Fall festival

COCOLAMUS – A year ago, Newport visited East Juniata, and flummoxed the Tigers in a dual meet that the home team had every reason to believe was going to go its way.

Flash forward, and there technically isn’t a home wrestling team in the Tiger gym. But there were a couple of home wrestlers on the mat there Wednesday, as the now-combined Juniata wrestling program hosted Newport to close out its dual meet season.

If there was any question about how it was going to end this year, a pair of former Tigers, in their final home appearance, made it clear that the Indians were not going to suffer the same fate. Juniata rattled off eight straight pins in a 65-15 rout of the Buffaloes.

The victory ended a perfect season for Juniata in its return to the Tri-Valley League, and set the team up for what coach Mike Robinson expects will be a home meet – in Mifflintown – in the District 6 Class AA team tournament.

The match – wrestled from the lightest weight on the draw – briefly gave Newport hope. The Buffaloes won a decision at 106 and picked up bonus points with a pin at 113. After giving a forfeit at 120 – the first of two the visitors were offering – Newport’s Daniel Altemus tangled in a back and forth battle with Justin Reid, eventually pinning Reid for a 15-6 lead.

It was the last time the Perry County team would put points on the board. Appropriately, that’s where the East Juniata boys stepped up and turned the tide.

First it was Adam Barrick’s turn. Son of the longtime Tiger mat coach, Barrick manhandled Colby Stroup at 132, giving points only when he started on the bottom and was briefly tilted in the second period. But he took plenty – a takedown, two reversals and five turns to register a 19-3 technical fall just before the buzzer ended the match.

“We expect bonus out of him. He’s a tough kid – and he went to another level this year,” Juniata coach Mike Robinson said. “This group of seniors is definitely a special group. With the individuals from East Juniata – I’m telling you.”

Then Sean Heggs, who was more than a bit under the weather – twice the match stopped because he was feeling woozy; one more and it would have been a default. That wasn’t going to happen.

Although Heggs never trailed in the match, he was barely leading going into the third, when Newport’s Dalton Klinger opted for a neutral start. Heggs got one more takedown, and made it an early exit, showing Klinger the lights 20 seconds into the final period.

“It was senior night. He’s had the flu for the past few days, and I had another guy prepared and ready to go. He wanted to wrestle. How do you deny a kid when he wants to wrestle?,” Robinson asked. “There’s a kid that, face it, he’s hard nosed, he’s having a good year and he’s having a lot of fun.”

After that, it just got ugly for the Buffaloes. Juniata picked up six points for everyone on the mat after that, with all but one pinning – Newport had its second forfeit at 220. The longest a Juniata grappler stayed on the mat in that stretchwas 1:46 – Tyler Hershey at 170 and Ty Treaster at 195 both needed that long – while Jared Benner (152), Derek Beitz (160) and Taylor Foster (182) flattened their opponents in under a minute.

That run was especially impressive when compared to the early part of the season, when anything above 160 was a wild card for the Indians.

“Our upper weights are coming through,” Robinson said. “Those guys are learning to wrestle those weights – they’re lightweights that are learning to be heavyweights.”

Patrick Fitzgerald iced the cake when he decked Josh Bower at heavyweight to make the final.

Juniata’s regular-season record stands at 19-4; the Indians are 4-0 in the TVL and awaiting the final standings for the District 6 duals, which begin next week.