Jay Prentice raised Corey Hazel’s right leg. He tugged on it. He used a powerful trip to bring Hazel to the mat with 39 seconds remaining in their 160-pound bout.
Hazel, a Penns Valley sophomore, wasn’t done fighting.
With 13 seconds left, he shifted his hips, popped loose and shuffled Prentice to his back.
The fight Hazel demonstrated in Thursday’s opening bout left an indelible impression on his teammates.
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Using the energy created by the five-point move in the waning seconds of Hazel’s 9-6 victory, Penns Valley outlasted Philipsburg-Osceola 36-28 in an entertaining dual meet Thursday at the Ram Dome.
Battling to prevent points — and looking for big moves when opportunities arise — produces optimism in wrestling, a sport where grinders are often rewarded with victories. And Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said he has a practice room filled with gritty wrestlers, thus the optimism surrounding the Rams’ season.
“These guys just battle,” Brinker said. “I know the heart they have. They aren’t a group that’s just going to lay down. They are all right until the end. That’s all I can ask of them.”
Not much went right early for Hazel against Prentice, a senior who reached the Class AAA Northwest Regional last season. Prentice started fast, nearly connecting on multiple shots and coaxing a stall warn against Hazel just 57 seconds into the bout. Still, Hazel didn’t surrender a point in the first period.
“I was a little bit nervous to get there and wrestle at first because I’m used to wrestling halfway through the match,” Hazel said. “After I got in there and settled, I was good.”
The final two periods resembled the rest of the meet: full of action and unpredictable moments.
The Rams won eight bouts but trailed in bouts won (7-6) and dual points (28-27) with two bouts left. Knowing he didn’t have veteran 152-pounder Andrew Greenawalt available because of an injury, P-O coach Tim McCamley ordered Justin Millard to look for bonus points against Andrew Hurd at 145 pounds. Millard followed the instructions by immediately attacking. Hurd countered an early shot and flipped Millard to his back for a five-point move.
Millard squirmed out of the precarious position, started the second period in the neutral position and locked a cradle. This time, Hurd squirmed free. The drama expanded when Hurd tied the bout with an escape early in the third. Neither wrestler scored in the final 1:30 of the period. Millard attacked Hurd with an upper-body move in overtime. The sequence ended with Hurd taking Millard to his back to earn a 12-7 victory. Seth Decker, one of Penns Valley’s top wrestlers, then needed 50 seconds to pin varsity newcomer Connor Mann at 152.
“Justin knew he had to get a fall because we didn’t have Andrew going at 152,” P-O coach Tim McCamley said. “We had to get a fall there and he did everything he could. He basically sacrificed his match for the team.”
Penns Valley freshman Curtis Decker’s first-period pin of senior Bryan Descavish at 120 pounds gave Penns Valley a 28-17 lead with five bouts left. The Mounties won the next three bouts. Brian Evans defeated Jacob Confer 4-1 at 126, Dallas Kephart pinned Kyler Confer in 1:38 at 132 and Caleb Shively majored Matt Hosterman 17-5 at 138.
“Those guys have been working hard,” said McCamley, whose team dropped to 0-2. “We just need to get some other guys on the ball.”
The 220- and 285-pound bouts were two of the meet’s closest. Penns Valley’s Maverick Swartz used two second-period nearfall points and a third-period reversal to defeat Nick Gray 4-1 at 220. P-O’s R.J. Kephart endured a 60-pound weight disadvantage to edge Mike Confer 3-2 at 285.
Penns Valley also received victories from Isacc Bierly (113) and Cole Confer (170). Bub Lumadue (182) added a fall for P-O.
After two meets, the Rams are 2-0. The quick start isn’t shocking to those involved with the program.
“I don’t feel like we have to say much to this team,” said Brinker, whose team fell to P-O 44-19 last year. “This team is seasoned and very focused. They are a hard-working group. We didn’t say much before the match. It was a big match for us, and they knew what they wanted to do with it.”