It was a packed house Thursday night at the Central Mountain High School gymnasium in anticipation of one of the biggest dual meets of the season as Bellefonte entered the house of the Wildcats.
Central Mountain simply had too many horses in its stable as the Wildcats (7-0) clawed the Red Raiders 47-26 to remain unbeaten.
“I knew it was going to be a match of streaks and I knew they were going to start strong,” Central Mountain coach Doug Buckwalter said. “Emery Watson did an outstanding job and that was one where we broke through to stop some of the bleeding and then Caleb Turner came through with a real nice win. Those were two big ones and after I saw those two wins, I started to relax a little bit. I knew we were favored up above and even in the first couple of weight classes so those two (Watson and Turner) turned in outstanding efforts tonight.”
Although his squad came out on the short end of the final score, Bellefonte head coach Mike Maney saw some good things from his Raiders (4-2).
“We saw some positives out there tonight,” Maney said. “Win or lose, we were looking to score points. We just have to get smarter in certain positions because we were in some matches and then got put on our backs. Those bonus points add up rather quickly as we found out. They got on a roll up at the top (of the lineup) and I think there were some of those matches we could have won.”
Starting at 132 pounds, the Raiders jumped all over the Wildcats through the first four bouts when they picked up a technical fall by Brock Port and falls from Trevor Corl (145) and Nate Rosenberger (152) sandwiched around a solid 6-2 win by Watson (138). With the quick explosion, the Raiders held a 17-3 advantage.
“Port was out sick, but he did a real nice job tonight,” Maney said. “Corl just did what he has been doing all year for us and then Rosenberger gave us a real nice win at 152. He wrestled real solid and as a result, he got the fall. If we were going to have a chance to win the dual meet, we needed wins at 138 and 160, but we didn’t get them.”
The Wildcats then rolled up eight straight wins that netted them 44 unanswered points for a 47-17 lead.
Turner doubled up on Raider Zach Musser for a 4-2 nod at 160 and Demetri Probst followed with a 16-0 technical fall at 170.
The Wildcats turned up the heat up as they reeled off five straight pins by Isaac Porter (182), Hunter Weaver (195), Loc Long (220), Bryce Hanley (285) and Geo Barzona (106). Seth Andrus completed the streak when he received a forfeit win at 113.
With the Central Mountain win all but in the books, Bellefonte’s Aaron Witherite (120) held on for a gutsy 3-2 win over Keanan Bottorf in a battle of state-ranked wrestlers before Raider Luke Leathers only needed 43 ticks of the clock to deck Chris Confer to set the final.
“Witherite is on his way down to 115, so he is giving up some weight there and he still came out with a nice win,” said Maney. “Luke is working himself back to 100 percent and it was nice to see him wrestle that strong to finish up the match. It was a good win for him and as a team, we just have to keep moving forward.”
Central Mountain was missing state qualifier Gavin Caprio to an injury while Isaac Porter made his return.
“Isaac has been in the room working hard, but we aren’t going to put him in the meat grinder down at the Escape the Rock,” said Buckwalter. “As for Gavin, I think he goes back this week and if things work out, he might be able to step right back in there after the tournament. He is one of our leaders both in the practice room and on the mat so getting him back will be a big plus for us.”
Prior to the dual meet, a special ceremony was held to honor Buckwalter for reaching the 300-win plateau in a recent victory over Bald Eagle Area.
“The neatest part tonight was standing over there (matside) among all of those ex-wrestlers and ex-coaches because it isn’t just one person who made all of this possible,” Buckwalter said. “It is a total program that starts at the elementary level with guys like Joe Miller and Bob Conway who put in their time there and then at the junior high level it is coach (Brett) Kleckner and his staff and then the varsity assistants. It all begins with wrestlers who make a commitment from the elementary level up through and I was standing among all of those guys who made this possible. That was the neat part of tonight.”