During the preseason, it looked as if the Bellefonte wrestling team would be in the midst of a rebuilding season.
But the Red Raiders — who lost 14 wrestlers due to graduation and transfers — showed again Tuesday they’re still one of the top teams in the county with a 48-21 win over Penns Valley.
“Losing like nine seniors, I didn’t really expect it,” junior Cole Stewart said of the team’s 5-2 start. “We got (Ethan) Richner and (Ethan) Rossman. They are doing pretty good for us. Everybody is working pretty well together and helping us out.”
Stewart was one of four Bellefonte wrestlers to tally a pin against the Rams. After racing out to a 7-0 lead, Stewart turned Haden Stamm and stuck him in 1:14 to give the Red Raiders a 21-6 lead.
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Aaron Little (106 pounds) and Alex Coppolo (113) preceded Stewart’s fall with pins of their own. Little went just 25 seconds into the second period before putting Justin Darlington on his back. Coppolo took care of Thomas Dolheimer with a fall in 1:31 of the first period.
Richner was the final Bellefonte wrestler to have a pin. Leading 6-2 after nearly pinning Zach Royer in the first period, Richner took Royer to the mat and worked him over for the fall 17 seconds into the second period. The Red Raiders led 39-6 and never looked back.
“The chatter was that you’re going to have a down year from losing nine guys,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “We still want to hold ourselves to the high expectations. We believe in our kids. We believe in our coaches. It’s a credit to them to come in and be coachable and buy into what we are trying to do as a program. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Dan Orndorf (285), Ryan Smith (132), Zachary Taylor (138) and Andrew Howe (182) were the other victors for the Red Raiders. Orndorf kicked the night off with an 11-5 win. Smith and Taylor went back-to-back with decision victories. Howe had a decision win of his own by shutting out Isaac Spotts.
“It was a good win for our heavyweight,” Maney said. “I was happy with the win at 132. Two really good guys scrapping out there; those matches are always fun to watch. We just wanted to go out and take care of business. I think the guys will come back and ready to work tomorrow.”
Bellefonte doesn’t hit the mats competitively again until this weekend. It will travel to Virginia Beach, Va., for the Virginia Duals.
Penns Valley (3-5) isn’t so lucky when it comes to not competing right away. It must put this loss aside and get ready for Hollidaysburg on Thursday.
The Rams finished third in the District 6 Class 2A duals last season and had most of their starters back from that squad. However, Andrew Sharer, who was one of those starters and a regional qualifier, is out for the season due to a shoulder surgery. They also didn’t have starter Clayton Upcraft on Tuesday night after he was injured over the weekend, according to coach Joel Brinker.
“We just have a lot of youth. When I say youth, four and five kids in the starting lineup every night that’s first year,” Brinker said. “It’s growing pains. You got to be realistic. You hate to say be patient at this level, but you got to be patient because they are first-year varsity kids.”
Even with the inexperience, Brinker said he is seeing improvement from those wrestlers. He noted they are getting into their stances better and he’s focused on the positives and not the negatives.
Brinker does have several wrestlers he can rely on in Baylor Shunk (113 pounds), Clayton Royer (132), Abraham Allebach (160), Carter Felker (170) and Dillon Covalt (220).
Shunk, Allebach and Covalt all pinned their opponents on Tuesday. Allebach’s was the quickest in eight seconds with Shunk following at 1:16 and Covalt finishing up in 3:04. Felker earned a hard-fought 4-2 decision.
“We really lean on those guys with their experience,” Brinker said. “Shunk is Shunk. He is steady as the day is long. Abraham is a beast and a very tough kid. If he wrestles smart and wrestles his match, he can go with anybody. Felker is just a solid kid. He works and is getting better. Covalt at 220, I think he is really committed this year. He’s really looking good in practice and staying after practice. He has some high goals for himself.”