There were plenty of tears mixed among the cheers in the packed Philipsburg-Osceola gymnasium for Thursday night’s dual meet between the Mounties and Clearfield.
The cheers were loudest from the Clearfield section when it was announced the Bison had edged the Mounties 34-33 on Criteria D (most six-point wins).
The tears came earlier at the conclusion of a moving short movie detailing Emily Whitehead’s battle with cancer.
For the second year in a row, the two schools combined for a Take Down Cancer campaign that raised just over $34,000, $13,533.91 of it coming this year for the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
“I’m just so proud of this event,” Clearfield coach Jeff Aveni said. “It’s awesome that the two schools can come together like they’ve done.”
And while his pride was justified, Aveni was also happy his team was able to overcome a 33-21 deficit with falls in the final two bouts of the night to forge a 33-33 stalemate and send the outcome to the rule book.
“That was a heck of a match, a heck of an effort,” he said after his team had won the 78th meeting between the two arch rivals. “This event takes the match to a whole new level. Tonight you saw a crowd like you used to see when Clearfield would be 13-0 and P-O would be 13-1. It’s great that some of these young kids got to experience something like that.”
With Penn State All-Americans Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh looking on, the Mounties bolted to an 11-0 lead as Chase Chapman pinned Jonathan Thomas in 3:22 and Noah Clark followed with a 17-2 tech fall over Cole Smay at 120.
Clearfield recovered when Matt Ryan pinned Noah Twoey in 5:47 but the Mounties’ Landon McDonald pushed the P-O lead to 14-6 when he downed Jude Pallo, 12-6 on the strength of four takedowns before Clearfield’s Caleb Freeland edged Tristan Beauseigneur, 6-4 with an escape and takedown in the third period.
Levi Hughes swung the momentum back to the P-O side with a fall over Rudy Cardamone at the 2:28 mark before Hunter Wright of the Bison downed Matt Shimmell, 3-2 with a reversal and an escape in the second period.
After an intermission, P-O’s Ian Klinger downed Zane Morgan, 12-6 with three reversals and four back points and when Kyle Taylor pinned Jarrett McCracken in 59 seconds, P-O was riding a 29-12 cushion.
But then the Bison began working their way back as Steven Sawyer trimmed Josh Hubler, 5-2 at 182 thanks to a third-period takedown and Luke McGonigal pinned Brandon Anderson in 44 seconds.
“I thought things began to swing their way around 160, 170,” said Mountie coach Brad Pataky, who won a PIAA title while wrestling for Clearfield. “Tonight, Clearfield found a way to win. We wrestled our hearts out but we made some young mistakes like mat awareness and not knowing the score. I actually thought going into the meet we’d be pretty dominant. It came down to who wanted it the most.”
Micah Sidorick gave the Mounties their last win of the night when he rolled up a 12-2 major decision over Avry Gisewhite, getting four takedowns and four penalty points for the win.
Holding a 33-21 lead as the meet headed into the final two bouts, the Mounties gave up falls to Trae Kitko in 5:28 at 285 and Peyton Smay in 3:12 at 106, leaving everyone to wait for the outcome of a conference at the scorer’s table to see who won on criteria.
“We have to learn to wrestle every single second,” Pataky said. “The majority of the time we did. But this was all about Emily. If she can fight like she did, we should be able to fight for six minutes. But something like this is what makes it exciting, even though it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to in the end.”