PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” Unfortunately for the Punxsy Chucks junior high wrestling team members, they knew entering Wednesday night's match against St. Marys that they would have to perform flawlessly to defeat the Dutch, earning pins in every bout due to six classes the Chucks would have to forfeit.
While Punxsy didn't win on the scoreboard, the Chucks took to the mats with fury and picked up wins in seven of the eight bouts that took place, making what could have been a blowout a close match at 42-31.
"While it's very disappointing to lose on the score board, I can't be disappointed with the kids," Punxsy head coach Bill Burke said. "It was a familiar story. We went into this one down 30 points right from the start. We had to give up two additional forfeits in this one due to a couple of kids being out of the lineup due to injury and other reasons. It's really hard to overcome a deficit like that, but considering we only lost one bout on the mat, we can't be too upset."
The match started at the lightest weight class, and with no bout scheduled at 75 pounds, the 80-pound combatants took to the mat in Punxsy's Zoie Smith and St. Marys' Cameron Winters.
Smith worked Winters over for the full three periods and kept him off the scoreboard, earning a 4-0 decision and giving her team a 3-0 lead after the first match.
The lead quickly vanished, though, as the Chucks were forced to forfeit the next four weight classes, giving the Dutch a commanding 24-3 lead.
Cameron Resch (85 pounds), Garrett Cook (90), Brad Wurm (95) and David Mertz (100) were the St. Marys grapplers who received six points each for the forfeit victories.
Neither team sent a wrestler to the table at 105 pounds, and Punxsy's Ryan Jones was set to square off against St. Marys' Nick Taylor.
Jones earned Punxsy's second shutout decision of the evening, but the match was much closer, as Jones scored just one point to earn a 1-0 win.
At 122 pounds, Punxsy's Kaleb Young picked up six points for his squad with a second-period pin over St. Marys' Mitchell Cashmer to cut the Dutch lead to 24-12.
Johnathan Koper picked up a 4-2 decision for Punxsy at 130 pounds to keep the good times rolling on the mat and cut the lead to nine.
At 138 pounds, Kyle Pecht gave St. Marys its only mat victory of the night when he pinned Punxsy's Levi Campbell in the first period to push the lead back to 15.
"While Levi Campbell did suffer our only loss, he probably grappled their best wrestler, not to mention he's been battling the flu all week," Burke said. "We can't fault him for that."
While the Chucks were still hopeful they could pull off the win with the odds stacked against them, they also knew the unlikely nature of the feat.
"Asking everyone to pin is simply asking a lot," Burke said. "St. Marys is well-coached, and it's good to see their program coming back. The last couple years, the tides were turned the other way as their numbers were very similar to what we have this year."
While Punxsy knew it was no longer possible to secure the victory, the wrestlers that took to the mat from that point forward showed no less passion, and Punxsy won its final three bouts.
At 145 pounds, Jeff Bottenhorn earned a third shutout decision for the Chucks with an impressive 8-0 major decision over Nolan Sorg.
Punxsy's Keegan Fischer picked up a second-period pin over St. Marys' Nathan Straub to pull the Chucks back within five points, and Travis Perry picked up a win by forfeit at 167 pounds, giving Punxsy a 31-30 lead in the contest â€” an impressive feat given the numbers against them.
With no match at 187, St. Marys' Ray Kline and Daniel Salinas picked up forfeit wins at 210 and 250 pounds, respectively, to wrap up the match and set the final score at 42-31.
Burke again echoed he was proud of his team's performance, doing all it could do to stay in the match.
"Once again, we just have to look at this one as another victory in our book, as we dominated on the mat," he said. "Our guys should be proud of themselves. They wrestled hard and to give up only one loss is quite a feat."
Looking ahead, Punxsy closes its regular season next week with a pair of home duals against Bradford and DuBois, Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
Burke said that with numbers still being a concern, he hopes his team is healthy, and they can give the two larger schools a run for their money.
"Hopefully, we get our two starters back for next week," he said. "Bradford could be interesting, but I know DuBois will have numbers for sure. They always do."View more articles in: