And they're off: Punxsy outduels M.C. on the mats

PUNXSUTAWNEY — In the season-opening dual meet for the Punxsy varsity wrestling team, the Chucks jumped out to an early 30-0 lead and cruised to a 66-9 victory over the Marion Center Stingers Wednesday night in Punxsutawney.

"Tonight was kind of what we expected," Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy said after the match. "We had to bump some of our guys around tonight, because I wanted to get all the seniors an opportunity to wrestle tonight — and we did that for the most part, except Seth Spack didn't get a chance to wrestle. They have some young kids at the varsity level, so it went about how we expected."

A large part of Marion Center's problem was their numbers, as the Stingers had only seven wrestlers available and were forced to forfeit several matches.

"Marion Center has some good coaching, and they have everything it takes to make a good program," Eddy said. "It's just a matter of getting the kids to stay on up through the program and fill the spots. We've been there before, too. When (assistant coach) Buddy (Young) and I started coaching together 10 years ago, we'd go to matches and give up 36 points in forfeits, and we'd lost before we ever even took the mat. So, we understand their dilemma, and we certainly feel for them."

The evening started with three quick victories on the mat for the Chucks.

The first match was in the 182-pound weight class, where Carl Langley put the Chucks ahead for good with a pin over Kyle McCullough.

The match started out pretty evenly matched, but Langley forced McCullough to the mat with a takedown and earned the pin-fall just 1:32 into the match.

Josh Neal faced Colin Rudd next in the 195-pound class, and wasted no time pinning him in just 17 seconds to move the Chucks advantage to 12-0.

In the next match, Punxsy's Tyler Titus threw around his opponent and nearly bested Neal's time, earning a victory by pin in 26 seconds to give the Chucks a 18-0 advantage.

The match then shifted to the lightweights, an area in which Marion Center's squad was quite depleted, and Andrew Bullers and Joel Bowers earned victories by forfeit in the 106- and 113-pound weight classes, respectively.

The 120-pound class was the most competitive match of the evening, and the only one that lasted the duration with Marion Center's Isaac Stewart edging out Matt Burke 10-8 in sudden death extra time to give his squad its first points.

The contest started out with a quick takedown by Burke to give him a 2-0 edge, but Stewart quickly escaped.

Burke earned another takedown to take a 4-1 advantage, but a late first-period reversal and an early second-period point tied the match.

The two were tied at six after two periods and eight after the third period, forcing the sudden death, where Stewart quickly earned the takedown and three points for the Stingers.

Brandon Heberling finished Marion Center's scoring in the 126-pound bout when he earned a hard-fought pin over Punxsy's Dylan Snyder 1:30 into the second period.

Heberling controlled the match from the start after earning two early points for a takedown. Snyder battled back and fought to earn an escape but was unable to and Heberling added three points for a five-count before the first period expired.

Snyder battled throughout the second period, as well, but Heberling proved to be too much, pinning him to make the score 30-9.

"We weren't surprised by those matches," Eddy said. "Our kids have worked with some of those Marion Center guys before, so we knew what was coming. We would have liked to see them go the other way, but we weren't really disappointed."

Punxsy's Josh Shuckers earned Punxsy's next victory via forfeit in the 132-pound weight class before Punxsy's Neko Cappella defeated Chad Repik via pin 1:29 into the match.

Cappella took Repik down early in the match, allowed him back to position, completed another takedown and then earned a five-count to lead 7-0 before pinning him.

After Cappella's pin, the Chucks were ahead 42-9 with just one represented weight-class remaining.

In the 145-pound class, Punxsy's Perry Arrington had two takedowns to jump to a 4-0 lead before pinning Marion Center's Colin Butterworth.

After forfeit wins for Punxsy's Caesar Maruca and Seth Spack, the final score was set at 66-9.

"That was about all we could hope for tonight was a good showing," Eddy said. "We weren't unhappy with what we saw tonight, but on the other hand, we didn't get to see everybody, either."

One of the benefits for Eddy's squad was having the opportunity to see his wrestlers facing off against outside opponents.

"It was nice to get a match in," Eddy said. "We've been practicing hard for three weeks now with no outlet, really. So hopefully, we're able to carry it through. We wanted to work on some things we've been doing wrong in practice. We tried to let kids back on their bellies to work on some of those things we've been working on that are new, and we definitely accomplished some of those things."

Eddy said that after putting the Marion Center match in the books, the next step was to begin preparations for long-time rival Clearfield, which Punxsy will host next Wednesday.

"Now we go against Clearfield next week," he said. "They lost big to DuBois last week, but that's irrelevant, because no matter how they've been wrestling, they come out guns a-blazing for us. It's kind of like fighting your big brother. They've been winning titles since the 30's, 40's and 50's, back when Punxsy didn't even have a team. We make small strides every year to catch up with them, but they do everything in their power to keep that from happening, too."

In a way, Eddy showed Clearfield's program respect by saying Punxsy would like to model and emulate it, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to beat them, either.

"When you wrestle Clearfield, you wrestle tradition," he said. "Their dads wrestled, their grandpas wrestled, and their older brothers have wrestled. So, they're getting coached not only on the mat, but at home, too. We don't have a whole lot of that yet. Matt Burke is the third wrestler we've coached whose dad was a high school wrestler. That's what we're trying to build here."

Eddy also noted that familiar faces in the stands Wednesday night showed the beginnings of such a pattern.

"We had a lot of former wrestlers and former parents in the stands tonight," he said. "That shows that they feel connected to the program, so that was nice to see."