Saturday’s Bald Eagle Area duals were a homecoming of sorts for one former Eagles wrestler.
Doug Fisher, who competed for BEA from 1988-1991, brought his Fauquier Falcons from Warrenton, Va., to compete for the second straight year. And it was a bit surreal for Fisher to return to the gym that helped shape him into the coach he is today.
“It’s enjoyable. It really is,” Fisher said. “I think these guys get a lot out of it, to see a lot of different competition and technique. We always know we are going to get tough kids when we come up here. I get to see my family. It’s a win-win-win.”
Fisher has been in Virginia since graduating from Penn State in the mid-1990s. He’s a software engineer, which affords him the time to take part in his passion of being a wrestling coach — traveling with his team to events like Saturday’s six-team round robin, in which his team finished 3-1, BEA was 4-0 and Bellefonte was 2-0.
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He’s in his ninth season with Fauquier and his eighth as its head coach. He has built quite the program too.
Fisher has two defending individual state champions on his team — one being his son Sam, who became the first freshman to claim a state championship in Fauquier County history. The Falcons also finished last season as the Class 4A state runners-up following two straight seasons of being Virginia champions. They’ve claimed their region’s title seven of the last eight years.
For Bellefonte coach Mike Maney, it’s no surprise that Fisher is excelling at his post. Fisher coached Maney when he was in junior high and made a lasting impression.
“It was quite a year. We had a really good team,” Maney reminisced. “He was a really good coach, and you can see why he does well with his team in Virginia. He can relate with the kids — I remember that even then — and it just continues on.”
Fisher also boasts several connections with BEA coach Ron Guenot. Their relationship began when they grew up as kids together, enjoying the sport.
They trained together as partners in the elementary program with Lloyd Rhodes and continued to practice together when they reached the varsity level with Dick Rhodes. For Guenot, he feels that competition in the room is why the Eagles were such a successful program during the “glory days.”
“We had so many different partners in the room that were tough; we just made each other better,” Guenot said with a smile. “Iron sharpens iron. We were just banging heads every day, him and I, and other guys around our weight classes. There was a lot of good stories, but some of them might not be appropriate.”
Even though Fisher is hundreds of miles away from home, he said that the support his team receives in their community is similar to what Bald Eagle Area gets around Wingate. He said it makes a difference and creates a feeling for wrestlers that it’s more than just about winning and losing.
He’s also keeping an eye on what’s going on in Centre County. He’s noticed that Guenot is bringing the Eagles’ swagger back like it was when they were both in BEA singlets.
“I really like to see the wrestling interest has come back in the area. I know it was down for a while,” Fisher said. “It definitely seems like it is coming back, so that’s exciting. There is a lot of people that come all day and they don’t have a kid in the program. That says a lot.
“(Guenot) recognizes the importance of that. He’s got a big coaching staff. He is pulling in families, who have been traditionally Bald Eagle families with multiple generations of kids coming through. I can see he is definitely building that back up again.”
Guenot’s Eagles top Fisher’s Falcons
During the second round of matchups, Fisher and Guenot had to put their friendship aside as their teams squared off on the mat for a close 36-31 BEA victory.
The Falcons claimed the first bout (285 pounds), but the Eagles responded by winning the next four bouts — three with pins — to take a 21-3 lead. Zander Ballock, Cooper Gilham and Lucas Holderman picked up the falls for BEA, which worked its way up to an 18-point advantage at one point.
Fisher’s team then began to rally. At 160 pounds, the Falcons earned a 3-2 decision. They then tallied three straight bonus-point wins — two pins and a major decision — to claim a 31-30 lead with one bout to go.
But, thanks to a David Close pin in 58 seconds, the Eagles came out on top.
It was the only loss of the day for Falcons, who topped Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Warwick on the day.
“Our kids (will) take away some confidence,” Fisher said. “I tell them it’s not about wins as part of the season. It’s about getting great matches and learning. You either win or you learn. We are doing some learning but we are getting some wins too.”
Busy day for BEA
Besides beating Fauquier, the Eagles defeated three other opponents.
They began the day with a 38-27 win over Warwick. BEA and Warwick split the first six bouts, as the score was deadlocked 15-15. The Eagles then won the next four matchups.
Seth Koleno (138 pounds), Garrett Rigg (145) and Gage McClenahan (152) rattled off three straight bonus-point victories. Koleno and Rigg pinned their opponents as McClenahan picked up a 15-5 major decision for BEA, which led 34-15. The Warriors won the next three to get within seven points, but Close finished things up for the Eagles with a 10-2 major decision.
BEA (9-0) followed the Fauquier win by topping District 6 foe Altoona 42-22. The Eagles picked up six bonus-point wins in the dual. They had four pins, a major decision and received a forfeit. BEA also had a 27-point lead at one point in the match.
The Eagles finished the day with a 56-14 over another District 6 foe in Hollidaysburg. BEA collected nine bonus-point wins with over half of them being pins. It also trailed 7-6 after three bouts were completed.
The highlight of the dual came at 138 pounds with Koleno taking on Nathan Swartz. It was a rematch of last year’s District 6 and Northwest Regional Class 3A finals. Swartz beat Koleno in the team’s dual and district final, but Koleno got revenge at regionals. On Saturday, Koleno gave up the first takedown in the match but ended up pinning Swartz in 3:38.
Bellefonte goes 2-for-2
Bellefonte also took part in BEA’s duals, beating the Mountain Lions (44-24) and the Golden Tigers (49-28).
Alex Coppolo (120 pounds), Cole Stewart (126/132), Ryan Smith (126/132), Logan Simpson (145), Ethan Richner (152/160) and Ethan Rossman (170) all went undefeated for the Red Raiders. Stewart, Smith and Rossman each pinned both of their opponents.
Bellefonte (4-2) started its day by trailing Hollidaysburg 17-0 after three bouts and starting at 220 pounds. It never took the lead until Smith earned a fall at 132 pounds at the midway mark in the dual. The Golden Tigers got a pin from Swartz, but the Red Raiders closed the dual by winning five of the last six bouts thanks to two forfeits, two pins and a major decision.
In the Altoona match, which started at 285 pounds, the Mountain Lions took two of the first three bouts. Bellefonte strung together six straight wins to take a 32-9 lead — and that was it.
“Both of our matches, our guys were aggressive,” Maney said. “Against a District 6 opponent, it’s always a good thing. We just got to continue to get better each day. We took some more steps forward today. We just got to keep building.”