TYRONE — Any way you look at it, Saturday wasn’t a good day for the two Centre County schools in the District 6 Class AAA Team Duals.
After both Bellefonte and State College won their way into the tournament semifinals with wins Wednesday night, both came up short in their attempts to make it to the finals with losses in the semifinals.
Bellefonte pushed Mifflin County to the limit before dropping a 36-33 verdict to the Huskies, while the Little Lions had the misfortunes of running into Central Mountain for the second time in eight days and dropped a 62-0 verdict to the top-seeded Wildcats.
For the Red Raiders, it was a rematch from last year’s semis when they were defeated 42-29 by the Huskies.
Going into this year’s battle, Bellefonte coach Mike Maney felt that if his team was going to be able to upend the Huskies they would have to win the matches they were supposed to win, pick up an upset or two, and get bonus points as opposed to giving them up.
That didn’t happen as bonus points made the difference for the Huskies, who went on to stun Central Mountain 32-31 in the title match.
“We split the matches right down the middle and it came down to bonus points so it was the same old story,” said Maney. “We just couldn’t get them when we needed to and they were able to get them in some of those weights. The forfeit at 113 hurts, but give them credit because our kids went out and fought. Musser went out and battled hard against a regional qualifier and McChesney was battling right to the end against a real experienced guy. The fight was there, but we just came up a little short.”
Picking up wins for the Raiders were Shafiq Blake (106 pounds), Aaron Witherite (120), Luke Leathers (126), Brock Port (132), Trevor Corl (145), Dillon Kephart (182) and Tim Benford (285).
“Last year, (Benford) was a guy who had a few wins and this was a big win for him,” said Maney. “He was wrestling with a heavy heart due to his grandfather passing away this morning so give him a lot of credit to mentally battle through that, stay focused and he actually picked up some big bonus points.”
Starting at 132, the Raiders fell behind 30-15 before Benford’s fall turned the lineup over and set up the frantic finish. Prior to Benford’s deck job, Bellefonte picked up falls from Port and Corl plus a decision by Kephart.
After Blake received a forfeit at 106, the Raiders only trailed by three (30-27), but unfortunately they had to forfeit 113 and the Mifflin County lead stood at 36-27 with two bouts left.
With the pressure squarely on their shoulders, Aaron Witherite and Luke Leathers came through with decisions, but it wasn’t enough as the Raiders fell just short of pulling the big upset.
“If those matches would have been the first two matches their guy might have wrestled a little differently,” said Maney. “But when it comes down to the last two matches their game plan changes a little bit. They get much more defensive and that makes it that much more difficult to get those bonus points. It certainly put those last two guys in a difficult situation, but at the same time, that is the name of the game.”
One week ago, the Little Lions were overmatched in a 62-9 loss to the Wildcats in the regular season dual meet.
In Saturday’s rematch, things once again didn’t go well for the Little Lions as they absorbed the shutout. As for having faced Central Mountain one week ago, State High coach Ryan Cummins felt if there was an advantage it was that is served as a scouting report for his young wrestlers.
“We have a ton of sophomores and underclassmen in the lineup,” said Cummins. “Wrestling the best competition they can is only going to make them better. We could wrestle teams that we could thump on, but that won’t make them any better. Seeing the guys perform better this week against tough competition says something about how far they have come along.”
Despite coming out on the short end, Cummins saw some improvement in his young Lions.
“We talked about that while the match was progressing,” said Cummins. “We saw that the guys were definitely fighting harder and keeping the scores closer than they did the first time. They seemed to have more offense and they definitely looked better this time than the last time. The score doesn’t necessarily indicate that, but the guys who wrestled tonight definitely did a better job than before.”
With the individual district tournament looming down the road a couple of weeks, Cummins is hoping that maybe one or two of his wrestlers can make some noise.
“I think we’ll see some of that,” said Cummins. “The post-season is right around the corner and they are improving with each match. We have a couple of good dual meets left and then it is post-season. I think they’ll be ready.”