Heading into Thursday night’s dual meet with rival Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte coach Mike Maney admitted he didn’t know what to expect from his team.
His Red Raiders had wrestled in the Virginia Duals over the weekend and he feared the travel to and from the Tidewater area would sap their strength. Then, the first appreciable snow of the season forced an early dismissal on Tuesday and Bellefonte wasn’t able to practice.
“I wasn’t quite sure what our intensity level would be tonight,” Maney said. “We weren’t quite sure. When we did have practice on Wednesday, one of the things we talked about was being aggressive on top and starting to look for pins.”
Message sent. Message received.
The Raiders started the night with a 13-second fall and never looked back in a 47-27 win over the Eagles.
Bellefonte (6-3) won nine of 14 bouts, with four falls, two forfeits, a technical fall and two decisions. Bald Eagle Area (0-6) recorded three falls, received a forfeit and notched a decision.
“One of the things we’re trying to stress is don’t give up anything easy, no easy points. You can be down in matches but make guys work for every single thing,” Maney said. “Credit to the guys, we came back this week, worked on some things and definitely saw some improvement.”
Bald Eagle Area coach Steve Millward said he knew what his team was in for, but he wanted each Eagle to fight.
“We stressed that more than anything. We knew it was a longshot to come in and beat Bellefonte in the dual meet score,” Millward said. “We were hoping each kid would go out there with a little bit of personal pride and fight for six minutes. I think we got that from most kids. There were some places we were outmanned. It was virtually impossible that we were going to be close in some of those individual matches.”
One of those happened right away.
The match started at 145 pounds and Raider Brock Port scored a takedown and fall in just 13 seconds. Dakota Parson built a 10-0 lead at 152 before getting a fall in 2:52 and Bellefonte was off and running.
Eagle 160-pounder Jacob Crestani stopped the Raiders’ momentum with a hard-fought 8-7 win over Lukas McClure.
“I think Crestani, at 160, stood out. He had some moments, some things we don’t see out of him all the time,” Millward said.
“We would like him to go out there and wrestle those little six-second flurries that he has for six minutes. We haven’t gotten that out of him yet. It was nice to see him score a couple of takedowns and win his match.”
Bellefonte’s lead ballooned to 33-3 as the Raiders swept the next four bouts. Dillon Kephart (170) and Sean Irvin (220) bookended the run with falls. In between, Brien McChesney (182) received a forfeit and Max Mondy gutted out a 2-0 decision.
“At 220, Sean Irvin has been getting better throughout the season. That was good for him to get a pin in this match,” Maney said.
BEA heavyweight Josh Fye received a forfeit before Bellefonte reeled off another three consecutive wins.
Cole Stewart scored eight points in the third period to roll up a 15-0 technical fall in 4:56 at 106 pounds. Shafiq Blake received a forfeit at 113, and Cam Coppolo used an escape and takedown in the third period to earn an 8-5 decision in an entertaining match at 120.
BEA won by fall in the final three bouts to make the score more respectable.
Garrett Rigg locked up a near-cradle and pin his opponent in 1:16 at 126. At 138, Coby Bainey needed 4:56 to earn his fall.
In between came the marquee bout of the night between Raider Aaron Witherite and Eagle Seth Koleno.
After a scoreless first period, Koleno escaped in the second to lead, 1-0, heading into the third. Witherite quickly escaped to start the third and tie the match at 1-1.
But, in the blink of an eye, the match was over. Koleno hit a lightning-quick single, converted it into a near-cradle, rolled Witherite to his back, trapped the Raider’s other leg and pinned him in 4:22.
“I guess you don’t want to go to sleep on Seth. He’ll strike when he can. He takes advantage of those opportunities when somebody is vulnerable. He’s good at wrestling like that,” Millward said. “I wouldn’t count Seth out. Of course, we’d like to see him stretch the score out a little bit and score more points. But, if he’s capable of striking like he did, that’s fine with us.”
Maney hoped the momentary lapse would be a teachable moment for Witherite.
“That’s why you can’t stop wrestling. That’s the main thing. You have two good guys and hopefully it’s a lesson learned for him. Credit to Koleno; he saw an opportunity and took it,” Maney said. “Those are some things that we stress. We just got beat in that position. You can’t take a second off. When you do against a good guy you’re in trouble.”
Bellefonte looked strong despite sending out a lineup missing some starters.
“We’ve been battling through a lot of injuries. Since the start of the season, we’ve missed four or five starters,” Maney said. “It’s a credit to the guys who have stepped up and stepped in there.”