The mysteries of opening-night wrestling surfaced Friday, leaving Bellefonte and State College with plenty to dissect.
The Red Raiders defeated the Little Lions 43-23, a victory coach Mike Maney greeted with mixed emotions.
Yes, his team won. But, in Maney’s mind, some of the perils associated with youth emerged.
“I would like to see more fire,” he said. “We have been stressing in practice, being aggressive, attacking. But we held back. I think part of it was first-match jitters. When you are sending some freshmen and sophomores out there with very little mat experience, their anxiety is probably a little bit high. Hopefully we got that out of their system.”
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How young are the Red Raiders? Their used seven sophomores and three freshmen.
The team across the mat featured less seasoning. The Little Lions started five seniors, but some of those wrestlers picked up the sport in high school.
Five Little Lions were making their varsity debuts, including their 220- and 285-pounders. To complicate matters, State College’s most experience wrestler, junior returning state qualifier Mike Kauffman, watched from bench because of an injury.
The inexperience produced an intriguing meet. Seven of the 14 bouts went the full six minutes and referee Larry Guenot didn’t make one stall call.
State College filled 13 weights, a telling sign because last year’s team went 3-27 and entered some meets with less than 10 healthy bodies. If they can break up a cluster that exists from 126 to 138, the Little Lions should fill every weight class.
“I’m real encouraged,” coach Chad Dubin said. “They are still somewhat of a young group in terms of experience. We have a problem because we have a lot of guys at the same weight. The benefit of it is that they are going at in the room and making each other better. But we are fighting hard, staying in better positions and not giving up as many pins.”
Three senior upperweights guided the Red Raiders to a victory. Returning state qualifiers Nick Shawley and Garrett Poorman needed less than a minute to notch pins at 195 and 285, respectively. Austin Phillips added another quick fall at 182.
State College’s Derek Horner started the meet by pinning Dillon Kephart in the second period. Horner trailed 4-2 when he hit a big move. The Red Raiders recovered to win five bouts from 160 to 285. The stretch also included Tanner Fetterolf’s 7-4 victory over Evan Shriver at 160 and Austin Cable’s 5-1 victory over Alex Stover at 170. State College freshman Jack Vadervort interrupted the Red Raider run with a pin at 220.
“We got what we expected from our seniors,” Maney said. “Shawley and Poorman had some momentum going. They were able to stop the bleeding there a little bit, and Austin Cable moved up a couple of weight classes to help the team at 170.”
The final seven bouts were the meet’s most competitive, with Bellefonte 138-pounder Tanner Day notching the only pin for either team from 106 to 145. Bellefonte freshman Aaron Witherite majored Kyle Catral 11-3 at 106 and Trevor Corl defeated Dan Sills 11-6 in a 120-pound bout between regional qualifiers.
State College received eight points from the strongest part of its lineup as Anthony Myers majored Zach Musser 14-0 at 126 and Ty Millward handled Nate Rosenberger 14-5 at 132. State College’s J.B. Holden ended the match with a 9-4 victory over Dillon Ault at 145.
State College held a 16-14 takedown edge. The statistic increased Dubin’s optimism.
“I’m really happy about that,” he said. “We teach the kids to be aggressive, take control, don’t wait around. If we are getting takedowns, we are starting to do that.”
State College has plenty of opportunities to collect takedowns today. They leave at 5:30 a.m. for the St. Marys Tournament.
Bellefonte visits Philipsburg-Osceolan next Tuesday.