HUGHESVILLE - The noise built as a crescendo, starting when Hughesville's Kyle Barnes made his way to the scorer's table and increasing more and more as Benton's Colt Cotten emerged from the Tigers' bench.
With Benton having already secured an eventual 46-27 dual-meet win over the Spartans on Thursday night, the crowd noise echoed off the walls of the gymnasium as Barnes, a returning state runner-up, and Cotten, a three-time state placewinner, stepped on their respective lines in the middle of the mat. The noise was deafening. The excitement had reached a state championship match level.
And the two seniors didn't disappoint the elbow-to-elbow crowd. Barnes picked up maybe the biggest win of his career, beating Cotten, 2-1, with a third-period reversal. Barnes fought off a last-second reversal attempt from Cotten to move to 4-0 this year. Cotten fell to 6-3.
By the time the final horn sounded, it was inaudible with the roar of the fans which engulfed the gymnasium.
"I'm really happy they wrestled," Hughesville head coach Steve Budman said. "Those two have grown up together on opposite sides and for those two to meet up here as seniors on that show for everybody here was great."
Barnes and Cotten showed why they're expected to contend for state titles this year with brilliant scrambles which saw each wrestler get out of at least one precocious situation. Cotten wrestled brilliantly on his feet, staying in good position to avoid getting out-muscled by Barnes, who weighed in 6 pounds heavier than Cotten.
And Barnes showed the tenacity he wrestles with on the final reversal when he had the escape to tie the score, but chose to go for the big move to take the lead. It was six high-tension minutes well worth the price of admission.
"Everyone was excited," Barnes said. "There wasn't one person that wasn't feeling it at that moment, and that really got me going."
"It was good for wrestling," Benton head coach Russ Hughes said. "I wish more coaches would allow that stuff to happen. It's not about coaches' wins or dual meets, it's for the fans."
After a scoreless first period, Cotten took a 1-0 lead in the second with an escape 10 seconds into the period. He carried that lead into the third period and controlled Barnes for the better part of a minute.
Barnes finally caught Cotten riding too high, and as Cotten bailed to give up the escape, Barnes latched on to Cotten's right ankle. Cotten hopped toward the edge of the circle and sprawled out of bounds to prevent Barnes from wrapping up both ankles for a reverse. Barnes patiently pulled Cotten back in bounds and wrapped both legs up for the reversal with 1:05 to go.
"I knew he couldn't do too much crazy stuff so it doesn't look like he's crawling out of bounds," Barnes said. "So I took my time, gained my composure and made sure to keep everything in bounds."
Cotten got squared up with Barnes with under 30 seconds to go, but Barnes was able to keep hold of one of Cotten's legs to avoid the reversal. As time expired in the third period, Cotten was out to the side, but just couldn't quite hook one of Barnes' legs with his own to finish the reversal.
Barnes got to his feet and gave a little fist pump as he walked toward the center of the mat.
"I could see the clock between my legs and I was just hoping that the red didn't give him two," Barnes said. "A lot of people know Cotten. He's a well-known wrestler and not just in the state of Pennsylvania. It's nice having a win over a kid like that."
"I'm not displeased with his performance, I'm actually quite surprised with some of the things he did, which is good," Hughes said of Cotten bumping up a weight class to wrestle Barnes. "Early in the season this makes you humble. If anything is hurt right now, it might be his pride a little bit, but we'll get over that."
Benton took control of the dual meet thanks to big falls from freshmen Alan Diltz at 106 pounds and Ronald Flick at 132 pounds. With the exception of two forfeit wins for Hughesville at 113 and 120 pounds, Benton ran the table from 106 to 145 with all five wins coming by fall.
The Spartans won just four bouts on the mat - decisions for Barnes, Dakota Nixon and Robert White, and a fall for Jacoby Foresman.
106: Alan Diltz, B, pinned Jake Snyder, 1:53. 113: Trevor Sones, H, won by forfeit. 120: Zach Fry, H, won by forfeit. 126: Matt Welliver, B, pinned Devin Stahlnecker, 1:35. 132: Ronald Flick, B, pinned Ethan Swartz, 3:42. 138: Zain Retherford, B, pinned Eric Hiller, 1:08. 145: Russell Ramsey, B, pinned Colten Kepner, 3:10. 152: Kyle Barnes, H, dec. Colt Cotten, 2-1. 160: Dakota Nixon, H, dec. Dominic Vitale, 2-1. 170: Jeric Kasunic, B, maj. dec. Matt Herr, 10-1. 182: Robert White, H, dec. Brad Miccio, 8-4. 195: Logan Womelsdorf, B, won by forfeit. 220: Jacoby Foresman, H, pinned Luke Bogart, 1:53. 285: Anthony Davis, B, won by forfeit.
*Match started at 170 pounds
Takedowns: Benton 11, Hughesville 9. Official: Joe Cesari. Records: Benton (2-0); Hughesville (0-1).