WHITEHALL The last thread of hope Hughesville was hanging on to quickly began to disappear Monday night, and in shocking fashion, too. Kyle Barnes wasn't just being beaten by a wrestler who has never qualified for the state tournament, but he was being beaten quite handily by Saucon Valley's Travis Buddock. It was a microcosm of the Spartans' night, where nothing seemed to go their way after winning the coin flip.
Saucon Valley won a pair of crucial toss-up bouts to start the match and cruised to a 51-16 win over the Spartans in a PIAA Preliminary Round match at Whitehall High School. Saucon Valley, the District 11 runner-up, advances to the state tournament in Hershey on Thursday where it will wrestle District 10 champion Reynolds.
This was the second time in four years Saucon Valley has beaten a District 4 team in the preliminary round of the PIAA Duals tournament. In 2010 the Panthers beat Muncy, 33-28.
Hughesville had just gained back some momentum when Dakota Nixon earned a pin in the final 30 seconds at 145 pounds. But all that momentum and energy the sophomore gained seemed to be sucked out of the Spartans when their emotional leader and leader on the mat struggled with Buddock, Saucon Valley's senior 152-pounder who is ranked ninth in the state by papowerwrestling.com.
And not only did Buddock defeat the returning state runner-up, he won 14-5 for a major decision. It was also the 100th win of Buddock's career, a career in which he has qualified for the Southeast Regional tournament just once and finished fifth in the District 11 tournament a year ago.
"I was a little nervous at first because I heard how good he was, but I just went out there and wrestled my hardest," Buddock said. "I just wanted to win, but the 100th win was definitely nice."
Buddock went right after Barnes to start and they both got rolling around, fighting out of scrambles near the edge of the circle. Barnes seemed to settle down the bout when he scored the first takedown 37 seconds in, but he gave up an unsportsmanlike point and an escape to tie the score.
And with under 20 seconds to go, Buddock hit a lateral drop for a four-point move to give him a 6-2 lead after one period. A partisan crowd favoring Buddock and Saucon Valley got ear-piercingly loud as the two prepared for the second period.
"He's a very talented kid. Very funky. Very long," Hughesville coach Steve Budman said of Buddock.
"When you're battling a kid like (Barnes), the longer you stay with him, the more confidence you build," said Saucon Valley head coach Chad Shirk, a Middleburg graduate. "I could see Travis start to get more confidence. Then he got that lateral drop with some back points and he kept going and got more momentum as it went on. He knew he could stay with him."
Buddock hit Peterson for a five-point move in the second period to push the lead to 11-2 and hit a cradle for three more in the third. Barnes reversed out of the cradled and caught Buddock on his back with a half-nelson, but only briefly, and not long enough to score back points.
Buddock won 14-5, one of eight bonus-point wins for Saucon Valley in their 10 bout victories. It was also the last gasp Hughesville had in trying to mount a comeback.
"I think if Kyle wrestles that kid 10 times, Kyle beats him nine out of 10. We take the guy down we have him on his back and it looked like a good angle to me and we're not getting any back points," Budman said. "Then it just kind of escalated from there."
"It definitely made me feel better when I jumped ahead a good amount," Buddock said. "I knew I couldn't slack off. But I knew if something did happen, I could stay calm because I did have the lead."
The loss for Barnes, just his second of the year and third in the last two years, came as Hughesville looked to be building some momentum after Nixon's fall. The Spartans just couldn't seem to find the breaks early. Jacoby Foresman (285 pounds), Trevor Sones (113) and Zach Fry (126) all had their opponents on their back during their bouts, but neither could finish off the fall.
Foresman, in a crucial toss-up bout to start the match, ended up losing 11-2. Sones still won by major decision, but just ran out of time at the end of the bout to get the fall. And Fry won by decision.
Of Hughesville's four wins last night, only Sones' and Nixon's picked up bonus points.
"I think it would have made a difference," Nixon said. "All their kids were big and strong and they were good fighters."
"One of the first things I said at 113 and 126 was they saved use a win because they didn't give up bonus points and they battled," Shirk said. "I was really proud with the effort from our kids."
Budman and Nixon took the loss in stride. They both called it a learning experience. With the individual postseason less than two weeks away, they both said it was a positive to see such tough competition.
Also, for a Hughesville team which was the 12th seed in the District 4 tournament before finishing third, it was an accomplishment just in qualifying for the state tournament for the first time, especially with just two seniors in the lineup.
"I think it's frustrating because we got beat by so much, but it's really building for next year," Nixon said. "It really was a good season. Usually giving up two forfeits you're not going to do too much, but we shuffled things around to cover it and really had a good season."
"We're in the state tournament. I think it's always a good thing to experience it and say you know what, they really weren't that tough," Budman said. "They were the second place District 11 team, and even though we got whacked, we can handle it."
106: Jack Hill, S, tech. fall Jacob Snyder, 17-2, 3:21. 113: Trevor Sones, H, maj. dec. Ty Drukenmiler, 11-1. 120: Bryan Israel, SV, pinned Matt Heinreich, 2:29. 126: Zach Fry, H, dec. Tyler Harka, 7-2. 132: Will Jusino, SV, pinned Houston Bryant, 2:43. 138: Brody Bisson, SV, pinned Eric Hiller, 1:36. 145: Dakota Nixon, H, pinned Nathan Harka, 5:31. 152: Travis Buddock, SV, maj. dec. Kyle Barnes, 14-5. 160: Matt Herr, H, dec. Jason Lynch, 6-0. 170: Sam Dickey, SV, dec. Robert White, 7-2. 182: Tyler Kehs, SV, won by forfeit. 195: Justin Blobe, SV, pinned Dakota Gee, 1:58. 220: Ray O'Donnell, SV, won by forfeit. 285: Matt Ehritz, SV, dec. Jacoby Foresman, 11-9.
*Match started at 220 pounds
Takedowns: Saucon Valley 16, Hughesville 7.
Records: Saucon Valley (17-2); Hughesville (14-11).