Central Mountain wins when it counts

MILL HALL – If you would have looked at the calendar of events for the Mifflin County and Central Mountain wrestling teams, you might have found something like an asterisk or a star on Jan. 15.

Over the past few years, the meet has developed into an intense rivalry between the two schools. One year ago, Central Mountain won the dual meet, but Mifflin County bounced back to punch its ticket to the state meet by capturing the District 6 Class AAA dual meet tournament.

When the Wildcats rolled out the red carpet to the Huskies Wednesday night, it was more than just another dual meet. It was a battle for district supremacy.

When the dual meet was in the books, the Wildcats had a leg up on the Huskies as they won the regular season showdown by the final of 39-24 before a packed house.

“I thought that some of those weights in there around 126 and 132 would be key as well as 195 and 220,” Central Mountain coach Doug Buckwalter said. “I wasn’t expecting to get some of the matches we did, but some of the guys pulled off great matches for us. This is two matches in a row that Emery Watson has come out and pulled off big wins and then Chris Confer is a guy who didn’t quit, kept looking for the opportunity and pulled off a tremendous win for him.”

While Buckwalter was extremely happy with the win, Mifflin County head coach Kirby Martin was obviously disappointed with the loss.

“The way I saw it is that every single match is going to have one or two defining moments,” Martin said. “Tonight we lost several of those defining moments, giving up pins and losing some matches that we might have won. When that happens, you aren’t going to win the dual meet.”

The Wildcats won eight of the 14 matchups, picking up bonus points in six of their wins as a result of four falls, a technical fall and a major decision.

“That was key, and it is even going to be more of a key the next time because they will have a couple more guys in their lineup,” Buckwalter said. “The next time we see them they will probably look like a different team so we are going to have to work even harder to get those bonus points. At the same time, we have to try and limit some of the ones we gave up. The guys fought hard, but we just gave up a few more than we need to.”

Martin agreed with Buckwalter as to the importance of bonus points in a dual meet like this one.

“When you have a dual meet between two good teams, bonus points are going to make the difference,” Martin said. “Giving up four pins is certainly not acceptable because when that happens, that is not going to win us dual meets.”

The only Wildcats to break through with wins in the first five weights were Chase Andrus and Watson as the Huskies built up a 14-6 lead.

Chad Reese got the Wildcat ball rolling at 160 with a 21-6 technical fall and Gavin Caprio mauled Eli Habbershon to his back for a fall in 33 seconds. The two wins pushed the pendulum back in favor of Central Mountain at 17-14.

“I was looking for six because that is what helps the team out the most,” Reese said. “He was trying to stay away a little bit so the best thing for me was to snap him down and go behind. I just kept the pace the whole match and took advantage of the opportunities that were there. They are definitely a tough team so you have to keep the intensity up all the time. I think all of our guys wrestled at a high pace and that was necessary for us to pull out a big win like this one.”

Just as the Wildcats made a surge at the Huskies, Mifflin County came back with a spurt of its own as Trey Hartsock majored Isaac Porter, Tre Carter was a pair better than Loc Long and Timmy Pearce, bumped up to 220 from 195, made a pair of takedowns stand up for a 4-2 nod over Cameron Porter.

“Timmy did an outstanding job,” Martin said. “Him being a senior he is wrestling just at the best he ever has throughout his career. Tonight was just another indicator of how well he is performing this year, and again, he did an outstanding job for us tonight.”

With the Husky surge, Mifflin County regained the lead at 24-17, but as things would turn out, that would be the last noise the Huskies would make as Central Mountain swept the final four bouts to win going away.

The big and the little jump-started the Wildcats to their four wins and 22 unanswered points as Bryce Hanley decked Colton Craig in 3:15 at 285 before Geo Barzona built up a 9-0 lead over Jonah Schultz before decking Schultz 55 seconds into the middle period at 106.

“I knew once that the guys in front of me lost I just had to go out and do whatever I could for the team,” Hanley said. “I wanted to get bonus points if they were there. When I turned him the first time, I knew it was going to happen again. This was a nice win, but what we need to do is go back into the room, practice hard every day and when you go out on the mat again, you have to fight hard to get as many points as you can.”

At 113, Chris Confer was trailing Mifflin County’s Noah Myers 7-2 when he reversed Myers and put him on his back for the fall halfway through the bout, a result that brought Central Mountain assistant coach Robbie Weikel up off the bench, pumping his fist.

Not to be overlooked, Keanan Bottorf wrapped up the big win at 120 when he majored Daulton Wilson 12-3 to set the final score, Bottorf used four takedowns, a reversal and a pair of penalty points to get the job done.

With the win, the Wildcats remain unbeaten at 9-0, while the loss drops the Huskies to 10-3.

Just as was the case one year ago, there is a good chance the Wildcats and Huskies will square off against each other in Tyrone next month.

“The post season is always in the back of our minds,” Martin said. “I know it is going to be us and Central Mountain battling it out the whole way through. That is really what keeps the kids motivated, having other kids who are wrestling at a high level. This is the kind of wrestling you want to have to see what kind of character they have. I am looking forward to it.”