Devin Stahlnecker acknowledged his win Thursday night was crucial. The Hughesville junior had never in his career had a win matching the quality of his overtime victory over Warrior Run's Brian LeBarron.
Yes, it was a win over a previously unbeaten wrestler ranked 12th in the state. Stahlnecker, though, put the win in its proper place in the grand scheme of his season quite quickly Thursday night.
"You have to beat the good kids to get your name out there, but that doesn't really matter," he said following Hughesville's impressive 36-24 win over Warrior Run. "You just have to keep working and working through the postseason and keep working hard."
Devin Stahlnecker of Hughesville is 12-1 so far this season.
Stahlnecker's success this year for Hughesville - he's now 12-1 - has been a year in the making. Through his first two years on the varsity team, he's been a solid wrestler on the verge of being a dependable winner. But he's reinvented himself in the last year.
He's not just a dependable wrestler, he's become a hammer in the lineup who has to get serious consideration as a potential state qualifier when the postseason begins in just a few short weeks. Stahlnecker spent his offseason working out at the Bison Legend Wrestling Club at Bucknell University, which has drawn in some of District 4's top talent.
"I have a lot more confidence than I did last year, mainly because I've been training down at Bucknell," Stahlnecker said. "I hadn't done that before. I felt like I loved wrestling and I needed to keep doing it because I was pretty good at it and I felt like I had the potential."
The junior looks like an entirely different wrestler when he steps on the line. There's confidence in every move he makes. Every movement is calculated and serving a purpose. And when it came to overtime Thursday night against LeBarron, there was no hesitation in Stahlnecker in creating his offense to get the winning takedown.
It's part of what he's learned since joining the Bison Legend club. Stahlnecker noticed the difference in his wrestling early in the season when he was able to roll around with Hughesville state qualifier Zach Fry in the practice room and hold his own.
It wasn't until earlier this week Hughesville head coach Steve Budman noticed just what Stahlnecker's extra work had produced. He saw a better wrestler on the mat, one who has recorded eight of his 12 wins by fall this year. But as Budman was doing some paperwork, he realized Stahlnecker has just the one loss this year.
The work Stahlnecker put in during the offseason is transferring to the mat. He saw it Tuesday as the 126-pounder when six good minutes against Mifflinburg's former regional fourth-place finisher Noah Kuba and pulled out a 2-1 win.
"Devin going three periods of good, solid wrestling and beating a good kid, and then seeing it again (Thursday) is big," Budman said. "He's finding a way to win the close ones. He's not going to pin guys when he gets to districts and regionals. You see the work is paying off."
Stahlnecker's time with the Bison Legend club hasn't just been insightful for him as a wrestler. Budman has gone into the practice room to watch Stahlnecker participate with the club. He watched a wrestler moving around the mat freely, not thinking about anything and reacting the the situations put in front of him.
It was an atmosphere where Stahlnecker was wrestling with no pressure. Budman has transferred that into his own practice room and in dual meets. He says nothing to Stahlnecker as he's getting wrestle, only asking him if he's ready to go.
He scored the first takedown against LeBarron on Thursday night, the move he needed to give him the confidence to win the match. He had lost to LeBarron a year ago, 10-2. And as he locked up around LeBarron's waist in overtime, he was able to bring the Warrior Run senior to the mat for a decisive takedown.
Realizing the impact of his win, for both himself and the Spartans, Stahlnecker raised both arms in the air as he stood waiting to shake LeBarron's hand. He gave a ferocious fist pump as he walked back to his teammates.
Call it his 'Hello, world' moment, the convergence of natural talent, hard work and dedication to get better.
"What has come from it is he's very comfortable out there," Budman said. "It takes his mind out of it and he just wrestles. He's very talented."
DAYS IN THE MAKING
Lyle Wesneski knew leading up to Tuesday's dual meet against Wyalusing that he was going to do everything in his power to match up his son, Garrett, a returning state eight-place finisher, with the Rams' Dylan Otis, a returning state qualifier. For the Canton senior, this was a test that was desperately needed, and Lyle Wesneski knew as much.
And to be honest, the matchup would likely give the Warriors their best shot at winning the dual meet. The second-year head coach knew he could count on Connor Route to win at 195 pounds, but Garrett Wesneski represented the Warriors' best shot of knocking off Otis, ranked third in the state at 220 pounds.
"I knew I was going to match Garrett and Dylan up," Lyle Wesneski said afterward. "Both of them needed that, especially with the postseason rolling around. It was good for both of them and it was great for wrestling, too."
Fans were treated to one of the best matchups District 4 may see all year. Wesneski entered as the second-ranked 195-pounder in the state, and Otis was third at 220.
For Wesneski, it was a vital match to his season. He's wrestled just two other matches which went a full 6 minutes this year, and only one of them was decided by decision. A year ago he entered the District 4 tournament unbeaten and lost a close match in the semifinals. He then lost in the semifinals at regionals before coming back to place third and qualify for the state tournament.
Lyle Wesneski said a loss Tuesday wasn't a bad thing, not against quality competition the likes of Otis.
"He got slapped around a bit last year and all of a sudden it came together for him," Lyle Wesneski said. "I knew I was going to do this all week long. And for us to have a chance to win, we had to."
OF THE WEEK
Brian Friery, Lewisburg, 106 pounds
The No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state at 106 pounds do what second-ranked wrestlers do, winning all six of his matches this week by fall. He went 5-0 at the Line Mountain Duals, with only two of his five wins making it to the second period. He followed it with a first-period fall Thursday against Danville. Friery, a returning state qualifier, is now 18-0 with 12 of his wins coming by fall, and he's the hammer in a Lewisburg lineup as the Green Dragons fight for a potential top-three seed in the District 4 Duals tournament.
OF THE WEEK
Jersey Shore at Hughesville,
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Maybe the best venue in District 4 when it's rocking for a dual-meet will host what should be a great match. Jersey Shore should get its first true test today when it hosts its annual dual-meet tournament. It'll get its toughest test in the Heartland Conference to date with this match. Hughesville is still going to be fighting for seeding in the District 4 Duals standings, while Jersey Shore can enhance itself as the favorite to win the Class AAA district duals tournament.
Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.