By the time the heavyweights step on to the mat, the match is usually in hand and fans are heading for the exit signs.
But Penns Valley’s match with Huntingdon on Wednesday night came down to the big guys.
In the end, the Rams (10-4) came up just short in a 37-36 loss, but walked off the mat with their heads held high and the gym still packed with fans.
“I thank the fans in our sport that we have over here,” Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said. “This is how it is every match not just big matches. We have awesome fans that stick around and support the program and the kids here.”
Bearcats coach Jon Mykut added: “That’s the way that high school matches should be. To be honest with you, it’s good for wrestling. It’s good for the sport.”
Trailing 37-30 heading into the final two bouts, the Rams needed to win both and in one victory have some bonus points.
They got the first part of the equation by earning both wins. However, they were unable to get the bonus points needed.
Dillon Covalt matched up with Landon Fisher, who finished fifth in the District 6 tournament last season, at 220 pounds. Covalt tallied the first takedown of the match at the buzzer in the first period sending the crowd into an eruption. In the second period, Covalt and Fisher traded reversals but Covalt picked up two near-fall points on his for a 6-2 lead. Fisher got one more reversal but it wasn’t enough in a 6-4 loss.
At 285, Jared Bressler was in a fight with Bradey Shope.
Trailing 5-0, Bressler picked up an interlocking-penalty point and escaped before the first period was over. In the second period, Bressler earned another escape, scored a takedown and turned Shope to his back for two more points. Bressler led 7-6 heading to the final period. Shope chose neutral starting position and couldn’t do a thing as Bressler fought off numerous snaps and body locks. In the end, Bressler got another takedown for the 9-6 win.
“The big guys, they came through and both were really good wins for both of them,” Brinker said. “On paper, they (Huntingdon) probably had them for wins for them. To walk out with both of those two wins was really nice.”
The fans got a show that was well worth their price of admission from the get-go.
The Rams came out firing on all cylinders winning three of the first four bouts with all pins.
Baylor Shunk picked up an early takedown on Roland Mills and then stuck him in 47 seconds. Following a forfeit to Huntingdon, Darren Yearick stepped up and planted Chandler Laurer in 35 seconds.
“I knew we had our strength,” Brinker said. “Baylor at (106) is a hammer for us. Yearick is Yearick.”
Clayton Royer finished it off with a fall in 3:27 at 126 pounds over Jacob Wagner. Royer led 10-0 before picking up the pin.
“Royer just went out and took charge of that match,” Brinker said. “I had that as a toss up. Royer is a kid that is just very passionate about the sport. He doesn’t fear anyone and sometimes that can hurt him though too. It’s really good to see a freshman go out there and lay it all on the line.”
Izac Benson stopped the bleeding for the Bearcats (9-1) with a pin of Ryan Ripka in 1:51. After his win, Benson got to his feet and stared at his teammates, wanting them to wake up.
“I told my guys before we got on the bus today and yesterday that it was going to be a tough match,” Mykut said. “Coach Brinker is a great coach and had his guys ready to go. That’s a credit to their guys going out and getting after it in front of their home crowd.”
Teammate Tyler Scott followed up Benson’s fall with a 12-0 major decision over Carter Felker. Scott’s win was the 100th of his career and pulled Huntingdon within 18-16.
The Rams responded another set of pins from Jared Hurd at 145 pounds and Andrew Sharer at 152 pounds. They led 30-16. From there, momentum swung into Huntingdon’s favor.
Seth Baney and Jacob Oliver, who is the regining PIAA 170-pound champion, sandwiched falls around a forfeit at 170 pounds. That stretch handed the Bearcats their first lead of the match with three matches to go.
Alex Mykut picked up a 5-4 decision over Corey Rimmey at 195 pounds before the big guys hit the mat.
“Huntingdon has kind of been the team the past decade in our district,” Brinker said. “To be (within) one point, the guys know they are right there with a team that’s ranked probably 15th in the state.”