Trojans advance to semifinals

MOUNT UNION – Sophomore Andrew Tress made his debut for Mount Union in the Juniata Duals, and between that and the Thomas Chevrolet tournament in Bedford, had one win under his belt headed into Thursday’s District 6 Class AA team wrestling quarterfinal against Penns Valley.

Against the Rams, Tress managed his second win – but more important, sparked a streak of six-point decisions that carried the Trojans to the end of the night and into Saturday’s semifinals with a 54-19 victory.

Mount Union, which was the district runner-up a year ago, is looking for a third straight trip to the state event. The semifinals will be at Tyrone Saturday at 5 p.m., with the finals to follow. The top two teams advance.

Mount Union wrestles West Branch, a grudge match that the Warriors won in their regular-season meeting; Westmont Hilltop and top seed Huntingdon are also in the bracket. Penns Valley eliminated Blairsville, 44-31, to face Mount Union.

Tress, stepping into the 138-pound weight class, flip-flopped through two periods with Dylan Homan, building a 4-2 lead but settling for a 6-6 tie going into the third. Tress had the only takedown at that point, and there would be just one more in the match – the one where he decked Homan for six and a 12-9 team lead.

The Rams never got in front again.

Tyler Long stretched the lead by six with a second-period fall at 145 before the chess game began. Mount Union coach Corey Wertz pushed Dylan Smith to 160 and Devon Kylor to 182, looking to take or at least match points, and it worked. Those two were good for another pair of pins, while the replacements did an admirable job trying to limit Penns Valley’s success at 152 and 170.

In the latter, Drew Harshbarger did his best against Cory Hazel, but eventually was dispatched by fall. But in the lower weight, Sam Estep stunned the Rams’ Seth Decker with a late reversal that prevented two bonus points.

“Sam fought hard. He comes through with that big reversal at the end; that kid’s looking for a tech,” Wertz noted. “He barely makes it a major – that was some good fight at the end.”

For Harshbarger, the coach said, “It wasn’t because he wasn’t fighting. He was really going at it. We put them in a tough position, but they fought.

“We won the toss and got the matchups we wanted. That helped too.”

Philip Kyle and Darrian Stapleton both pinned their opponents; Kyle’s win clinched the match because the Rams were giving up six at 106, the final bout in that dual. Stapleton put an exclamation point on the night with a 16-second headlock job before Penns Valley gave up 285.

“They’re a good team – they’re pretty solid,” Wertz said. “Now, they had a couple guys out. I think their heavyweight got banged up in that first match.”

The effort by Mount Union was a total turnaround from the Trojans’ rivalrly match against Huntingdon, in which a lack of effort allowed the Bearcats to dominate the meet.

“We’ve been really trying to go at it in the room. You have a performance like we had before, and it’s like, ‘Look, we’ve got to get better,'” Wertz explained. “I think these guys have tried to turn it up in the room and I think we showed that a little bit tonight.”

Saturday, he said, it’s a matter of showing up – and wanting revenge.

“We talked about it ever since we lost up there – we want another chance,” Wertz said. We have our chance, so let’s see what we can do with it.”

And that’s not just West Branch – it’s Huntingdon as well.

“We want our chance at them, too,” he said.