Tigers win two at D-11 Duals
Just call them marathon men.
Three matches. One day. And almost a fourth.
Northwestern once again went through the gauntlet at the District 11 Team Championships Saturday at Freedom High School.
Only this time, the Tigers were unable to successfully navigate the same course they charted a year ago at Joseph J. McIntyre Gymnasium.
After losing to Saucon Valley 63-9 in the championship semifinals, Northwestern responded with a 42-30 win to bounce Pen Argyl and advance to the consolation final.
But Northwestern’s run ended there.
Pine Grove used its depth to procure a 45-31 win and stop the Tigers in their tracks.
“We wrestled hard,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Moll. “I always want the kids to just go out and compete. If you wrestle Saucon Valley, Catasauqua, Pen Argyl or Pine Grove, it doesn’t matter. You have to wrestle the same match. And our kids did.”
The Tigers almost repeated the run they put together last season when they advanced to the state tournament by winning three straight matches following a semifinal loss on the second day of the event.
A win Saturday against Pine Grove, coupled with Wilson’s 51-18 loss to Saucon Valley in the Class 2A championship final, would have made necessary a true second-place match between the Tigers and Warriors.
Instead, Wilson advanced to the PIAA Team Championships as the second 2A team after having already defeated the Cardinals in the semifinals.
In the Class 3A tournament, second seed Nazareth knocked off Bethlehem Catholic 33-24 for the team title. The top-seeded Golden Hawks responded by dispatching Northampton 46-14 in the true-second place match to advance to the state tournament.
The Tigers ripped off four wins in the first six bouts to jump out to an early lead.
Donovan White started the run with a 5-2 decision over Dalton Kintzel in the opening bout at 126 pounds, and Colin Rex followed with a pin in 2:32 against Gavin Harris to give Northwestern a 9-0 lead.
The teams alternated victories over the next four bouts, with Jackson Bernhard scoring late to a get a 9-1 major decision against Dustin Carlin at 145 pounds. Caleb Clymer worked quickly to dispatch Eric Shadle in 1:39 at 160 pounds to put the Tigers in front 19-9 after six matches.
Pine Grove, the No. 3 seed, responded with six straight wins – three pins and three forfeits – to take control of the match and go-ahead 45-19.
“We had almost no maneuverability with how short-handed we were,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Moll. “We put Will (Dellicker) in there at 152, and he’s normally a 138-pounder, who weighed in heavy just to wrestle 145 or 152. He’s up two weight classes, in reality. And he wrestled a tough kid (Marcus Kassab, who won 6-1).
“I’ll tell you what, Will wrestled really hard, really tough. He wrestled fantastic all day. But that was pretty much the only maneuverability we had, which handcuffs on us a little bit. The rest of our guys competed pretty well. I’m happy.”
The Tigers won the final two bouts. Harrison Bernhard pinned Noah Venszl in 3:35 at 113 pounds and Baily Wehr won by forfeit at 120.
Despite the loss, Moll was happy to see his team compete at a high level with the end of the season on the horizon.
“It’s nice to be in the pressure situations,” he said. “It’s a long day. We had two matches in the morning; a long break; and the afternoon match. So it’s nice that the kids get used to those pressure situations, and used to competing, and competing well, and performing well.
“That’s what you have to do during (individual) districts. That’s what you have to do during regionals. That’s what you have to do during states. It helps get them get used to being in that situation, which is nice.”
However disappointing the loss to Saucon Valley earlier in the day might have been, the Tigers certainly didn’t let it linger.
Northwestern started strong against Pen Argyl, jumping out to a 30-6 lead after the first seven matches.
Perhaps the highlight of the first half of the contest came when the Green Knights sent out Chase Anklam to face Caleb Clymer in a matchup of two district champions.
The bout didn’t disappoint.
Clymer clung to a 2-0 lead until Anklam scored a reversal late in the third period. But Clymer kept working, getting an escape with just seconds left to lock up a 3-2 win.
Tyler Derr produced valuable bonus points for the Tigers with a pin at 138 pounds. Jackson Bernahrd followed with a pin at 145 pounds, and Will Dellicker scored more bonus points with a major decision at 152 pounds.
