In a dual meet that had more moves than Saquon Barkley in the open field, Bellefonte overpowered archrival Bald Eagle Area 45-19 in front of a large crowd here Thursday night.
Both coaches jockeyed their lineups hoping to get favorable matchups to gain an edge in the meet. The moves wound up favoring Bellefonte, but the fans were the big winners as they saw an unanticipated pairing of Bellefonte veteran Chase Gardner and Gage McClenahan, BEA’s precocious freshman in the last bout of the evening when the meet had long since been decided.
There was talk that McClenahan and Bellefonte’s unbeaten Brock Port would clash at 145, but BEA coach Ron Guenot weighed McClenahan in at 152 while Port stayed at 145. And as it turned out, McClenahan moved up another weight class to meet Gardner at 160 when he nipped Gardner 2-0 with a takedown with 25 seconds left in the first period of the last bout on the card. They spent the second period on their feet and McClenahan rode Gardner the entire third period.
“He’s a special freshman,” Guenot said. “He’s talented. We have asked him to do a lot of things for the team and he has stepped up. He gave up a lot of weight tonight.”
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“We sort of wanted to see Port and McClenahan,” said Raider coach Mike Maney. “But they did what they needed to do to get things in their favor. We talked about lineup switches before the meet and we just told our kids to wrestle whoever was in front of them.”
The meet started at 170 and the Raiders surged to a 24-0 lead as Lukas McClure beat Dylan Bisel 5-1 to get things started. Mason Cooper won by default after one period over Andrew Cohen, Brian McChesney received a forfeit at 195, Max Mondy edged David Close 5-4 with an escape with 14 seconds left in the bout and Sean Irvin pinned Kurt Hall in 2:17.
Garrett Giedroc slowed Bellefonte when he beat Alex Coppolo 3-2 on the strength of a first-period takedown at 106 to make it 24-3.
Bellefonte got a forfeit at 113 before Ryan Smith downed Aleck Nyman 7-1 with three takedowns and an escape.
At 126, BEA’s Lucas Holderman was ahead of Nathaniel Wert 5-0 when he pinned him at the 3:42 mark and teammate Garrett Rigg took down Keegan Rothrock six times in a 16-4 major decision.
At 138, BEA’s Seth Koleno used a pair of takedowns and an escape to top Cam Coppolo 5-1 before Port pinned Richard Taylor in 53 seconds.
Bellefonte got its final win of the night when Zach Rosenberger pinned Joey Gates in 5:08 at 152, setting up the McClenahan-Gardner match.
“The first five kids set the tone for us,” Maney said. “They were able to get the momentum for us. I was nervous about this meet. We had a tough match at Huntingdon last night and got home late. That was a new experience for a lot of these kids.
“I’ve been part of this (rivalry) for a long time (Maney is a 1999 BEA graduate and PIAA champion). It’s just a dog fight. I wouldn’t expect anything else. And there were a lot of dog fights out there tonight. Fortunately, we were able to win a lot of those.”
For Guenot, who is in his first year at the helm of his alma mater, the outcome was disappointing.
“They came to wrestle and that wasn’t our best effort,” he said. “We need to do better than that. They were able get the momentum early. The same thing happened to us with Central Mountain. We lost a couple of tight matches and their kids were able to keep the momentum going. And we’re inexperienced at a couple of places with three freshmen. But we need to get back to work, get back to the BEA basics.”
Both teams return to action Saturday in the eight-team BEA Duals. Bellefonte will take a 5-0 record into the Duals while BEA will go in with a 3-3 record.