HERSHEY — If there are lessons to be learned in the sport, wrestling in the Giant Center in Hershey and against Bethlehem Catholic will provide ample opportunities.
Downingtown West’s Max Hale had been in a similar spot earlier this season when he gave up a five-point move to Malvern Prep’s Nick Florschutz in a tight loss.
Thursday, against Beca’s Joe Kurtz, Hale found himself on the wrong side of another five-point move, but this one happened in the first period, giving the talented sophomore plenty of time to respond.
Hale outscored Kurtz 6-1 the rest of the way, tallying the final takedown as time expired to clinch a 7-6 decision.
It was the highlight of the dual meet in which the Golden Hawks taught West plenty of lessons on Pennsylvania wrestling’s biggest stage, by a score of 46-12.
“I think in the end it’s getting me ready for when I’m here for individual (states),” Hale said. “I plan on placing this year and getting matches where I go down early and come back helps get me to my goals this year.”
West will face Cumberland Valley at 10 am, Friday, in the first round of consolations.
The Whippets hope getting the first competition under the bright lights out of the way will help as they try to survive in the loser’s bracket.
West went 4-3 in bouts decided by decision, but all of them were worth the battle.
“Close losses are great,” West coach Brad Breese said. “A close loss is way better than a blowout win. It gets them out of their comfort zone and makes them do things the right way that they need to do. We try to replicate that in the wrestling room, but wrestling each other every day, they know each other so well, it isn’t the same. These matches that make them readjust and do everything right are great opportunities.”
West got its only lead of the night when Jesse Cook (285 pounds), won 2-1 in the opener.
“We just wanted to wrestle the best we could against Bethlehem Catholic,” Cook said. “It was great being in this arena for the first time of hopefully two trips.”
Three bouts later Doug Zapf (120) squeaked out a 3-1 decision against Matt Lackman’s who’s length and funkiness repeatedly denied nice shots by the returning state champion.
At 152, Gavin Hale couldn’t escape the grasp of Luca Frinzi, who lost to Conestoga’s Eric Hutchinson last year in the blood round of states, and Frinzi walked away a 2-1 winner.
Pat Cusack (160) scored the first takedown but couldn’t muster the last against Henry Pavis in a 6-4 loss.
“We had a couple battles we knew could be tight and they were tight,” Breese said. “I’m not disappointed. We wrestled pretty well. We didn’t come out scared and when we got a little more comfortable we wrestled a little better. If we could’ve had that intensity from the beginning we could’ve changed those three (losses by decision), maybe. It was a good springboard for us and we won’t face a tougher team than this.”
Max Hale (170) finally connected on a shot and scored a takedown midway through the second period. While on top, Kurtz called for his second injury time, allowing Hale to choose the bottom position. He escaped and just barely got behind as the buzzer sounded for the winning takedown.
“I felt like every time I tried go for the low single, he collared up with me,” Hale said. “I just had to try and break out of that and keep my space and get close enough to get my shots.”
The following bout fellow sophomore Chase Mielnik (182) found his rhythm in the third, but couldn’t finish a takedown attempt in the final 30 seconds and lost, 6-5.
Chris Madanat (220) capped the scoring for the Whippets with an 8-4 decision in the finale.
“The guys that win for us need to win,” Breese said of the matchup against Cumberland Valley. “I think we can come out on the good end, but we need the guys to get the wins.”
Bethlehem Catholic 46, Downingtown West 12
285- Cook (DW) dec. Crouse, 2-1 (0-3)
106- N. Lackman (BC) pinned Niemeyer, 1:34 (6-3)
113- Murphy (BC) tech. fall Cardi, 4:32 (11-3)
120- Zapf (DW) dec. M. Lackman, 3-1 (11-6)
126- Herrmann (BC) tech. fall Byers, 4:13 (16-6)
132- Papcsy (BC) tech. fall Hanak, 5:01 (21-6)
138- Anderson (BC) pinned N. Lilley, 1:43 (27-6)
145- Handlovic (BC) won by forfeit (33-6)
152- Frinzi (BC) dec. G. Hale, 2-1 (36-6)
160- Pavis (BC) dec. Cusack, 6-4 (39-6)
170- M. Hale (DW) dec. Kurtz, 7-6 (39-9)
182- Banks (BC) dec. Mielnik, 6-5 (42-9)
195- Spezza (BC) maj. dec. Shafer, 21-10 (46-9)
220- Madanat (DW) dec. Bozzi, 8-4 (46-12)
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