After splitting a pair of dual meets to begin the season, the Bald Eagle Area wrestling team was hoping to get its head above water prior to the holidays with a win over Altoona.
Turning those hopes into reality, the Eagles moved their early season mark to 2-1 with a thrilling 37-36 win over the Mountain Lions on Thursday night.
“The kids gutted it out and I think they knew they had to,” said a happy BEA head coach Steve Millward. “Regardless of how it looks on paper, it doesn’t always go that way. Even if you feel confident going into the meet, you still have to go out and wrestle. Some of our guys who we needed to pull through for us came through for us.”
Although his team came out on the short end of the final score, Altoona coach Joel Gilbert wasn’t disappointed in the effort of his wrestlers.
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“I think our kids battled tough tonight,” said Gilbert. “The final was 37-36 and Bald Eagle has always had a good program. We came in here and wanted to wrestle hard and tough, hopefully not giving up falls, but we gave them up so that is something we have to work on. It was a lightning-fast match, I think our kids were aggressive, even in the matches we lost. It came down to 120 and 126, and we kind of knew that is where it was going to fall. We wound up on the losing end there, but they had two nice wrestlers who came out after us and the bottom line is they scored more points than we did in those two bouts.”
The dual meet started at 132, and the Eagles didn’t waste any time making an early statement as Cobey Bainey (132), Mike Kachik (138) and Clint McCaslin (145) each picked up a fall for a quick 18-0 BEA lead.
“At the time, we didn’t know we would need that but as it turned out, we did,” said Millward about the three straight falls to begin the meet. “Cobey and Mike have been our guys coming out the gate now for a few years so they are used to this. Them starting a dual meet is a good thing for us.”
However, just as quickly as they fell behind, the Mountain Lions roared back with four falls of their own to get their first lead of the meet at 24-18 midway through the match. The ultimate goal in a bout is to pin your opponent, and the two teams did that for the most part as 10 of 12 bouts ended in a fall.
BEA veteran Mitch Taylor tied the team score at 24-24 with a quick 31-second fall at 195, before the two teams traded falls for another deadlock at 30-30.
Getting the tying pin for the Eagles before they turned the lineup over was the biggest Eagle, 285-pounder Josh Fye. For his win, Fye only needed eight seconds to deck Altoona’s David Hess.
“Once again Mitch and Josh did a good job for us,” said Millward. “Mitch gives us some flexibility at the upper end of the lineup and Josh is obviously our anchor, even though it is not always at the end. Sometimes when his bout is an early bout the guys see that they can’t always rely on him. We are just glad when he gets six points.”
The team score remained 30-30 with no match at 106, before the Mountain Lions picked up a big six points with a forfeit win at 113, setting the stage for the dramatic BEA comeback for the win by freshmen Garrett Rigg (120) and Seth Koleno (126).
Rigg went around and around with Hunter Hileman before scoring five big points in the final period for a 9-5 win, and Koleno was all over Jarrell Kephart for a 19-5 major decision, putting the Eagles over the hump for the win.
“I was unaware that at 120, that was (Garrett) Rigg’s first win against that kid,” Millward said. “He (Hileman) had beaten him before so that was definitely a big win. ... When we had those final two ties, I think our kids responded to the pressure well. Maybe that will season those two ninth graders who finished up for us because they wrestled like veterans.”
Although the Eagles have some exprienced wrestlers scattered throughout the lineup, they also have several spots that are filled by inexperienced wrestlers.
“We have some inexperienced kids at some of the weight classes and we are working hard with those kids,” said Millward. “We don’t want to put a lot on their shoulders because of their lack of experience. When they get into a match like this and feel the excitement in the arena, we hope they feed off of that a little bit and want to be on the winning side.”
The Eagles will next hit the mats when they participate in the annual Manheim Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30.