WINGATE — Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley wrestled District 6 team tournament quarterfinal matches Tuesday. The Eagles and Rams are bracing for semifinal matches Saturday.
Forget receiving an opportunity to taper off.
In a warm, raucous and nearly filled BEA gym, the postseason-ready teams participated in a Mountain League meet contested at a furious pace.
The Eagles collected 29 takedowns and won the final two bouts to earn a 40-33 victory Thursday.
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After light workouts Friday — hard to imagine the programs following the meet with hard practices — the Eagles and Rams head to Tyrone for what should be an intense Saturday. Penns Valley (19-4) wrestles West Branch in the District 6 Class AA semifinals. BEA (10-2) faces Central Mountain in the Class AAA round.
The looming high-stakes meets, though, mattered little Thursday.
“Penns Valley came here and wanted nothing more than to beat the Eagles,” BEA’s Joe Powers said. “We talked about that in the room. We just couldn’t let that happen.”
Powers was a big reason the Eagles defended their own mat.
The senior ended the meet by pinning Dalton Zerbe in the first period at 138 pounds. The Eagles led 34-33 entering the bout.
Before facing Zerbe, Powers stood behind the bench and watched a bleacher-pounding, fan-screaming tussle between BEA sophomore Clint McCaslin and Penns Valley sophomore Matt Hosterman at 132 pounds.
For the second time this week, McCaslin produced a stirring victory, circling around Hosterman to secure the winning takedown in a 6-4 overtime victory. The bout went into overtime after referee Larry Guenot called Hosterman for stalling with seven seconds remaining in regulation. Hosterman was trying to protect a 4-3 lead he opened by taking McCaslin down with 26 seconds left. Earlier this week, McCaslin rallied to pin P-O’s Scott Yarger in the final second.
BEA coach Steve Millward said he didn‘t want immense pressure falling on McCaslin and Powers. But the random draw placed the duo in setup and closer roles.
“Clint and I talked before the match and we had a game plan to try to get wins for the team,” Powers said. “After Clint’s match, the crowd got pumped. That gave me a feeling for the gym and got my blood pumping. It wanted me to make the crowd as loud as he did.”
The teams strengths collided earlier in the meet, with two BEA veterans using aggressive tactics to earn bonus points.
Pins by Seth Decker (145) and Cole Confer (152), a forfeit to Corey Hazel (160) and Drew Hurd’s 5-2 victory over Mitchell Taylor at 170 handed Penns Valley a 21-0 lead entering 182.
BEA senior Jake Taylor trimmed the lead and showed why he’s regraded as one of the nation’s top wrestlers by accelerating the tempo and taking sophomore Mike Rogers down six times in a 15-5 victory. Taylor and Rogers were Centre County’s only undefeated wrestlers and they entered Thursday a combined 48-0.
“Mike needed to see that,” Penns Valley Joel Brinker said. “Jake’s the technician that Mike needs to develop into. Mike has the strength. He’s a sophomore. He has to build to that.”
The Eagles also captured the meet’s other marquee bout as Aaron Varner used a half-nelson to pin Maverick Swartz in the third period of a 195-pound matchup involving explosive veterans. Varner led 7-4 after a wild second-period sequence that included both wrestlers using mat savvy to produce reversals. Varner, a returning PIAA Class AAA medalist, also notched a reversal after surrendering a first-period takedown.
“That was one of those premiere matchups that both coaches were anticipating,” Millward said. “It’s hard to count Aaron out regardless of what goes on and no matter how excited the opponent’s crowd gets. Nothing seems to faze him much. He just goes about his business and does things that sort of leaves you awestruck sometimes.”
The 220-pound bout proved exhaustive as BEA’s Nate Sharkey dragged Mike Mundt down 11 times in a 24-9 victory. Despite the 15-point advantage, the win earned just four team points because Sharkey couldn’t turn the sturdy Mundt.
Josh Fye (285) and Travis Giedroc (120) added falls for the Eagles. Penns Valley’s Curtis Decker pinned Mike Kachik with 10 seconds left at 120. Jacob Confer gave the Rams six more points by pinning Cody Stine at 126.
Brinker said he’s confident Thursday’s result will not impact his team’s confidence. A victory over West Branch sends the Rams to the PIAA team tournament for the first time.
“These guys are a neat bunch,” Brinker said. “They knew what Bald Eagle was about and they were up for the challenge. I don’t think it’s going to impact us on Saturday.”