PUNXSUTAWNEY — It was Senior Night on the mats at the PAHS gymnasium for the Chucks wrestling team, which took on Bradford Tuesday night, and despite a small Bradford squad, Punxsy was able to match each senior with an opponent and come out victorious, 54-15, over the Owls.
"The kids wrestled really well tonight," Punxsy coach Eric Eddy said after the match. "Each senior was able to get a match in, and it was good to pick up the win on Senior Night."
After the seniors were recognized in a ceremony prior to warmups, the match got underway at 170 pounds, where Punxsy senior Carl Langley was the first to answer the call for the Chucks against Bradford's Dylan Lamberson.
In the first period, Langley earned a quick takedown, but couldn't quite maneuver Lamberson to his back. Before the period ended, Lamberson tied it up with a reversal, and the two entered the second period knotted at two.
The second period went scoreless, and in the third period, it looked as if Langley would cruise to a 5-2 decision after an escape and a takedown. But with just seconds left, he spun Lamberson to his back and picked up a pin with just three seconds remaining on the final-quarter clock.
"Carl did really well and stayed patient," Eddy said. "His patience earned him a pin for us right at the end. That's one of those things where he did exactly what he needed to do."
With no match at 182, the 6-0 Punxsy lead that Langley's pin gave the Chucks remained the score entering the 195-pound bout between Punxsy's second senior to take the mat, Josh Neal.
Neal faced off against Kyle Langdon, and Langdon opened the first period with a quick takedown and was able to flip Neal to his shoulders.
Neal fought him off to avoid the pin and eventually picked up a point for an escape, but Langdon was awarded three back points during the maneuver to take a 5-1 lead into the second period.
In the second, Langdon started down, but quickly escaped and picked up a takedown later in the period to lead 8-1 after two.
With Neal starting down in the final period, Langdon performed what Eddy said was an illegal move to get Neal into a pin position and end the match.
"The suplex that ended it there was illegal," Eddy said. "Any time you remove a man from the mat, you have to return him safely, and he didn't do that. Your hips have to start moving toward the mat. I'm not unhappy with the wrestler, but I am unhappy with the no-call. The wrestler was just doing what he's taught to do, to wrestle, with no malice intended.
"But the match should have been stopped right there, a point awarded to us for an illegal maneuver. Then, we should have had a chance to evaluate Josh's condition. Luckily, he came out of it unscathed, but that's when things get scary."
Punxsy's third senior, Tyler Titus, took to the mat next at 220 pounds against the Owls' Zach Zawatski and earned a 5-3 decision in the end.
Titus came out aggressively, picking up a quick takedown in the first, but Zawatski escaped before the end of the period to pull back within one, 2-1, entering the second.
Titus started down and earned an escape and a takedown to move the lead to 5-1, which would prove to be the difference in the match.
Zawatski scored twice more on escapes, once in the second and once in the third, but that's where the scoring stopped and Titus held on for the decision to give Punxsy a 9-6 team lead.
With no Punxsy heavyweight, the Owls briefly took their only lead of the match when Bryce Whitman picked up a win via forfeit at 285.
But Punxsy claimed the next four weight classes via forfeit with Andrew Bullers (106 pounds), Joel Bowers (113), Devan Snyder (120) and Josh Schuckers (126) all grabbing six points just by taking the mat, setting the score at 33-12 going into the 132-pound match.
At 132, Punxsy senior Neko Cappella faced off against Zach Britton. Eddy knew Britton would be a challenge, but he also said Neko's come a long way since the beginning of this season.
"We knew the Britton-Cappella match was going to be tough for us, but I think at the beginning of the year, that match wasn't even that close," Eddy said. "I think Neko's really closed the gap a lot."
The two combatants battled through the first two periods scoreless, and at the beginning of the third period, Punxsy decided to take a chance by starting the period neutral and surrendering a point to Britton.
Britton was able to avoid allowing Cappella to score, despite many attacks by Cappella, earning a 1-0 decision in the closely-contested bout.
"We took a calculated gamble there at the end, cutting him and giving us some time to shoot," Eddy said. "Neko took a lot of shots in the third and just wasn't able to secure a takedown. But he also didn't give up any points in the entire match, so that was good to see."
Eddy also noted Cappella had a good chance to escape and change the entire outlook of the match in the second period, but things just didn't work out his way.
"In the second, he had a wonderful chance to escape, where he needed to belly down and try to escape," Eddy said. "If that would have been the case, we would try to ride their guy in the third period with a 1-0 lead. But that changed the complexion of the match."
Punxsy still led 33-15 after the 132-pound match, though, and after two more forfeits by the Owls, one for Perry Arrington at 138 and one for Caesar Maruca at 145, the Chucks' lead was extended to 45-15.
Punxsy's final senior took to the mat at 160 pounds in Seth Spack against Ryan Van Guilder.
The first period went scoreless between the two foes,and in the second, it appeared as if it would be more of the same, but Spack picked up two last-second points for a reversal after being down the entire period.
Van Guilder started down in the third, and Spack managed to put him in a compromising position and pick up three back points.
But Spack was unable to force his shoulders to the mat for six points, as Van Guilder fought for the majority of the final period to keep his shoulders off the mat.
Still, Spack earned a victory and three points for his team with his 5-0 decision.
With the match in the bag, Punxsy's only non-senior to compete in the match, Tanner James, met Bradford's Dustin Coles.
James quickly took control of the match with a takedown, and in 43 seconds, the match was over as James forced Coles' shoulders to the ground to end the bout with the final score 54-15.
"Tanner James bumped up to 160 to wrestle their guy who had bumped up, because Bradford and I wanted to see Van Guilder and Spack," Eddy said. "Van Guilder's still not sure where he'll wrestle at districts, so we were glad to see that matchup tonight."
Titus picked up a second win on the evening in an exhibition match against Whitman, who had earned the heavyweight forfeit, and Titus proved to be up to that challenge, as well, pinning Whitman at 1:12 of the first period.
Overall, Eddy was very pleased with his team's performance Tuesday night.
"I'm really happy with the way they wrestled tonight, and I'm really glad to see more and more of what we've been seeing in the room (at practice) taking place on these mats."
Punxsy will close its regular season with one last home match, Thursday against the DuBois Beavers before beginning preparations for individual Districts Feb. 25 in Clarion.