Powerful Panthers prove to be too much for Tigers
Northwestern wrestling coach Jim Moll understood the uphill climb as his team entered Saucon Valley’s home gym.
After a fast start for unbeaten Saucon Valley, that challenge seemed even more daunting for the visiting Tigers.
The Panthers, which are on the verge of ending their sixth straight undefeated Colonial League season, won the first four bouts and cruised to a 47-22 victory on Monday night at Saucon Valley High School. The Panthers (6-0 in Colonial League) handed Northwestern its first league loss of the season and remain the lone unbeaten Colonial League squad.
“I knew we’d have a lot of tough matches,” Moll said. “Saucon is a good team. They are tough. They are physical. They get a little bit of momentum and their whole team feeds into it and the crowd feeds into it. They kind of started off better than we did.”
Saucon Valley’s Josh Jones opened the match with a major decision victory against Jackson Bernhard at 126 pounds. Then, in a match that figured to go down to the wire, the Panthers’ Nick Rosengrant earned a 2-0 decision against Northwestern’s Matt Peters.
The hosts increased their lead to 16-0 after Justin Kyra picked up a major decision at 138 pounds, followed by a technical fall (16-1) for Jason Jones at 145.
“That was a big win for Rosengrant,” Moll said. “We knew that one could go either way. Matt was right there with him. In the first period he really could have had a takedown. That could change the outcome right there.”
Instead, Rosengrant’s 2-0 decision not only fueled the crowd at Saucon Valley, but seemed to give the Panthers an edge for the rest of the match.
The Tigers (6-1 in Colonial League) got on the board with a pin from Jackson Bernhard at 152. After a slow start that saw a scoreless first period unfold, Bernhard was able to pin Saucon Valley’s Angelo Mahaffey late in the third period.
Caleb Clymer earned a major decision at 160 pounds moments later to bring the Tigers within 16-10. But the Panthers would win six of the final eight bouts.
“[Bernhard] started slow, which was kind of his thing last year,” Moll said. “He was a slow starter, but would wrestle harder later in the match. That’s exactly what he did today.
“Caleb wanted a fall. That kid did his job. His job was to don’t get pinned and the kid did a good job. He controlled some situations and controlled hands. Caleb wrestled hard. That was the best Caleb looked on his feet in probably about a month.”
The Panthers went on a run after that. Saucon Valley’s Dane Csencits took down Isaac Bredbenner at 182 pounds, and the Panthers’ Jarret Kirschbeck pinned Peter Yablonski in 40 seconds at 195.
The Tigers’ only other victory in a contested bout came at 106 for Jake Dellicker, pinning Ermal Duka in the opening 30 seconds.
Moll thinks if these two teams meet again, which could happen in leagues and in districts, the Tigers can come closer to knocking off the three-time defending district champs.
“Peters could’ve won and Clymer could’ve pinned,” Moll said. “Brunner was right there with that kid. A takedown in the third period made it a close match. If he gets to the leg sooner in the match, he’s got a shot. I think Ben Griffith has a chance to get a win. I don’t think he gets pinned every time by that kid. There are some areas where we can definitely do better and cut the deficit.”
Northwestern’s final league meet is set for Catasauqua on Wednesday. After that, the Tigers will travel to Panther Valley on Friday and Saturday for a tournament.
Saturday morning’s big win over Bangor (38-30) set up the Tigers well for the Colonial League duals. Northwestern, which leads the West Division at 6-1, will likely secure the No. 2 seed for the four-team tournament set for Monday. The Tigers will likely face Wilson in the first round with a rematch against Saucon Valley their reward for beating the Warriors, who they have not faced this season.
After leagues, the Tigers will go on to the District 11 team tournament, which begins next Thursday, Feb. 1.