Joe Powers sat and watched as Clearfield slowly chewed into Bald Eagle Area’s 31-9 lead and he knew that in his home debut in an Eagle singlet, the outcome of the meet was going to fall directly on his shoulders.
And it did. With only the 145-pound bout left to go, the dual meet score was BEA 31 Clearfield 28.
“ I saw the points come down and I could tell it was going to come down to the last match,’’ said the senior, who transferred from State College two years ago and sat out last year. “I knew it was time to get my game face on and prepare the best I could. I was a little nervous, but I had to fight through that and just wrestle.’’
He and Clearfield’s Zach Fox were deadlocked at 2-2 after the first period, but a pair of back points gave Powers a 4-2 edge heading into the final two minutes. Starting from the top, he cranked Fox over for the fall that gave the Eagles a 37-28 win in their dual meet opener.
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“When you hear that crowd cheering — these are great fans — and then you hear that mat being slapped and you jump up and you know you’re a winner, that’s a great feeling,” Powers said.
BEA coach Steve Millward wouldn’t disagree, but he could do with a little less drama.
“I don’t like matches like that,’’ he said afterward. “I’d like it to be a little less stressful. But it was good to have Joe there. I looked at the way the meet was going, and with three or four matches left, I knew it was going to come down to him. We wanted to get six minutes of fight out of him.
“He’s pretty smooth. He’s not a brawler, but he’s pretty slick. He’s not someone who is going to go out there and get pushed around. We were hoping he could keep up the pace for six minutes and maybe be able to break that kid. In the end, I think that might be what happened.’’
What happened early in the meet set the stage for the finale, as Clearfield took a 9-0 lead with a fall from Nolan Barger at 152, and an 8-3 decision by Mike Beck over Mitchell Taylor at 160.
But then BEA rolled out its big hitters, as Ben Verbitsky majored Josh Kennedy 15-4, thanks to a pair of five-point moves from his feet to get things rolling.
Clearfield forfeited to Jake Taylor at 182, and BEA followed with three straight first-period falls as Aaron Varner pinned Jacob Verchick in 43 seconds, David Gawryla matched that time against Shane Billings at 220, and Nate Sharkey pinned Curt Mignot in 1:19 at heavyweight to make it 28-9 in favor of the Eagles.
In one of the key bouts in the meet, BEA’s Cobey Bainey decisioned Logan Gilbert 6-2 at 106 with a takedown in the first period, and reversals in the second and third periods.
“There were a lot of toss-ups, including at 106 and 120,’’ Millward said. “We were hoping to get both of them, but we wound up splitting them. That’s one of the best matches I’ve seen Cobey wrestle.’’
“We needed to turn the corner at 106, and they got the win from Bainey,’’ said Clearfield coach Jeff Aveni. “When we lost at 106, we had to have the match at 120 to have a chance.’’
At 113, Josiah McClarren made sure they did, as he edged Mike Kachik 4-1 with a first-period takedown and third-period reversal.
In the premier bout of the night, Clearfield’s Noah Cline decisioned Travis Giedroc 4-3 at 120. It was 3-3 at the end of the first period, as they traded takedowns and escapes. But Cline escaped in the second period and rode Giedroc the entire third period for the win.
“Noah has gotten better every match he’s wrestled,’’ Aveni said. “He got majored by Giedroc last year and he got the win tonight. He’s turned the corner. You can see the improvement right there.’’
After that, the Bison kept nibbling away at the BEA lead as Jon Sponsleer topped Jacob Noll 4-0 with a pair of takedowns at 126, Dylan Graham majored Clint McCaslin 11-3 with five takedowns, and Christian Stone pinned Titus Tice in 33 seconds to make it 31-28. It was Stone’s 100th career win.
That set up the finale.
“That was Zach Fox’s first match in two years,’’ Aveni said. “In eighth grade, he was an accomplished wrestler. All I asked him to do was do his best. If we had been able to give him a three-point lead, it might have been different but being behind, he had to open up and I think he spent himself a little early.
“But this was Clearfield-BEA. The sport of wrestling needs meets like this.’’