Mounties focused on matchups, not duals

TOWANDA — Eric Pequignot has spent the season putting his wrestlers in bad positions. He’s not doing it for his own amusement. He’s doing it because he knows it’s going to benefit his North Penn-Liberty wrestlers down the road.

He and his team understand the position they’re in. With five forfeits every dual meet, the Mounties are going to be competing for team wins rarely.

So Pequignot is taking this opportunity to fortify his individuals. That means wrestling Coy Wagner up a weight class all season at 113 despite barely weighing 108 pounds. It means moving Cameron Andrews from 182 to 195 when necessary to face the best competition.

Dual-meet wins be damned, Pequignot and his wrestlers are looking to sharpen their edges for when the postseason rolls around next month.

“I hate to look at the season that way,” Pequignot said after North Penn-Liberty went 0-5 at the Flynn Propane Duals over the weekend. “We talk about dual meets and we’ll look at it in future years. But the reality is now we have to get the best possible matchups we can get.”

Wagner’s season may be the best representation of what Pequignot is trying to accomplish. He’s blessed with two capable 106-pounders in Wagner and junior Roger Learn. For now, he plays the matchup game.

Wagner is a returning district qualifier. He’s one of the key cogs to the lineup which provides bonus points to try and help the Mounties compete in duals. So Pequignot wants to make sure he’s facing the toughest competition he can.

That meant Wagner opened the season at the Darren Klingerman Invitational wrestling at 113 pounds. He chased three matches at that weight at the Bob Rohm Duals. He wrestled all three duals at the Flynn Propane Duals at 113 pounds, going 3-2.

He and Pequignot have to be looking big picture. Wagner was a district qualifier a year ago as a freshman 106-pounder, but Pequignot sees so much more potential than that in his lightweight. It’s why he pushes him and why he’s used him up a weight class all season and why he will continue to do so.

“I think this is going to benefit Coy a lot,” Pequignot said. “He gained a lot of confidence (Saturday) beating the Montoursville kid and beating (Mason) Yorty from Central. As soon as those matches were over, he said he didn’t think those matches were going to that way. I said, ‘That’s why I’m on you like I am. This is why I make you do the things you do, to gain confidence.’ The kid has no easy way and there’s no way I’m letting him walk into anything easy.”

On the opposite side of the lineup, heavyweight John Minnich is starting to find his footing. The senior who spent all last season working with eventual state fifth-place finisher Justin Kriner has found his home at heavyweight this year.

Minnich posted a 5-0 record over the weekend at the Flynn Propane Duals with three falls, a forfeit and a 4-2 decision over Central Columbia’s Alex Eveland.

“He’s getting better every single day,” Pequignot said. “One the side he’s messaging me trying to figure things out and what he should be looking at to improve. Week in and week out that kid is getting better.”

He’s been helped by the addition of assistant coach Andrew Frease, who is a former NCAA qualifier at heavyweight. The coaching staff has tried to keep things simple with Minnich as he makes the adjustment to wrestling at heavyweight full time.

But Minnich showed over the weekend he’s starting to get his feet under him and could be a dangerous opponent in a wide open heavyweight field.

“John is a kid who just works hard,” Pequignot said. “He knows a handful of moves and it’s all he does. But he moves for a heavyweight, and he’s not afraid to get out there and move around.”