First-year Philipsburg-Osceola wrestling coach Brad Pataky sat stoically in his chair, a look of serenity on his face as a sea of chaos swirled around him Thursday night in the Penns Valley Area High School gymnasium.
Pataky’s Mounties were locked in a 36-36 tie with the Rams as the heavyweights battled to determine the outcome in the final bout of the dual meet.
Ahead 3-1 in the third period with less than a minute to go, Mountie heavyweight Brad Dunkel sunk a half Nelson on Jared Bressler, the promise of a clinching fall bringing the Philipsburg-Osceola faithful to their feet.
On the Mountie bench, Pataky clapped three times, leaning slightly toward the mat to get a better look.
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Dunkel reinforced the half and methodically walked it around Bressler’s head, moving the Ram toward his back inch by painstaking inch.
Unable to counter the burly Dunkel’s combination, Bressler eventually succumbed, bridging to avoid the fall that would come at the 5:20 mark.
After referee Aaron Gustkey slapped the mat, pandemonium ensued. Dunkel stood, had his arm raised and then shot both hands in the air in triumph as he walked into the waiting arms of a mob of Mountie coaches and wrestlers. P-O prevailed 42-36.
Pataky, who had just witnessed his first win as a head coach, stood off to the side, a slight grin creasing his face as his team celebrated.
“These guys have put in the work,” he said. “They know what they need to do. We’re there, right beside them, helping them get better. Our focus isn’t on winning, it’s getting better.”
“I’m happy that we won today. The guys are happy. But they also know that the biggest thing is just getting better.”
Dunkel could be excused for, at least temporarily, focusing a little more on the win.
“I knew I had to go out there and wrestle like I know how to, do it for the team. Everyone works hard. I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted to bring that win home,” he said through a grin that seemed to span from ear to ear. “It’s probably the best feeling I’ll ever have. I just love the sound and that feeling, the excitement from the crowd, the coaches and the team. It’s just amazing.”
Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker was pragmatic in defeat.
“We knew on paper this was going to be a very close match,” he said. “It was going the way I thought it was going to go and just a match or two got away. Give Philipsburg credit.”
The Mounties won eight of 14 matches, but all six of the Rams’ wins were of the six-point variety: five falls and a forfeit.
“The bottom line is, I’ve got some tough young guys. We’ve got to score bonus points,” Brinker said. “We’ll probably give up two forfeits all season, so you’ve got to make them up somehow.”
Through nine bouts, Penns Valley had built a 30-18 lead. Baylor Shunk received a forfeit at 106 pounds and Darren Yearick (120), Clayton Royer (126), Jared Hurd (145) and Andrew Sharer (160) all recorded falls.
For P-O, Jason Franchock received a forfeit, Matt Johnson (132) rolled up a technical fall, Levi Hughes (152) recorded a major decision and Landon McDonald (138) earned a decision.
At 170, Penns Valley’s Abraham Allebach had built a 5-0 lead on P-O’s Ian Klinger in the second period and looked in total control. Suddenly, Klinger reversed Allebach to his back and recorded a fall in 3:40.
The Mounties’ Josh Hubler received a forfeit at 182 and the match was tied at 30-30.
Corey Rimmey put the Rams back in front with a fall at 195, but the Mounties’ Micah Sidorick tied it back up at 36-36 with a second-period fall at 220.
That, of course, set up Dunkel’s heroics at 285 and the dramatic Mountie win.
“I was proud of the overall effort. None of our guys went out there and laid down. That’s what we’re looking for at this time of year,” Brinker said. “We definitely have a good piece of clay to work with.”