FAIRLESS HILLS – With no wrestler ready to go at 195 pounds, visiting Harry S Truman knew it had to be ahead by at least seven points heading into the last match Wednesday night, Jan. 13 at Pennsbury.
The Tigers did much more than that to ensure victory. Starting with a pin by senior Johnny Joel and finishing off with another win by fall by sophomore Alex Litz, Truman was ahead by 17 points by the time it surrendered six points on a forfeit in the final match.
Winning the last five bouts on the mat, the Tigers registered a 38-27 dual meet triumph, pushing their record to 8-6 overall, 2-2 in the Suburban One National League.
Truman was actually trailing the meet 21-17 after Falcon middleweights Jake Meglich (132) and Justin Braim (138) pinned in their respective matchups.
Joel got the lead right back for the Tigers when he pinned Pennsbury junior Shaun Peel and Truman senior Dustin Stone and Austin Vossbein each earned decision wins, handing the Tigers a 29-21 edge with two bouts to go and the forfeit at 195 pounds.
Next on the mat was senior Quentin Mulbah who was taking on junior Connor Gowton in a 170-pound matchup. After posting a 10-5 lead in the third period, Mulbah had to hold on as Gowton mounted a furious comeback attempt.
“I was just thinking about my team and focusing in on the win,” said Mulbah. “I was a little gassed but I had my team on my back so I just wanted to go out and win for my team.”
“He was banged up coming out of the winter break so we’re trying to keep him healthy,” added Truman head coach Jessie Dunn. “We bumped him up a weight class for that bout and it was a little tighter than we’d like to see it but he was able to get the job done.”
And if that wasn’t enough to excite the fans in the stands at the Falcons Nest, Tigers 182-pounder Alex Litz, a sophomore, was taking on Pennsbury senior Evan Kortick with all the marbles on the line in the final bout.
All Litz had to do was stay off his back to assure a Tigers victory. If Kortick pinned however, Truman could lose the match on criteria. Alex made sure that didn’t happen, pinning the Falcon grappler at the 1:30 mark.
A significant turn of events in the dual meet and for Litz who was pinned in his previous two bouts against SOL opponents including Truman’s previous meet against Council Rock North.
“He’s really stepped up for us this year,” said Dunn, of Alex Litz. “This is his first year riding that varsity spot and he’s light for 170 (pounds) and he’s always willing to bump up for the team.
“He’s capable of pulling out some big wins and he got one for us here tonight.”
According to Mulbah, he and Litz knew the meet depended on the outcome of the final two bouts.
“We’re drill partners and we practice hard every day,” said Mulbah. “We came together as a team because we wanted to come out with a win.”
“The pin by (Litz) was huge for us.”
Truman took an early14-0 lead with a decision win by senior 220-pounder Justin Litz, a forfeit win at heavyweight and a tech-fall by freshman Dan Wright (106). The 9th-grader used just 4:53 in registering an 18-2 victory over Falcon lightweight Nick Visco.
“He’s a freshman and he’s still young but he’s been getting a lot better,” stated Mulbah, of Wright. “He got a big win for us tonight and he’s been a big asset to our team.”
Pennsbury began its comeback bid however with pin wins by sophomore standout Antonio Martoccio and two more by Meglich and Braim. In between, sophomore Mark Hertkorn took a 3-1 lead into the third period, then hung on for a 6-5 victory as he and opponent Ernie Registre exchanged blows over the final 30 second of the bout.
“That was one of our question marks and we were hoping he’d get the win,” said Falcons head coach Phily Kealy. “We needed it and he came out with it; I’m proud of him.”
Lost in the shuffle of the lead change was a 5-0 shutout win by Truman freshman Gunnar Fuss in a 126-pound matchup with Pennsbury senior Connor Joyce, a regional medalist in 2014.
A product of the Truman Rams youth wrestling program, Fuss has hit the ground running. Entering the match at 17-2, the freshman was methodical in this one, earning an early takedown in the first period, an escape in the second and another takedown with 25 seconds remaining in the match for a 5-0 decision.
Fuss has taken the spot in the Tigers’ lineup vacated by 2015 graduate Dylan Nuttall, a state qualifier last year who earned a pair of decision wins over Joyce, the last coming in the SOL final.
“I expected it to be a tight match but I have all the confidence in the world in the kid,” said Coach Dunn, of Fuss’ win over Joyce. “I knew he was capable of it.”
And it was no surprise to Dunn that Joel was the wrestler that got Truman on the road back to victory in this one.
“He’s one of the guys I do rely on for those types of bonus points, case in point – matches like that,” added Dunn.
Missing from the lineup for most of this season, Joel only recently returned in the meet with CR North.
“This is only his third year and this is only his second match of the season but Joel is a phenomenal athlete,” said Dunn. “He’s missed most of the first part of the season and we’re just fortunate to have him for these last few weeks.”
For the home team Pennsbury, the Falcons suffered a huge blow when two-time SOL medalist Alex Cwenar sustained a neck injury in the offseason and three other varsity grapplers from last year’s team chose not to return to the lineup this year.
One of two seniors in the lineup wrestling their first year on varsity, Meglich is still working his way back into the swing of things, says Kealy.
“He’s been out of wrestling for a while so it’s really hard to gauge which guy is going to show up that night. He does have some skill but he’s still working his way back into it.
Meglich won his first two bouts of the season but then dropped five of his next six before pinning Aaron Arena, a JV wrestler working his first varsity match.
Braim has also stepped up, of late. After dropping his first three bouts of the season, he’s won five of his last six including a second-period pin of Truman junior Chris Hall and three additional wins by fall.
Contact the author at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com, or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter
Harry S Truman 38, Pennsbury 27
(Jan. 13 at Pennsbury)
220 — Justin Litz (HST) dec. Scott Diethorne, 10-5
285 — Connor McAdams (HST) won by forfeit
106 — Daniel Wright (HST) won by tech. fall over Nicholas Visco, 4:53 18-2
113 — Antonio Martoccio (P) pinned Ernest Registre, 1:25
120 — Mark Hertkorn (P) dec. Joseph Goldey, 6-5
126 — Gunnar Fuss (HST) dec. Connor Joyce, 5-0
132 — Jacob Meglich (P) pinned Aaron Arena, 1:43
138 — Justin Braim (P) pinned Chris Hall, 2:34
145 — Johnny Joel (HST) pinned Shaun Peel, 1:13
152 — Dustin Stone (HST) dec. Zack Clarke, 7-1
160 — Austin Vossbein (HST) dec. Spencer Hickman, 6-2
170 — Quentin Mulbah (HST) dec. Connor Gowton, 10-8
182 — Alex Litz (HST) pinned Evan Kortick, 1:30
195 — Patrick Chappell (P) won by forfeit