nearly recorded a pin when he got a takedown in the third period and had Blairsville’s Jacob Weinell as close to the floor as he could without the official slapping the mat, but ended with a three-point near fall to give Steel a 10-0 lead.

Bobcats who record pins included Noah Tarr at 152, Bobby Thompson at 182 and Hunter Cunningham at 106. Tarr’s pin was in the first bout of the match, when he caught Mount Union’s Brian Nemyo with just 30 second left in the first period to open the night with a 6-0 Blairsville lead.

Thompson got his pin over Darrian Stapleton to expand Blairsville’s lead to 16-6 after Mount Union’s Cory Kylor had brought it to 10-6 when he scored a takedown on Channing Cavender that went straight to his back for the fall.

The most notable of the three pins, however, was Cunningham’s over Brock Knable at 106. And it was noteworthy not so much because it gave the Bobcats six team points, but because it gave the Bobcats six team points they needed to earn.

Mount Union had been giving up forfeits at 106 all season long, but in Wednesday’s match, newcomer Knable stepped in to fill the spot.

“We’ve been on him all year long to get him to come out for the team, finally he decided he was going to try it, so now we have one at 106,” Wertz said.

The Trojans (21-3) will face rival Huntingdon, which they beat earlier this year, in the semifinals Saturday and Wertz is hoping his team’s display of bonus will continue into the upcoming match.

“When you get to this level, nobody’s easy. Bonus points are big. We talk about it every day about controlling the bonus points. We have to get them, and they can’t get them. That’s how you’re going to win from here on out.”

Saturday’s semifinal matches at Tyrone begin at 10 a.m. Penns Valley and West Branch, the top seed, meet on the other side of the bracket. Both teams that win the early round advance to states; the title match will be wrestled at noon.