MIFFLINBURG - Eric Hunt had to cut weight to wrestle at 113 pounds Wednesday night. It's quite a change from a year ago for the Warrior Run sophomore who was undersized, even at 106 pounds.
But with his weight now where he wants it, Hunt can focus on just wrestling. Last night against Mifflinburg, his skill on the mat was on display.
Hunt scored three points in the final minute to beat returning regional fourth-place finisher Noah Kuba and help Warrior Run to a huge statement win, 40-28, over the Wildcats.
"It is one sweet, sweet victory," Hunt said. "Our next one on the list is Central. That's one we're really looking forward to."
The Defenders were a bit of an afterthought as a dual-meet team a year ago until late in the season when it was obvious they were going to challenge the likes of a Central Columbia, Mifflinburg or Wyalusing for a District 4 Duals title. Wednesday night's win on the road won't allow Warrior Run to sneak up on anybody this year.
Warrior Run won eight matches last night with six scoring bonus points. And the balance of the Defenders' lineup never let the Wildcats get on a roll. Mifflinburg won back-to-back bouts just once.
"We knew they were a real balanced team coming in. We didn't get some of the matchups we wanted to get," Mifflinburg first-year coach Al Fluman said. "We knew it was going to be a tight match. We obviously thought it would be a little tighter than what it ended up. But they got a couple swing matches we knew we needed to get."
One of those swing matches was the 113-pound bout with Kuba and Hunt. Hunt won their matchup a year ago, also 3-2, but was trailing 2-0 into the final minute of the bout. He scored an escape with 53 seconds to go in the third and immediately went after Kuba. He scored a takedown with 40 seconds to go to take a 3-2 lead.
He likely wrestled more than six minutes when the clock didn't start initially on a restart after the takedown and the official didn't notice. The clock didn't start until 15 or 20 seconds after it was supposed to. And it wasn't until there was about 12 seconds left that the scorekeepers tried to get the official's attention that the match was over.
Hunt's 22 wins as a freshman for the Defenders were evidence enough of his capabilities. And it was quite clear that when he grew into his weight, he was going to be dangerous. Last night he was able to showcase his strength and quickness and tremendous physical conditioning to really push the pace until the final horn.
"I knew I was getting out," Hunt said of his third-period escape. "Then my game plan is go, go, go. I don't want to change that."
"He's an aggressive wrestler. When he's attacking, it's a good thing," said Warrior Run head coach Wayne Smythe, who picked up career dual-meet win No. 492. "The match he had (Wednesday) was an excellent match against an excellent wrestler. I was pleased the way he responded to the match. He prepared hard for the match and you can tell he knew he was in for a test and he was prepared for it."
Hunt's win pushed Warrior Run's lead to 15-4 just four bouts into the match. The Defenders led by as many as 14 (21-7) by winning three of the four bouts from 106 to 126. The Defenders nearly won the fourth bout in that stretch when Tyler Hornberger put Cooper Wagner on his back in the final 30 seconds trailing 8-0, but he couldn't secure then fall and lost 8-3.
Mifflinburg won back-to-back bouts at 132 and 138 with returning state bronze medalist Cole Walter and Colton Showers to cut its deficit to 21-19, but it was as close as the Wildcats could get.
Senior Doug McCarty picked up an unexpected major decision victory over Clark Wagner at 145 pounds for Warrior Run, and Nick Rohm and Masen Wagner added back-to-back falls at 160 and 170 to put the dual out of reach.
One of the few bright spots for Mifflinburg last night was senior Ty Walter, a Cornell recruit, picking up his 100th career victory with a fall at 182 pounds.
"We have a fairly balanced team. I think it plays big in a dual-meet setting," Smythe said. "Teams can't dodge you or move kids away from you thinking I'll send my second string guy out and he'll do fine. I don't think there's too many second stringers that will do fine against our first stringers. It really keeps teams honest."
106: Zach LeBarron, W, pinned Patrick Wetzel, 2:53. 113: Eric Hunt, W, dec. Noah Kuba, 3-2. 120: Cooper Wagner, M, dec. Tyler Hornberger, 8-3. 126: Brian LeBarron, W, pinned Logan Stenger, 4:27. 132: Cole Walter, M, pinned Brandon Gannontonio, 3:38. 138: Colton Showers, M, pinned Andrew Walker, 3:31. 145: Doug McCarty, W, maj. dec. Clark Wagner, 10-0. 152: Eric Dock, M, dec. William George, 4-3. 160: Nick Rohm, W, pinned Ryan Gessner, 1:42. 170: Masen Wagner, W, pinned Tyriq Dorman, 2:30. 182: Ty Walter, M, pinned Dan Breech, 3:45. 195: Garrett Moser, W, dec. John Punako, 5-0. 220: Hunter Stroupp, W, pinned Kyle Pletcher, 0:53. 285: Nazar Mironenko, M, maj. dec. Austin Fiedler, 9-1.
*Match started at 220 pounds
Takedowns: Warrior Run 15, Mifflinburg 14.
Official: Jeff Weatherite.
Records: Warrior Run (1-0); Mifflinburg (0-1).