CANTON - Canton had three opportunities in the first four bouts Tuesday night to win in the final minute. The Warriors failed to win any of the bouts. Trailing by 15 wasn't an insurmountable deficit, but against one of the few teams which could match Canton in the upperweights, the writing was on the wall.
Wyalusing won three of the first four bouts against the Warriors by two points or less, and third-ranked 220-pounder Dylan Otis beat second-ranked 195-pounder Garrett Wesneski in overtime as the Rams won a matchup of Northern Tier League unbeatens, 39-21.
The Rams moved to 3-0 in the Northern Tier League with key matches against defending league champion Williamson and archrival Towanda next week.
Warriors head coach Lyle Wesneski had put the onus on his lightweight wrestlers to pick up crucial toss-up bouts last night. He knew it was going to be difficult to count on the likes of Connor Route, Garrett Wesneski and Brady Bryington to pick up bonus points against some of Wyalusing's state tournament-worthy heavyweights.
And with 182-pounder Tyler Cole out with a knee injury, it was another heavyweight hammer the Warriors were missing in a key NTL matchup.
But Canton lost by two points in the opening bout at 126 pounds. It lost by two points on a takedown with 18 seconds to go at 138 pounds, and it lost by a point at 145. Four bouts into the match, Lyle Wesneski's team had already lost three of the four bouts he knew they had to win.
"We had four key bouts we had to win tonight. We lost all four. That was the difference in the match," Lyle Wesneski said. "We didn't execute when we had to. But the good thing is now we know what we need to get better on."
At 126, Canton's Gabe Barnett cut Wyalusing's Charles Stretch with 45 seconds to go giving the Ram a two-point lead. Barnett, who has just three wins this year, couldn't score a takedown to tie.
Brendan Cohick recorded an escape with 34 seconds to go in his bout with Ryan Force at 138 pounds, but was taken down 16 seconds later breaking a deadlocked score. And Travis Butcher, needing a takedown over the final 1:15 of his 145-pound bout with 17-win Justin Haley continually pushed the pace, but couldn't get deep on Haley's legs for the needed takedown.
Down 15-0 just four bouts in definitely doesn't sound insurmountable, but it might as well have been Mount Everest for Canton.
"We thought 26 would be a good match. Charlie Stretch got the job done for us and that set the tone," Wyalusing head coach Gary Haley said. "We knew 38 was big and we got a win there. At 45 Butcher wrestled hard and we still managed to get a close win. We've been emphasizing know where they're at, knowing what the score is, knowing the situation and knowing what they need to do to get a takedown and get the win. I think this is a step in the right direction."
Back-to-back three-point wins for Canton's Bryce Cole and Spencer Castle did little to break into Wyalusing's win. Regional qualifier Connor Route managed just a decision at 195 pounds. Wesneski, a returning state eighth-place finisher, dropped his overtime decision to Otis, a returning state qualifier. And Brady Bryington, who already has more wins than he had all last year, was pinned by Dalton Chilson.
The bonus points Canton has become accustomed to from 160 pounds through heavyweight just weren't there to be had last night. After averaging 11.3 bonus points from 160-285 through the first 14 matches, the Warriors earned just three bonus points in that span last night, and that came from a forfeit to John Bowman at 182.
"We knew with their big guys, those matches could all go either way," Lyle Wesneski said.
"Dylan at 220, he's our hammer up top," Haley said. "We felt like we were capable of winning through there - not so much at 195. But we thought Otis could win, and we thought Chilson could win. We knew Wesneski and Otis was a toss-up and we had to wrestle smart and not make mistakes."
That's exactly how Otis was able to top the No. 2 195-pounder in the state. He was opportunistic with his offense, getting a single leg, taking his time to elevate it, and eventually driving Wesneski to the mat in the second period for a 4-2 lead.
Wesneski, in turn, was very patient in the third period as every movement he made from the bottom position seemed to set up one big move. He eventually got Otis out of position and scored a reversal with 33 seconds to go to tie the score.
He latched on to the leg of Otis is a less-than-advantageous position in the final 15 seconds to force overtime. But Wesneski took an ill-advised shot in the third period and wound up stretched out underneath a wrestler he was giving up 25 pounds to. Otis sprawled on the shot, and spun behind for the winning takedown.
"Our goal was lots of motion, level change and try to get him off-balance and create angles," Lyle Wesneski said. "We knew we didn't want to get underneath him. There in overtime (Garrett) made a mistake and got extended underneath him. Against guys his size, he might have gotten away with it. But when you're giving up 25 pounds, you have to get an angle."
106: Dennis Route, C, pinned Jacob Sandfort, 2:46. 113: Josh Haley, W, won by forfeit. 120: Tracey Brown, W, dec. Ethan Landis, 5-0. 126: Charles Stretch, W, dec. Gabe Barnett, 5-3. 132: Collin Edsell, W, pinned Brett Wesneski, 1:09. 138: Ryan Force, W, dec. Brendan Cohick, 6-4. 145: Justin Haley, W, dec. Travis Butcher, 6-5. 152: Bryce Cole, C, dec. Austin Shaffer, 7-4. 160: Spencer Castle, C, dec. Ryan Kipp, 6-3. 170 Justin Griffith, W, pinned Robert Bonnell, 1:04. 182: John Bowman, C, won by forfeit. 195: Connor Route, C, dec. Warner Mendoza, 5-0. 220: Dylan Otis, W, dec. Garrett Wesneski, 6-4, sv. 285: Dalton Chilson, W, pinned Brady Bryington, 4:21.
*Match started at 126 pounds
Takedowns: Wyalusing 14, Canton 10.
Official: Ken Haggarty.
Records: Canton (9-6, 4-1 NTL); Wyalusing (9-3, 3-0 NTL).