CATAWISSA RR – With Lear Quinton on deck, Muncy decided to issue an intentional walk.
In Tuesday night’s battle of the No. 2 and No. 3 Class AA wrestling teams in the state, both unbeaten, No. 3 Muncy had forged a 23-9 advantage before unbeaten Gaige Garcia’s pin closed it to 23-15 at 195 pounds.
Muncy coach Royce Eyer forfeited to Preston Zachman at 220 to set up a 285-pound matchup of Quinten and Muncy’s Cael Hembury.
Going into the third period, it looked like Eyer’s move might work out for the Indians as Quinton led by just 5-0.
After Hembury chose neutral to start the final period, Quinton grabbed a leg and took the Indian to his back and pinned him with a half-nelson in 4 minutes, 38 seconds.
The fall gave Southern Columbia its first lead since it was it was 9-6 after four bouts and the Tigers roared back for a 39-26 victory in a tense non-league dual before a packed house in Southern’s gymnasium.
Eyer said, “Southern is tough at the top and at that point we were trying to avoid bonus points and we liked the matchup. We were in the match and it was just a decision until (Hembury) got stuck.”
Southern coach Jerry Marks said, “I was a little surprised with the move. Hembury’s very dangerous and our game plan was to go with low shots and work for a fall on top and it worked out for us.”
Quinton, who improved to 14-1, said he was surprised at the move, but “I just wanted to wrestle as hard as I can and beat him.”
The 206-pound Quinton got the first takedown and said it was easier to move 214-pound Hembury than some of his previous opponents this year.
“Every match is a big match,” he said, but added that, after the pin, “I was definitely excited. I felt the momentum switch in our favor.”
Garcia said that if he had been in Quinton’s shoes, he would have taken that move as a snub.
“It was like ‘wow, they don’t think I can beat this kid, or they don’t think I can pin this kid.’ Lear went out and pinned him and he made a statement.”
But Garcia had his own motivation before he clamped Tristen Ditzler to the mat in 35 seconds.
Before Monday night, Southern was ranked No. 1 in the state, but got bumped to No. 2 behind defending champion Reynolds.
When Garcia saw that, he texted the coaches, who told him “I hope you’re as mad as I am’ and we all took that into consideration and the score showed it,” he said.
The Tigers (10-0) matched a 17-0 run by the Indians (11-1) with a 30-0 run of their own and clinched the win when unbeaten freshman Kole Biscoe (15-0) pinned fellow ninth grader Alex Maiorano with a cradle in 1:43 to make it 39-23 Southern after 113 with one bout left.
The late-match heroics aside, the biggest difference in Southern’s comeback win was the way the Tigers fought to avoid bonus points between 138 and 170. Senior Coleman Good’s technical fall over Tiger freshman Anthony Sola at 152 were the only extra points the Indians managed in that run.
Eyer said, “We were losing ground because weren’t getting bonus points where we thought we would, and (the Tigers) battled hard and did what they had to do on their end so give them a lot of credit for battling.”
Marks agreed that the way his young wrestlers fought off bonus points was the key.
“Those guys knew their roles and it was all about battling and not giving up the bonus points. That was the whole match,” he said.
Talking about his team still being without promising freshman Gavin Garcia and state medalist Cade Linn, because of injuries, Marks said, “This was a nice win for the young guys on our team. It was a team win. Everybody knew their role. I was so proud of those freshmen.”
He mentioned freshman Brandon Gedman, who gave up only a regular decision to veteran Ethan Gush. “That was huge.”
Garcia added, “Our guys fought. We fought hard. That’s something our guys had not been doing before this match. They came out here with this big crowd, they wrestled up to the crowd and wrestled to the best of their ability and they got the job done.”
The Tigers took a 9-0 lead after two bouts, in a meet that opened at 126. Ian Yoder overcame an early 2-0 deficit and fought off a second takedown try by Bryce Vollman in a battle of standout sophomores and clinched a 5-2 win with a takedown in the final seconds.
Sophomore Patrick Edmondson then put Southern up 9-0 with a fall in 1:21 at 132.
At 138, Southern’s Mike Miner nearly caught Mario Barberio in a headlock on a couple of occasions before the Indian pulled out an 8-3 decision to start the Indians’ big run.
Christian Good won 7-1 over Keir Hill and, after his brother, got the fall at 152, Ty Nixon and Gush added 8-3 and 3-0 wins before veteran Michael Kustenbauter pinned Tyler Waltman for a 23-9 Muncy advantage.
Garcia then got the Southern comeback started as Southern scored the next 30 points.
Grady Oden ended the meet with a 4-3 win for the visitors.
Southern, which had an 11-10 edge in takedowns, should get Gavin Garcia and Linn back in two weeks, Marks said.
Muncy’s Eyer said, “We were a little flat tonight, but we’ll learn from it and hopefully be where we need to be in the postseason.”
That could be in the District 4 Duals final versus Southern Columbia at the end of the month.
“Let’s hope so,” Eyer said.