KING OF THE MOUNTAIN: Wildcats start day off strong with 5 straight wins, lose momentum after
By BILL ALBRIGHT
Express Sports Writer
MILL HALL – After starting the season with a runner-up finish in the Tom Best Memorial Tournament, and a 58-15 thrashing of Selinsgrove to open the dual meet season, the next stop for the Central Mountain wrestling team was in the 2018 King of the Mountain Tournament in the Wildcat gymnasium.
For the ‘Cats it might have been like going from the frying pan into the fire as the tournament sported 32 of the best teams from the Commonwealth.
After watching his squad perform, CM head coach Biff Walizer had somewhat mixed feelings about the day.
“It was a bit of a mixed bag for us today,” said Walizer. “This is a very tough tournament and there aren’t any easy rounds. You can see that by our matchups every round. There haven’t been any pushovers. We just came up short in some of them.”
The Wildcats opened the tournament on a strong note in the Round of 32, winning the first five bouts of the day.
Derek Keen (106) and Dalton Bechdel (126) picked up falls for CM, Taylor Weaver (113) posted a major decision and Johnny Shreffler (120) and Kayden Busey (132) advanced on regular decisions.
Following the five wins, the Wildcats ran into a few bumps in the road as Cody Coleman (138) and Lane Porter fell into the consolation bracket as a result of a fall.
Alonzo Henry put the ‘Cats back into the win column with a fall at 152, but the Wildcats hit another tough stretch as Caleb Porter (160) and Gage Sutliff (182) sandwiched loses around a 6-2 win by Austin Confer.
In the Round of 16, Keen looked strong as he won by technical fall over Troy Hohman of Penn Trafford by the score of 16-1.
Weaver came up short in his attempt to advance to the next round in the championship bracket when he was pinned by Nick Onca of Pottsville, but Shreffler swung the victory pendulum back in favor of CM when he decked Warrior Run’s Noah Hunt.
Bechdel was pushed to the limit before outlasting Phillipsburg (NJ)’s Bryce Parenti for a 6-4 win in overtime before Busey had the misfortune of running into tough Cade Zeamer of Manheim Central and fell back into the consolations.
Henry stayed alive in the championship bracket when he picked up his second fall of the day. Henry went into overtime with Alec Suponcik when he lateral-dropped Suponcik to his back for the fall.
The Wildcats went 2-1 in the final three bouts of the Round of 16 to give them six quarterfinalists. Riggle kept his championship hopes alive with a major decision before the biggest ‘Cat on block, Jake Edwards, needed only 36 seconds to dispose of Hunter Dickson of General McLane.
When it was all said and done, the Wildcats will send a half dozen wrestlers into this mornings quarterfinals.
In the team race, the Wildcats are currently in 5th place with 63 points and eight wrestlers still alive for a possible medal.
“I am very pleased with the guys we have in the quarterfinals,” said Walizer. “Johnny Shreffler had two tough matches in a bracket that is just loaded. His first bout today will be against a returning state champion, but Johnny just keeps plugging away. Jake Edwards only got on the mat once tonight but I know he wants to get back to the finals where he was last year and Tanner Riggle did a nice job.
“Alonzo Henry is quite a story and although his record wasn’t that good after replacing the injured Austyn Carson last year, thus far this year, he has just competed out of his mind. Dalton Bechdel also wrestled tough, especially against the second opponent who is a really tough kid. He has really taken it up a notch. I just can’t say enough about those guys in the quarterfinals. When we see the guys going out there and using the things we are working hard on in practice it is very rewarding to us as coaches.”
In the final round of consolations of the day for the ‘Cats, things didn’t go very well as they dropped six of eight bouts.
“Those first minutes of the (consolation) bouts are tough to take because if you give up a takedown to go down 2-0 going into the second period, it makes it difficult to battle back,” said Walizer. “Against a good guy it is tough to make up those points.”
Wrestling will continue this morning at 10 a.m. with the quarterfinals and a round of consolations, the championship finals to be contested at approximately 5:30 p.m.