SPRING MILLS — West Branch showed Wednesday night why many think the Warriors will defend their District 6 Class AA team duals championship.
West Branch (20-1) won eight of 14 bouts, earning bonus points in the seven of them, to turn away short-handed Penns Valley (10-7), 42-25.
“Our guys go after the falls. We preach that, go out and get the bonus points,” West Branch coach Jason Bainey said.
“You can see that tonight that made a big difference in the match. We won eight bouts and they won six bouts, but our guys went out and got the falls and the techs when we needed to and the other guys stayed off their backs.”
Injuries forced the Rams to forfeit two weights (106 and 113), so coach Joel Brinker knew it would be a tall order to upset the Warriors. Still, he wasn’t the least bit discouraged by the loss.
“I was pleased. They’re a very tough team. They’re very balanced. They’ve got a good group right now. Twelve matches were wrestled and we walked out of here with six. We split it six and six. They’re considered the team to beat in the district right now. I can’t complain right now,” he said.
“We knew going in, the matches we were going to win, we were going to struggle to get bonus points. The matches they were going to win, we knew they had a chance of getting bonus points. And they did.”
The match started at 138 pounds and West Branch took advantage, scoring a major decision from Kaleb Quick and a fall from Parker Bumbarger to surge to a 10-0 lead.
Penns Valley battled right back. The Rams swept the next three bouts to pull in front, 11-10.
At 152, Seth Decker scored a first-period takedown and third-period reversal to slip past Luke Slippey, 4-3.
“Decker and Slippey, we knew that was going to be a tight match,” Brinker said. “It’s two good kids.”
Then, at 160, Andrew Hurd used two takedowns and an escape to blank Clayton Green, 5-0.
Corey Hazel followed with a dominating 18-3 technical fall in just 3:04. He opened a 12-2 lead by the end of the first period and then rattled off a quick six points to start the second and end the match.
“That kid’s not a bad kid. Corey’s a gamer. He’s ready to get out on the mat any chance he can,” Brinker said.
West Branch, however, brought the hammer down, sweeping the next six matches.
Robbie Pearce put the Warriors in the lead for good with a 13-7 decision over Jason Thoms at 182.
Vincent McDowell (195) and Buzzy Maines (220) recorded back-to-back falls and Morgan Selipack added a 21-4 technical fall at 285 to extend the lead to 30-11.
West Branch picked up forfeits at 106 and 113 to increase the difference to 42-11.
Penns Valley, though, sent many in the packed house home happy by ripping off wins in the final three bouts.
Curtis Decker scored a couple takedowns and then turned Hunter Parks for a fall at 1:57 of the first period at 120.
Then, at 126, Jared Hurd turned a 3-2 lead heading into the third period into a 12-2 major decision by turning Jake Brown three times for three nearfall points each.
Finally, Jacob Confer scored an early takedown and piled up the points from there, rolling to a 14-1 major decision.
Brinker said he knew his Rams were in for a tough fight from the Warriors. And, he said, he feels his team is on the verge of making the improvements they need to make some noise in the teams duals and individual postseason tournaments.
“This year’s been tough. Our matches this whole month have been Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. We just need to get into the room to work on some things that we need to work on. The days we’re in there we’re maintaining. We need to work on some individual things with the guys,” he said.
“The fight and the attitude I think is there. It’s just putting it all together here at the end of the season. That’s what we’re working on.”
What they don’t need to work on is drawing enthusiastic fans to the Penns Valley gymnasium.
“Every match we’re very blessed to have the fans we have. Most away matches we bring more fans than the home team. We have a great fan base,” Brinker said. “We’re appreciative.”