HUGHESVILLE - Steve Budman called Hughesville's 37-26 win over Benton on Wednesday night the ultimate win. It came in the first round of the District 4 Class AA Duals tournament, which alone would have been enough to describe the victory that way.
But it was as much how the Spartans beat the Tigers which made it the ultimate win. Hughesville avenged a three-point December loss to Benton by wrestling with a physical and mental toughness it lacked more than a month ago.
Robert White avenged a loss to Dominic Vitale with a brilliant performance on his feet. Jacoby Foresman scored an 8-second fall as he continues his comeback from an injury. Zach Beamer held the Tigers to just a decision victory at 113 pounds with a smart wrestling performance. And Nate Hampton again came off the bench for a huge major decision win at 138 pounds, sealing the win for the Spartans.
Robert White of Hughesville works the feet of Dom Vitale of Benton in their 170-pound match Wednesday night at Hughesville.
Hughesville, the tournament's sixth seed, advances to face No. 3 Wyalusing in the quarterfinals Saturday at Milton where the top three teams in the tournament will earn a spot in the state tournament. The Spartans beat Wyalusing, 39-28, earlier this month.
"When we went over to Benton, we lost every close match. I said it in my mind at the time that we just weren't tough enough," Budman said. "Sometimes you work hard but you're still going through the motions. With how we have pushed them mentally and physically, they have gotten tougher. That's why in the past 2-1/2 to 3 weeks at the end of the dual meet we're winning matches."
Hughesville has won nine in a row dating back to the Zephyr Duals on Jan. 4. Last night's may have been the most complete performance in the toughest of situations.
Both teams were considered favorites to grab one of the top three spots come Saturday's day-long tournament. But meeting in the first round meant only one of the two teams would get the chance to make that kind of run. Wrestlebacks for third place don't begin until the quarterfinals.
"It's a do or die thing," White said. "We made it through and now we're one step close to getting our goal of going to Hershey."
"I said before the match to Budman that it's not fair to either one of us. But it's just a bad draw," Benton head coach Russ Hughes said. "Could we have won a couple more throughout the year? Absolutely. And I'm sure they could have, too. But if you're going to win district team duals, you've got to be pretty tough and (Hughesville's) pretty tough. They could possibly win the whole district duals. They're going to have to beat Wyalusing and some other tough teams. But they're very balanced and solid and they've come a long way since the first time we wrestled them. They're hitting on all cylinders, and a team like that, District 4 better be ready for them because they're tough."
White's win set the tone for Hughesville for the whole night. It was a match he lost in the two teams' first matchup back in December, despite Vitale giving up 15 pounds. But White has started to find confidence in his wrestling in the last few weeks as he's improved on his feet.
Last night White scored two takedowns and made them stand up for a 5-2 win. The win forced Benton to try and play catchup over the final 12 bouts to make up for the points it had lost from the first match.
It put a wrench into the plans of the Benton coaches, who weighed in their middleweight and upper weight kids heavy in order to move them up one or two weight classes for matchups they wanted.
"I didn't tie up as much as I did last time. I've built more confidence in my shots," White said. "Last time I didn't shoot so much because I was afraid to get in there. But I've been working on my shots a lot more and I have more confidence in there."
"We know it's going to be Vitale and we know it's going to be White," Budman said. "To win that close one, everyone looks around and says here we go."
The match didn't hold many other surprises. Jeric Kasunic bumped up to 182 and won by fall for Benton. Hughesville's Matt Herr remained undefeated this year with a 5-1 win over Brad Miccio. And Benton state qualifier Logan Womelsdorf matches his one-point win over Ethan Barnes from a month ago.
Foresman added another big win at heavyweight for the Spartans, his fifth in his last six matches, and his second fall in a row which took 12 seconds or less. His 8-second fall over Jared Sivco pulled Hughesville to within 15-12.
But then Hughesville started to do its damage even in losses. Beamer held Diltz, a wrestler with 13 of his 18 wins getting bonus points, to just a decision. Then Devin Stahlnecker, who's beaten three state-ranked wrestlers in the last two weeks held talented freshman Anthony Vitale to a decision at 126. Both Vitale and Diltz earned falls in the first matchup.
But Hampton delivered the final blow for the Spartans, picking up his major decision win at 138 pounds. It was Hampton's fourth win in six matches wrestled for the Spartans.
Hampton recorded seven takedowns in the match, hitting his dump to near perfection. His win by fall two weeks ago helped Hughesville beat Warrior Run as well.
"Absolutely huge win. When we lost the coin flip, we looked at each other and said we knew this was a possibility and it's what we have to do," Budman said of putting Hampton in the lineup. "We teach everybody, and it has to be that way in the elementary room, in the junior high room and the senior high room. We have to teach everybody because you never know when they're going to be called upon."
106: Braden Stahlnecker, H, won by forfeit. 113: Alan Diltz, B, dec. Zach Beamer, 8-4#. 120: Michael Stuart, B, pinned Trevor Sones, 1:13. 126: Anthony Vitale, B, dec. Devin Stahlnecker, 5-1. 132: Zach Fry, H, won by forfeit. 138: Nate Hampton, H, maj. dec. Joe Smith, 16-8. 145: Matt Heinreich, H, dec. Ronald Flick, 5-0. 152: Houston Bryant, H, won by forfeit. 160: Jeremy Walsh, B, pinned Adam Warburton, 2:23. 170: Robert White, H, dec. Dominic Vitale, 5-2. 182: Jeric Kasunic, B, pinned Dillon Brown, :55. 195: Matt Herr, H, dec. Brad Miccio, 5-1. 220: Logan Womelsdorf, B, dec. Ethan Barnes, 4-3. 285: Jacoby Foresman, H, pinned Jared Sivco, :08.
#-Benton penalized one team point. *Match started at 160 pounds
Takedowns: Hughesville 15, Benton 10. Official: Jim Schriner.
Records: Hughesville (15-5); Benton (9-6).