Local mat men reach end of line

HERSHEY – If you want to win a state medal, you have to wrestle for six minutes every time you get on the mat.

And you need to believe.

That, Mount Union coach Corey Wertz said Thursday, is what he believes went wrong for Sage Moist, whose career came to an end without a win in the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships Thursday at Hershey’s Giant Center.

Midd-West’s Alex Lieberman made everyone a believer, going the distance in two matches while reaggravating a shoulder injury he sustained in the Northeast region final. But both of those matches went against him, and the Mustang senior also departed on opening day.

They were the lone area wrestlers competing in the Class AA tournament.

Lieberman was trailing by a point after the first period of his opener against Bishop McDevitt’s Zane Black, and had chances to score over the District 3 wrestler. But in the second, Lieberman’s shoulder became a problem for the second time in as many weeks, and he was forced to ask for a stoppage.

Worse yet, before using 75 of his 90 seconds of injury time, the match continued as Black started to turn Lieberman, who then was charged with two back points.

“The injury time didn’t get called right away and then they said he was taking him to his back,” Midd-West coach Clint Swartz explained. “If they called it when he first (asked), he was flat on his belly.”

Lieberman put himself in that position, to some extent, when he chose defense to start the second period. But it was a one-point match at the time, and Swartz said it was the right decision.

“You’ve got to take bottom. You’ve got to get a point,” he said. “It looked like that kid was a little better on his feet.”

A wild third period against Derek Hull of Chartiers-Houston ended in favor of the WPIAL wrestler, 10-7, and for Lieberman it was a career.

“You miss all your kids that you lose throughout the years as they graduate and move on,” Swartz said. “But somebody that never says a word, just does what you ask him … There’s some special kids you get along the way.”

And the coach made no excuses about the hurt shoulder at the end.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people banged up right now wrestling. Things just kind of didn’t go right today,” he said. “He’s been battling injuries all year and gutted through a lot of matches. He just showed a lot of heart.”

Moist didn’t have a chance. Todd Lane of Southern Columbia took him to the mat quickly and added back points three times in the first period, then finished it 45 seconds into the second with a 16-0 technical fall.

One of the reasons Moist was in that position was because he was pinned in the Southwest region final by Penns Valley’s Seth Decker, changing his bracket at states.

“I thought the kids from Penns Valley had a great draw. I liked that position,” Wertz said. “But the reality is, we didn’t. You have to wrestle the matches that they put in front of you.”

After a brutal opening-round loss at the hands of Northeast region champ Todd Lane of Southern Columbia, Moist drew a consolation bout with Caleb Bordner of Tri-Valley, and it seemed like a better matchup.

Instead, it proved to be Bordner’s day, as the District 11 junior pinned Moist in the second period to end his Mount Union career.

“You can’t come into matches and have doubts in your mind as to whether you can win or not. You have to believe in yourself,” Wertz said. “You have to believe every time you step on the mat, and I don’t think he believed – either time.”

Moist got caught twice for takedowns on the edge of the circle; the second time, Bordner put him on his back to end it.

“Why are we the ones getting caught on the edge? Why aren’t we catching them on the edge?,” Wertz lamented. “That’s where we’re going wrong.”

Moist is the last of a sizable senior class from Mount Union this year.

“(He’s) a 100-match winner, a very solid wrestler for four years – we’re going to miss him,” Wertz said.