Rams strike early against MC

LEWISTOWN – The good news for Mifflin County came early on Thursday, when it was confirmed the Huskies will be the No. 2 seed in the District 6 Class AAA team wrestling tournament – a bye to the semis and a potential rematch with Central Mountain.

They certainly don’t want it to turn out like Thursday night’s home dual against another team with Central in its name – Central Dauphin rattled off wins in the first five weight classes on the way to a 35-27 victory in the Commonwealth Division dual meet.

Those five matches brought the Rams 22 points – including one of two Husky forfeits – and laid the groundwork for the top end of the weight scale, where Mifflin County would have to work overtime to have a chance.

The chance slipped away in the final moments of the 182-pound bout, one the Huskies needed to win – and were winning – in order to make a run at the dual meet. Trey Hartsock, who carried a 5-2 advantage out of the second period, was still ahead 6-5 in the third after Central Dauphin’s Steve McNeal picked up his second stall call.

And then the unthinkable happened – McNeal made a nifty move on Hartsock, taking the Mifflin County grappler briefly to his back for four points as time expired.

“In dual meets you’re always going to have defining moments in each individual match,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “You have to win those defining moments. This is another dual meet that slipped away from us. There were a couple of very important moments that we didn’t capitalize on.”

The Huskies were in the precarious position because of all the matches they didn’t win in the lower weights. Hayden Hidlay reliably brought six points to the table with a second-period fall over Koltyn Easton at 138; Noah Stewart doubled the home team’s total when he flattened Marcus Ross at 152. But those two and one more at 170 were all the wins the home team had in the first 10 bouts.

While he was unhappy with the score, Martin was not unhappy with the effort at the low end.

“You always want to limit the number of bonus points. We knew unfortunately that we were probably going to give up some bonus points down there,” he said. “I thought for the most part those kids actually wrestled hard, and that hasn’t always been the case. So I’m not real critical of them this evening.”

The score was 26-12 at that juncture, and Martin was forced to make the difficult choice to forfeit to one of the state’s best, Garrett Peppelman. Despite the catcalls from the visiting crowd, it was the Huskies’ only hope to regain control of the meet at the next weight, by moving Keith Corson up to 170.

“We had to do that move if we were going to try to win the dual meet. We had to,” Martin said. “That was our best opportunity to trade a loss for a win.”

And Mifflin County got the win – although again, could have gotten a better one. Corson was up 8-1 in the third and could have cut Jeff Whitcomb to try for a takedown and the major. Then Whitcomb was hit twice in succession for stalling, giving Corson the eight-point margin – only to see Whitcomb escape as the match ended anyway.

“It did pay off – again, there were a couple defining moments in that match. We could have scored bonus points,” Martin noted. “So another situation where we missed an opportunity.”

The came Hartsock’s loss, which clinched the meet for Central Dauphin. Had he won, the swing would not have guaranteed anything but a chance to Mifflin County, which would have needed 14 points in the final three bouts, and got only 12 – a what-if that will haunt the Huskies for another year.

The last three all went to the Huskies: Tim Pearce a pin at 195, then decisions by Kyle Kahley (220) and Colton Craig (285).

Mifflin County (16-4, 5-2) ends the regular season with an eye to both district and state tournaments, and hopefully redemption.

“This group of kids, they’re not satisfied,” Martin said. “We talked about certainly improving on last year but I think tonight they’re really frustrated because there was a chance to win it. Hopefully this is motivation heading into next week.”