Those involved with the Bellefonte wrestling program made a difficult decision in 2009, introducing a freshman heavyweight to the perils of varsity wrestling.
Garrett Poorman found himself overwhelmed at times. One wrong move against older, chiseled opponents meant sudden endings, a fate difficult for a former youth and junior high standout to comprehend.
“I was trying to get by,” said Poorman, who ended the season 17-15.
The season shaped one of the best heavyweight careers in Bellefonte history.
Poorman went 5-0 at Saturday’s Red Raider Rumble. Three victories came via forfeit, another by a quick fall. The one bout that lasted six minutes demonstrated the guile Poorman, a state medalist last season, has accumulated since his freshman year.
The senior earned his 100th career victory with an exciting 8-4 victory over Altoona’s Austin Rosenberry. Trailing 4-2 with less than 20 seconds remaining, Poorman earned a point because of a stall call against Rosenberry. Poorman then hit a five-point move in the final 10 seconds, sending Rosenberry to his back.
Family members and friends marked the accomplishment by giving Poorman an elaborate set of silver, white and red balloons.
“Never in a million years did I think I would hit 100,” he said. “I never thought I would get close.”
More than anything, wrestling is about achieving the mental and physical unthinkable. Tournaments such as the 16-team Red Raider Rumble are designed for this purpose.
Bellefonte went 4-1 in its own gym, recovering from a frustrating 37-27 pool loss to Cathedral Prep by defeating Hazelton 48-30 and Pius X 50-25. The Red Raiders thumped Crestwood 57-24 and edged Altoona 39-33 in its first two duals.
“We wanted to finish strong,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “We wanted to win the last two matches. Through the dual meets, there were some tough matches we needed to win and guys were able to pull them out.”
State College’s grit was also tested during the exhaustive tournament. The Little Lions went 2-3, defeating Midd-West 42-28 and James Wood (Va.) 42-33 and falling to Pittston 49-21, Fauquier (Va.) 39-27 and Punxsutawney 38-34.
The finale against Punxsutawney perplexed coach Chad Dubin because his team received multiple opportunities to upend the Chucks.
“Our day was up and down,” he said. “We had a couple of good matches where guys fought hard and a couple of matches like the last one where if guys fight off their backs and a couple of guys put a little extra in, we might win the match.”
The Red Raiders (9-3) and Little Lions (5-15) experienced contrasting endings.
Bellefonte won two overtime bouts against Pius X, with Aaron Witherite escaping in the tiebreaker period to edge Eric Provasky 5-4 at 113 pounds and Dillon Kephart pinning James Perez in 6:33 at 145. Witherite’s escape with two seconds remaining forced overtime.
Allowing three falls and a technical fall and dropping three decisions doomed State College against Punxsutawney.
Bellefonte’s top individuals flourished throughout the tournament as Luke Leathers (106), Trevor Corl (120) and Nick Shawley (170) joined Poorman with perfect records. Witherite, Kephart and Nate Rosenberger went 4-1.
Mike Kauffman, a 2012 PIAA qualifier recovering from a knee injury, led State College with four victories. Kyle Catral (106), Dan Sills (120), Derek Horner (145), Joaquin Alvarez (220) and J.T. Mobley (285) earned three victories.
“Five solid matches is worth its weight in gold,” Dubin said. “There’s nothing that can replicate mat experience. That’s a very big positive. We were challenged by some good teams. We were able to see some things against teams that weren’t as experienced.”
Nothing can replicate what District 9 DuBois experienced. The Beavers went 5-0 to become the third different winner in the Rumble’s three-year history. DuBois opened a 39-9 lead to defeat Cathedral Prep 42-31 in the final. The Beavers edged Pittston 37-36 in the semifinals.
DuBois’ upperweights proved difficult to slow. The 170- to 220-pound quartet of Tom Sleigh, Shane Marshall, Landon Hanna and Nick Davido combined for 110 team points in five duals.
“That’s how it has been for us all year,” DuBois coach Luke Bundy said. “We have inexperienced kids at some other weights, so we rely on those senior guys to go out there and get a lot of team points for us. That’s basically what pushed us to win this dual tournament.”
From Poorman’s achievement to DuBois’ potent stretch, the duals offered a major stage for upperweights. Poorman’s cheering section included more than 20 friends and family members. And like Poorman, they found themselves gasping, knowing a once distant milestone was within reach.
“I will remember that match for the rest of my life,” Poorman said.