DES MOINES, Iowa — Mitchell Port suffered the most devastating loss of his young career and he went right back to work.
The Edinboro sophomore, who is a Bellefonte High graduate, had just lost to Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple in the 141-pound finals at the NCAA Wresting Championships and he retreated to the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center to get in a cool-down workout.
Port ran in circles, he took a few shadow shots and he kept on sweating as he shuffled his feet. When he was done, he allowed himself a brief few moments to weep.
For Port, immediately afterward, the thought that ran through his mind was ‘what could have been?’
“Not now,” Port said through tears when asked to reflect on his first ever All-America season and the 19-match winning streak he carried into his bout with Maple. “Maybe later.”
Maple, a junior with a redshirt year under his belt, finished an unbeaten season with the win. He did it with an early takedown, a second-period escape and a riding time point to post the 4-3 win.
Port was able to escape Maple’s clutches twice, but Port’s attacks were fended off by Maple. The Oklahoma grappler was warned for stalling as he backpedalled with 1:11 to go in the second period, however. I the third, Port pushed the pace as Maple backed off. He was hit for stalling again and Port pulled even 3-3 with three seconds left.
But by then, Maple had the riding time edge and the extra point that comes with it.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Port said of Maple’s first takedown. “I did everything I could to circle away from it, he still got to my leg. He just converted more takedowns than me.”
Although Port acknowledged he didn’t take solace in silver linings, he accomplished something no other former Bellefonte wrestler was able to do in more than half a century.
With his two-day romp through the 141-pound field that included two major decisions, Port became the first NCAA All-American to come out of Bellefonte in 51 years.
“It’s good for the program,” Port said.
Ron Pifer was the last to do it. Meanwhile, Edinboro coach Tim Flynn was not one to look for silver linings, either.
Flynn, with tears in his eyes and a shaky voice, expressed the respect he has for his sophomore star and his dedication to improve. Port missed out on becoming an All-American by one match last season.
“I didn’t promise him I’d make him a national runner-up,” Flynn said.
Port finished his sophomore season with a 38-4 record.