BATTLE OF BIG CATS
Tigers nip Cougars in WVC Division I wrestling showdown
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 WRESTLINGSTEVE 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.
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.