It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while a dual meet is won not by takedowns and bonus points, but rather by integrity and sportsmanship.
Like last night’s intra-county battle between Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte.
To set the scene, BEA was trying to claw back from a 34-21 deficit with three bouts to go. The Eagles had closed the gap to 34-27 when Ben Bytheway and Tim Benford took the mat for the 220-pound bout. Benford took a 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown. In the second period, they started from their feet and Benford took Bytheway down to his back for three near fall points before referee Kevin Clarke stopped the action and awarded Bytheyway a penalty point for an illegal hold.
After a lengthy injury timeout, Bytheway and coach Steve Millward elected to continue the bout. They had the option of taking an easy six points on a disqualification for a technical violation, which would have given BEA the dual meet. Instead, early in the third period Bytheway was unable to continue, Bellefonte picked up the six points for the default and went on to a 40-33 win.
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“It could have been stopped,” BEA coach Steve Millward said of the bout. “But Ben said he was OK. You don’t want to take a win that way.”
Red Raider Coach Mike Maney could only watch from the sidelines as Millward, Bytheway, Clark and a trainer consulted in the middle of the mat before it was decided to continue.
“You don’t want to see anyone injured,” Maney said. “That was a tough call. The kid (Bytheway) came back, battled hard and did the best he could.”
There was a lot of battling in this matchup between the fierce rivals, starting with the first bout of the night and running all the way through the meet.
After the teams traded forfeits in the first two weights, BEA’s Garrett Rigg stunned everyone when he pinned District 6 runner-up Aaron Witherite with four seconds left in their bout. Witherite was holding a 5-4 lead going into the third period. He escaped quickly in the third period and appeared to be heading for a win, when Rigg headlocked him near the edge of the mat and got the fall at the 5:57 mark. Rigg received the Joseph B. Humphreys Award as the meet’s outstanding wrestler for his performance.
“We were on our way to a win when we got sloppy,” Maney said. “And Rigg wrestled right to the last second to get the win and give them bonus points. We told the kids before the meet that this was a meet where you throw the records out the window, that it was going to come down to whoever wanted it most. And I think you could say that everyone who won were the ones who wanted it most.”
Rigg’s win was followed by Seth Koleno’s fall over Cameron Coppolo in 4:30 to stake BEA to an 18-6 lead.
“Rigg and Koleno are fun to watch,” Millward said. “It was good for them to wrestle in an atmosphere like this. It was typical BEA-Bellefonte. You try to tell the kids it’s just another match but they know it’s not.
“Things went really well for us in the beginning. The difference in Rigg’s match was he wasn’t satisfied with just wrestling a good match. That win really sparked our bench. I don’t think that outcome was expected by anyone.”
The Raiders, who were without starters Luke Leathers and Dillon Kephart, began climbing out of the 18-6 hole when Brock Port pinned Coby Bainey in 5:25 at 132, Chase Gardner beat Mike Kachik 4-0 with a takedown and reversal ,and Trevor Corl majored Clint McCaslin, 12-2, thanks to four takedowns, giving the Raiders the lead for good, 19-18. Zach Musser pinned Mitchell Struble in 4:12 at 152 and BEA forfeited at 160, making it 31-18.
At 170, BEA’s Colton Comly nipped Dakota Bair, 3-2 with a third period takedown before Bellefonte’s Brien McChesney downed Chase Meyers, 5-4 with an escape and takedown in the third period to make it 34-21 with three bouts to go. BEA’s Mitchell Taylor pinned Sean Irvin in 33 seconds to get the Eagles within reach before the Benford-Bytheway bout. BEA’s Josh Fye finished the scoring with a fall over Ben Putnam in 40 seconds.
“Last year, Brien (McChesney) won one match,” said Maney. “This year he’s won five times that many. He and Tim (Benford) have put in the extra time. They’re always coming in in the morning to work out. It wouldn’t surprise me if they wanted to work out tonight.
“With two key guys out we knew other guys were going to have to contribute. We needed guys to step up and do what they could to get bonus points.”
Maney, won won a PIAA title at BEA in 1999, admitted he had mixed feelings after the meet.
“I root for them 364 days out of the year,” he said of his alma mater. “This was a little bit bittersweet for me because I have a lot of memories over there. Coach Millward coached me when I was there. In a meet like this, it’s unfortunate someone has to lose.”