Huskies end Wildcats’ reign on mats

TYRONE – Two local schools made it to Saturday’s semifinals and championship rounds in the District 6 team wrestling tournament at Tyrone Area High School, and when the day’s action was complete, there was good news for both squads.

In Class AAA, Mifflin County won the title as the Huskies dethroned five-time defending champion Central Mountain with an exciting 31-26 win. In Class AA, Mount Union dropped a 45-17 decision to West Branch in the title match, but will advance to the state tournament as the runner-up team.

With the win, Mifflin County goes directly to Hershey Thursday, where the Huskies will meet the winner of a wrestle-in match between District 11 runner-up Parkland and District 3’s fourth-place finisher, Wilson (West Lawn) when the tournament opens at Giant Center. Mount Union has to make it through a wrestle-in for its second straight appearance in Hershey, and the Trojans have to do it on the road – the travel to District 3 runner-up Bermudian Springs today.

The Huskies began their 2-0 day by manhandling Bellefonte for a 43-18 win before overcoming a huge deficit in the title to down the Wildcats for the crown. Trailing 26-9 with a half dozen bouts left, the Huskies flexed their muscles to win the final six bouts for their 31-26 victory.

“We were fighting tradition with Central Mountain because they are very comfortable being in this position whereas it was our first time, but here is where we wanted to be,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “They have had such a stranglehold on (the title) and although everything hasn’t gone as planned for them, they managed to come together and they wrestled well today. That is a tribute to the program they have.”

As for the win over Bellefonte, Martin felt it was a matter of matchups that might have been a big factor in the match.

“I felt that we matched up very well with them as far as their strengths and our strengths,” Martin said. “I anticipated quite a few of those matchups going in our favor. To be honest about it, wrestling in the Mid-Penn has really helped us. Iron sharpens iron and I think we have wrestled some real tough teams up to this point and for us, that was great preparation for an atmosphere and teams like we had here today.”

In the battle for the gold and right to continue in the state tournament, Mifflin County faced what some might have thought to be a script for Mission:Impossible. Trailing by 20 points and with their backs to the wall, the Huskies responded to the task at hand as they swept the final six bouts.

“I really thought that was pretty much how it would go knowing where the match was starting,” Martin said. “If anything, my upper weights did a better job tonight of not giving up extra bonus points and we talked about that. We stress to them that a loss is not a failure if you do your role and do your job for the team and they did that. They deserve as much credit for this win as our lightweights do. They did a lot to keep us in the match.”

As for his lightweights, Martin and his staff know what they have in that group.

“We have some hammers in there,” Martin said. “They are young so it will be exciting to watch them progress even more this year, but certainly in the next couple of years.”

Now that the Huskies are off to Chocolate Town for the state meet, there remains completing the regular season and looking forward to what will hopefully be a very productive postseason.

“Overall, I really like where the kids are,” Martin said. “We still aren’t at a hundred percent. We had one of our regulars out of the lineup tonight and we have another one who is ineligible. I am hoping by the time districts rolls around that we will have everybody in the lineup who is supposed to be there.”

Mount Union opened its tournament with a 44-21 conquest of Huntingdon, but in the finals, the Trojans fell to eventual champion West Branch 45-17. The Trojans also lost to the Warriors 40-21 in the fifth dual meet of the season.

Although a little disappointed in that his wrestlers couldn’t turn the corner against the Warriors and come away with the team title, Mount Union head coach Corey Wertz was quite happy with the fact that his squad was moving on in the tournament.

“They are a tough team and we knew they were tough. They beat us the first time and we were hoping to turn things around, but it didn’t happen,” Wertz said. “Some of the matchups we had the first time were close and we had almost the same matchups again except for 120 and 126. We knew what we had to do coming in, we were close, but we didn’t do it.”

In the win over Huntingdon, Wertz felt his kids gave him their best effort.

“Hats off to these kids because they wrestled their rear ends off in that first match,” Wertz said. “We needed that same type of effort here (against West Branch) but we just came up short. We certainly didn’t lose the match because of a lack of effort. We needed that same kind of effort in the second match as we had in the first, but give them credit because they matched up well with us.”

As for having wrestled West Branch before, Wertz felt that really didn’t play a big part in the outcome.

“They know us and we know them so I don’t see any advantages or disadvantages either way,” he said. “The guys are a little down after the loss, but I just told them in the locker room that I can understand their feelings because they wanted to become district champions. But I also reminded them there are 20-some other teams in this district that aren’t going to states and we are. We have to do something to build on that to advance to Thursday and for us, that all begins Monday night.”

For the Trojans, this is the time for them to employ the short memory approach to moving on if they want to punch their ticket to the Giant Center.

“I just told them that it is a short time until we get (to Bermudian Springs) so we have to keep our chins up and not get down because we have to turn around and wrestle again on Monday,” Wertz said. “These guys have to realize that we have to just get back at it tomorrow, fix our mistakes and move forward.”