Wrestling and football sort of go hand in hand — the big guys have a lot of control.
During Bald Eagle Area’s 42-35 win over county-rival Bellefonte on Thursday night, the key match involved the heavyweights in the most unlikely of spots — the ninth bout, since the dual started at 138 pounds. Neither coach knew it at the time, but that battle would set the tone and hand the Eagles all the momentum.
And it couldn’t have been any closer.
“It was inches,” Red Raiders coach Mike Maney said. “You look at the final score. They say in football, games are divided by inches. That match determined it by the inches.”
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The bout was tied 2-2, before Kurt Hall — an offensive lineman on the football team — pinned Bellefonte’s Dan Orndorf.
“If we don’t get the fall there and they win the match, that’s the match,” Eagles coach Ron Guenot said. “It’s a big swing there.”
With the Red Raiders within 24-20 and coming off a pin from Andrew Davidson at 220 pounds, Hall — only in his second year with the sport — was tasked with keeping Bellefonte at a distance.
Hall and Orndorf went through a scoreless first period looking for a chance to score. Hall’s leaky left nostril forced him to use up blood time left and right.
In the second, Hall had a strong ride on Orndorf until a few seconds remained when the Red Raider got a big reversal. Hall need an escape and a takedown for the win in the third period.
The senior Eagle did one better. He scored a reversal with 1:45 left in the match — and 30 seconds later, he pinned Orndorf pinned as the gym erupted.
“Like our coaches say, ‘Wrestling is like no other sport,’” said Hall, an offensive lineman who decided to try out for wrestling thanks to assistant coach Josh Fye. “You can be down 10 points, but you can still come back and pin a guy. It’s not like football. You’re down 28 points with 14 seconds left, you can’t come back. You’re down 10 points in wrestling with 14 seconds, you can pin a guy, so come out and win it.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” he added. “There is nothing else like it in another sport. It’s you and the other guy out there. It’s awesome to come through with a win like that.”
Following Hall’s pin, BEA (5-0) locked up the dual with back-to-back falls from Xander Ballock (106 pound) and Cooper Gilham (113). Ballock took care of his opponent in 40 seconds with Gilham taking care of business in 1:19. The Eagles led 42-20 with three matches left.
Maney knew his Red Raiders (2-2) were going to have a fight on their hands coming in with 10 first-time varsity starters.
Despite being down 18-0 thanks to pins from BEA’s Seth Koleno (138), Garrett Rigg (145) and Gage McClenahan (152), Bellefonte began its rally.
“Coming in, it was a great starting spot when you can start off with three state qualifiers,” Maney said. “It’s a great spot for them. We just wanted to win those battles, and I think we did that.”
Ethan Richner, who has been scoring bonus-points all season for the Red Raiders, used a two-on-one tilt to perfection in his 160-pound bout. He picked up five sets of near-fall points in the 18-1 technical fall win over Richard Taylor in 5:21. Andrew Howe received a forfeit at 170 pounds and Bellefonte was within seven points — four bouts before Hall.
Following a pin from the Eagles, Max Mondy got things back in favor of the Red Raiders. He used a third-period escape and takedown to top David Close 3-2. The win came before Davidson’s pin.
“I’m proud of our effort,” Maney said. “We won all of the toss up matches so I was happy about that. You are never happy with loss but I think people were probably a little surprised with the outcome.”