BAT­TLE OF BIG CATS

Tigers nip Cougars in WVC Divi­sion I wrestling show­down

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEVE STAL­LONE AS­SIS­TANT SPORTS EDITOR

HAZ LE TOWN­SHIP—On Thurs­day evening, Ha­zlet on Area’s wrestlers won seven of their 12 con­tested bouts with vis­it­ing Tunkhan­nock. On most nights, that would be enough to walk away from the mats with a vic­tory. On this night, how­ever, it wasn’t quite enough to un­seat the de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons.

Tunkhan­nock stor med back from a 20-9 deficit and picked up key wins at 160 and heavy­weight to pull out a 34-30 vic­tory, throw­ing a wrench in the Cougars’ Wy­oming Val­ley Con­fer­ence Divi­sion I ti­tle plans in the process.

For Tigers’ coach Bob Hegedty the win was some­what un­ex­pected, but huge nonethe­less.

“I had my doubts com­ing in,” he said. “We haven’t prac­ticed in two days, bu t the kids re­ally stepped up tonight. It was a great team win. They just fought hard, and some­how we came out on top.”

On the other side of the can­vas, it was loss that Cougars’ coach Keith Mau­rer felt was com­ing, even though his team was com­ing off a team cham­pi­onship at the WVC Tour­na­ment last week­end.

“I’m more ag­gra­vated than I am hurt. As coaches we saw this com­ing,” Mau­rer said. “I thought it would show up at the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment, but it didn’t. We have not been prac­tic­ing well. Last week was a hor­ri­ble week of prac­tice. We just have enough good in­di­vid­u­als that were able to come through to win the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment. It old these guys we’ re not( per­form­ing as) a team right now.”

Af­ter spot­ting the Tigers a Gavin D’Amato de­ci­sion win at 120 to start the night, the Cougars an­swered with Chris Lasecki’s 10-2 ma­jor de­ci­sion at 126.

Tunkhan­nock 132-pounder Tommy Traver (22-0), com­ing off an Out­stand­ing Wrestler per­for­mance at the WVC tour­ney, du­pli­cated his fi­nals pin over Anthony Mar­toc­cio over the week­end, this time in 3:25 to put the Tigers on top 9-4.

But the Cougars roared back. Jimmy Hoff­man (17-1) pinned his op­po­nent in just 26 sec­onds at 138, team­mate Jayson Brielmeier fol­lowed with a first-pe­riod fall of his own at 145, and Jake Mar­nell added an 11-3 ma­jor de­ci­sion at 152 to put Ha­zle­ton Area back in front, 20-9.

Then came the turn­ing point of the match.

Ha­zlet on Area’ s Bryce Reed worked his way to a 7-0 lead at 160 pounds, only to see Tunkhan­nock’s Chris Franko turn things around with a quick take­down and third-pe­riod pin at 160 pounds.

“Chris hasn’t felt well as of late,” Hegedty said. “He just hit him with a head­lock and was able to hold it and stick him. We try to tell the kids not to get in dan­ger and just keep bat­tling un­til the end and see what hap­pens.”

The Cougars’ Shane Noo­nan moved up to 182 and got a 12-0 ma­jor de­ci­sion, and Car­son Kin­ney im­proved to 5-0 against Tunkhan­nock ri­val Sam Rice in their 195-pound show­down, win­ning 17-11. How­ever, Rice was able to sneak in a late es­cape and take­down to turn what would have been a four-point ma­jor de­ci­sion into a three-pointer.

Although they had a 27-19 lead at that point, the Cougars had to ab­sorb six-point for­feits at 220 and at 106, giv­ing up 12 cru­cial points to the Tigers. That meant the Cougars would need wins at both heavy­weight and 113 to hold on.

In the heavy­weight bout, the Tigers’ John Walsh sur­vived a first-pe­riod take­down by Travis K osty al, then worked a pair of es­capes to force over­time. Af­ter a score­less first over­time pe­riod, Walsh got another es­cape and held on for the 3-2 de­ci­sion that clinched the match.

“That’s prob­a­bly John’s big­gest win to date,” Hegedty said. “That’s such a great win for him, such a con­fi­dence booster.”

Both coaches agreed that bonus points played a big fac­tor in Thurs­day’s out­come. For the Cougars, it was a lack of ad­di­tional points that proved costly.

“T hat (160-pound bout) shouldn’t have de­ter mined the match. That was a swing, ob­vi­ously,” Mau­rer said, “but look­ing at 34-30 I can prob­a­bly go back and find a cou­ple of other places where we could have made some of those points up. At 170 we gave up a take­down right at the end to give up a ma­jor (de­ci­sion), we had a ma­jor at 195 and lost that right at the end. There was a cou­ple of other places where I thought we should have picked up some bonus points, and we didn’t.

“Over­all we didn’t wres­tle well at all,” added Mau­rer. “Tunkhan­nock’s a good team and as I told the kids be­fore, they won this thing last year and they’re go­ing to come af­ter you, and they did. I told them right be­fore hand, we’ve got to get bonus points and not give them up, and that’s just not what hap­pened tonight.”

“Bonus points are huge,” noted Heg ed ty .“We talk about it con­stantly, just stay­ing in good po­si­tion and try not to give up those ex­tra bonus points. In a match like this they’re very im­por­tant.”

The win bumped Tunkhan­nock to 2-0 in the Divi­sion I stand­ings, ahead of Ha­zle­ton Area (2-1) and in line with Dal­las (3-0) and Cough­lin (1-0).

“It’s a huge win,” Hegedty said. “This was the big­gest hur­dle, but the hard par t comes now, try­ing to run the ta­ble on the rest of them. We have Cough­lin next Wed­nes­day at Cough­lin, and that’s go­ing to be another war.”

Mau­rer hopes his squad can re­group in time to still be a fac­tor in the divi­sion race.

“We’ll find out right away. We’ve got Crest­wood on Satur­day and Dal­las next week,” he said. “We’ll find out what they’ re made of re­ally quick.”

WY­OMING VAL­LEY CON­FER­ENCE WRESTLING

STEVE STAL­LONE/STAN­DARD-SPEAKER

Heavy­weights John Walsh, left, of Tunkhan­nock and Travis Kostyal of Ha­zle­ton Area lock up dur­ing Thurs­day night’s wrestling match at the Hughie McGee­han Gym­na­sium. Walsh pulled out a 3-2 over time vic­tor y.

STEVE STAL­LONE/STAN­DARD-SPEAKER

Ha­zle­ton Area’s Car­son Kin­ney puts a leg hold on Tunkhan­nock’s Sam Rice dur­ing their 195-pound bout in Thurs­day’s WVC Divi­sion I wrestling match at Ha­zle­ton Area High School. Kin­ney scored a 17-11 de­ci­sion.

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