By Corey J. Corbin
Allied News Sports Correspondent
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
STONEBORO -- No matter the sport, every team has aspirations of reaching the postseason.
The Lakeview and Mercer wrestling teams got an early season taste of a tournament-like atmosphere in Thursday evening’s showdown at Lakeview High School.
“That was exciting, huh,” Mercer coach Rick Whenry said after his Mustangs upended the Sailors 34-30. “There were some good matches. We knew it was going to be close. The fans were really getting into it tonight. This is a great rivalry in football, basketball and wrestling. There was a good amount of people here and there was good energy in the room. It was a pretty entertaining match.”
Although the individual matches were close, it didn’t appear as though the score was going to be particularly close.
Aside Preston Hoover receiving a forfeit at 106 pounds, Lakeview ripped off seven straight wins between 220 pounds and 138 pounds to stake claim to a 30-6 lead.
Senior 120-pounder Adam Dosch was the lone Sailor to post bonus points with a pin in 3:13, while Andrew Clayton (220), Sam Breese (285), Evan Clayton (113) and Trevor Williams (132) held on for decisions. Jake Heim and Dustin Schleifer received forfeits.
Williams needed a late reversal to upend Trevor Fowler in an exciting 11-10 decision that saw 12 points scored in the final two minutes.
“We wrestled them pretty good,” Lakeview coach Tom Tingley said. “We just came up short in the bonus points. I knew it would come down to that. They got a couple pins and we had a couple guys on their backs, but couldn’t get pin calls. That’s how it goes sometimes.
“(Mercer heavyweight Jon Hennegan) is a good wrestler. The last time Sam wrestled him, he lost. You gotta give (Hennegan) credit he worked hard. It’s early in the year, but Sam wasn’t pushing the pace like he would later in the year.”
But from 145 pounds on, it was all Mercer.
Rodney Brant (145), Clay Ruffo (170) and Austin Slagle (172) posted pins and picked up bonus points when the Mustangs needed them the most as Mercer surged back from a 30-6 deficit. Alex Shaffer (152) had a 9-0 major decision also.
Eli Rutter (160) and Zane O’Brien (195) held on for narrow 2-point victories.
“Being down 30-6, we know we have some quality kids in the middle,” Whenry said. “We won where we needed to. We knew (we needed bonus points) going in. We knew we would have to do some shuffling. A couple of the shuffles kicked us in the butt, but the kids stepped up and that’s important.
“Rodney Brant stepped up against a good kid. He did a good job, going out there and getting the pin. Shaffer got the major decision. Eli Rutter got a good decision. Slagle and O’Brien came out after a year off and they’re just not in shape yet,”
Tempers flared late in the match at 170 pounds when Lakeview’s Tony James was slammed to the mat by Ruffo after the whistle had blown.
“(Ruffo) showed a lot of composure there,” Whenry said. “The normal reaction is to turn around and swing. That would’ve been wrong on both ends. He showed a lot of maturity right there. Wrestling is a heated sport. I’m pretty pleased.”
“Tony is a first year wrestler and that was his second match ever,” Tingley said. “It’s a learning curve for him. He needs to learn to control that. His inexperience showed there. There’s a balance there. You have to balance between enthusiastic and fired up and out of control to the point where you’re not focused. He did a good job of calming down.”
Then late in the 195-pound match with Marquis Spence trailing O‘Brien 6-4, Lakeview fans thought Marquise Spence had secure a game-tying takedown in the third period, but the grapplers were ruled out of bounds.
“(The ref) said he was out of bounds,” Tingley said. “I disagree with that, but that’s his call. I was sitting (in the Lakeview team section) and he was right on top of it. We’re not allowed to disagree with him. That’s how it goes. We need to try to score in the middle so it’s not an issue.”
Despite the thrilling win, Whenry knows his team has some work to do in the wrestling room if it’s going to realize its team goals this winter.
“This was our first match and we have some work to do,” Whenry said. “We didn’t establish very much offense and we have to get in better shape. This isn’t a sprint. This is a marathon. Our ultimate goal is to get to the team championships. This is just the first step.”
“We got a big match from Jon Hennegan against Sam Breese, who was a state qualifier and was one win away from placing. Our (113) pounder did a good job against Clayton.”