Wrestling in the first match of the year can be nerve-wracking for any wrestler.
Add in competing for the first time in the school’s new gym with freshmen starters and things could just go bad.
For Penns Valley, the Rams had two of their three freshmen starters pick up wins Friday night in a 59-21 win over Southern Huntingdon. They also at one point rattled off six straight pins.
“For our first dual in here, we did alright,” senior Baylor Shunk said of competing in the new gym.
Added coach Joel Brinker: “You want to walk out (the) first match with a win. It was nice. The kids showed up. It was a good win.”
A sign hanging on the gym’s wall had a picture of the entire wrestling squad with a saying, “New Gym, Same Tradition.”
New faces like freshmen Hayden Yearick and Cole Felker kept that tradition of winning with pins in their debuts.
Yearick, who wrestles at 106 pounds, admitted after the match he hasn’t been nervous for a match in a long time. It showed by him racing out to a 7-1 lead. He then stuck the Rockets’ Raymond Goss in 1:32 for a stellar debut and a six-point lead for Penns Valley.
“I felt happy for the team to rack up the points and get us started,” Yearick said. “It was fun. It was just nice to be on this team and just wrestle.”
Felker said that he had some butterflies and that starting for the varsity team is hard but he would eventually get used to it.
Well, he seemed to get used to it right away.
Felker hit a reversal in the second period for the first points of his 152-pound match with Southern Huntingdon’s Jordan Bailey, who finished 28-4 last year. Felker pinned the senior in 3:45.
His teammates and crowd erupted with excitement as the Rams extended their lead to 29-15.
“It’s great. It boosted my confidence,” Felker said of the win. “ I think we will have a really good team this year.”
Nate Long is the other freshman starter for Brinker’s squad. Brinker said Friday night’s match for Long was his first since sixth grade.
For someone who has not wrestled in three years, Long looked explosive recording the first takedown in his 126-pound bout. His nerves seemed to get to him, though, as he gave up a penalty point in the second period and then an escape with 57 seconds left in the match, which he ended up falling 3-2.
“Hayden has been wrestling for a while. His brother, Darren, had a good career here with us,” Brinker said of his three freshman. “He’s been around it. We expect him to go out and scrap and compete. Long, he’s knocking the rust off him. We brought him up because he’s a strong and scrappy kid, so very pleased with his performance. Cole, that kid last year was like 28-4, I’m very happy for him. He is a strong kid, too. It’s good to see your youth get wins.”
So, how did the rest of the team do?
Shunk was dominant in his 120-pound match against Cole Hicks. Shunk rattled off three takedowns and collected four sets of near-fall points. He earned the 17-2 technical fall at the buzzer of the first period.
Following Long’s close loss, the Rams forfeited at 132 pounds and trailed 15-11. It was at that point when the pin parade began.
Clayton Royer earned a fall in 1:40 at 138 pounds. Malachi DuVall attempted to hit a spladle early in his 145-pound bout but pinned his opponent with one second remaining in the first period. Felker’s fall followed.
Clayton Upcraft had the fastest pin of the night in 44 seconds at 160 pounds. Penns Valley’s lead was 35-15.
Zach Royer took just 1:19 to finish his opponent at 170 pounds. Abraham Allebach, also known as “Hammer,” laid it on his 182-pound opponent to the tune of a fall in 1:12. Andrew Sharer made his return to the wrestling mat after missing last season to a shoulder injury with a forfeit win. The Rams were up 53-15.
“We know that middle lineup, up through is pretty solid for us,” Brinker said. “We kind of expect to get wins. We’d like to see bonus points out of them all season because we are going to need them. It’s a very experienced group and very seasoned. It’s good to have Malachi back. Upcraft, he took care of business.”
The final points of the night for Penns Valley came with Dillon Covalt receiving a forfeit at 285.
The Rams came so close to winning 13 of the 14 bouts. Justin Darlington was up 7-0 heading into the third period of his 113-pound match. However, the Rockets’ Austin Dell had a tough ride game and turned Darlington over for a pin with 51 seconds left in the match.
Caelob Packer led 7-6 with roughly 20 seconds left in his match at 220 pounds before giving up his second technical point for interlocked hands. He got reversed and was pinned with seven seconds left in his match.
“I know their heavyweight was sidelined tonight, who was a state qualifier,” Brinker said. “I know this is a solid lineup we have overall. I think these guys know it. We’ve got high expectations and goals for ourselves. Excited to see what the season brings.”
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Penns Valley 59, Southern Huntingdon 21
Friday at Spring Mills
106: Hayden Yearick, PV, pinned Raymond Goss, 1:32
113: Austin Dell, SH, pinned Justin Darlington, 5:09
120: Baylor Shunk, PV, tech. fall Cole Hicks, 17-2 (2:00)
126: Josh Fleck, SH, dec. Nate Long, 3-2
132: Dylan Boone, SH, won by forfeit
138: Clayton Royer, PV, pinned Evan Herrington, 1:40
145: Malachi DuVall, PV, pinned Brandon Runk, 1:59
152: Cole Felker, PV, pinned Jordan Bailey, 3:45
160: Clayton Upcraft, PV, pinned Wyatt Campbell, :44
170: Zach Royer, PV, pinned Mason Swanger, 1:19
182: Abraham Allebach, PV, pinned Aaron Kough, 1:12
195: Andrew Sharer, PV, won by forfeit
220: Casey Willis, SH, pinned Caelob Packer, 5:53
285: Dillon Covalt, PV, won by forfeit
Records: Southern Huntingdon 0-1, Penns Valley 1-0
Next match: Penns Valley at Blairsville Duals, Saturday