“Will Dellicker wrestled great. He wrestled really hard,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Moll. “He had a huge win. They (Pen Argyl) made a bump, where they bumped away from (Colin) Rex, and it kind of backfired because (Tyler) Derr pinned his kid, and Dellicker majored. So those two came up big.”
Baily Wehr secured a technical fall against Cody Lucca in the opening bout at 120 pounds for the Tigers.
All of the victories proved to be vital, as Pen Argyl won four of the next five bouts to cut Northwestern’s lead to 36-30 before Harrison Bernhard pinned Austin Crump in the final match at 113 pounds.
Saucon Valley won all but two bouts against the Tigers, though Northwestern was in several close matches.
Nick Rosengrant decisioned Harrison Bernhard 2-0 in the opening bout at 113 pounds, and Josh Jones followed with a 5-4 win over Baily Wehr at 120 to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Tigers got on the board two bouts later, when Colin Rex grabbed a 5-3 decision over Thomas Spirk to cut Saucon Valley’s lead to 12-3.
Caleb Clymer pinned Dane Csencsits in 37 seconds at 152 pounds, a win that brought Northwestern to within 21-9.
But that was as close as the Tigers would get. Saucon Valley won the final seven bouts.
Northwestern-Notre Dame (Green Pond)
The start of the District 11 Team Wrestling Championships featured a mostly familiar refrain for Northwestern last Thursday at Northern Lehigh.
Coming off a first-round bye in the Class 2A bracket, No. 4 seed Northwestern was pushed by Notre Dame (Green Pond) in the opener, a quarterfinal matchup.
But the Tigers had been there before, specifically last season, when they to advanced to the PIAA Championships by winning the true second-place match after a marathon day of competition.
Northwestern showed its mettle once again last Thursday, fighting off the Crusaders’ best shot before pulling out a 37-33 quarterfinal win.
“We’ve been in a lot of close matches all year,” said Jim Moll. “Catasauqua was close (42-36 win); Southern Lehigh was close (39-30 win); we had some close ones at the Zephyr Duals. So we’re used to being in tight matches, and the kids kind of know how to respond at this point. It’s something that you have to kind of go through to learn how to do.
“And a lot of these guys did it last year in district duals. We wrestled a lot of close matches with Pen Argyl (35-30 win), Palisades (45-29 win) and Lehighton (34-30 win in the true second place match), so we’ve gone through this a lot as a team already and I think that experience kind of helped our guys a little bit tonight.”
Northwestern had several key wins against the Crusaders, but perhaps none bigger than Colin Rex’s pin at 132 pounds.
With the Tigers trailing 9-3 after three bouts, Rex stepped up and pinned Blake Daniel, a state qualifier a year ago, in 3:49 to knot the score at 9-9.
“Colin Rex is sick, and he went out and wrestled Blake Daniel, who was a state qualifier, and he came through,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Moll. “Colin Rex is an excellent athlete, who is a very good wrestler, and he came through, sick.”
Jackson Bernhard got a pin at 145 and Caleb Clymer picked up a major decision at 152 to give Northwestern valuable bonus points.
The Tigers’ also won a potential tossup bout at 120, when Baily Wehr grabbed an 8-4 decision over Ryan McGuire.
“Northwestern just out-wrestled us,” said Notre Dame head coach John McGuire. “Plain and simple. Even the matches that were the close ones we won, they wrestled really well. We had some matches we thought we would win, like 132, and we end up getting pinned there, so that was a huge one. And at 120, it’s a tossup with those two anytime they wrestle, and that went Baily’s way.
“But I just thought overall they out-wrestled us. And I told the kids, this is Northwestern. They’re a proud program with a really good coaching staff, with good kids. They’re not going to lay down for you. You’re going to have to bring it. But they just did a better job of it tonight.”
Even in matches that didn’t go his team’s way, Moll still had reason to smile.
“Harrison Bernhard wrestled a great match,” Moll said of Bernhard’s 5-3 overtime loss to Richie Markulics at 113 pounds. “He’s wrestled a great match the last two nights. He had (Saucon Valley’s Nick) Rosengrant at leagues on Monday, and he wrestled him really tough (a 4-2 loss).
“And now he had Markulics, who’s ranked in the state, and wrestled him as good as he could. I’m very proud of the way Harrison wrestled tonight.”