BENTON - Not one to show much emotion, Eric Hunt just couldn't help himself after a five-point move in overtime Saturday night.
The returning state qualifier from Warrior Run had pushed the pace of his 113-pound Central Sectional final with Kyle Drick for much of the night, but just couldn't seem to score the points he wanted to. Then his opportunity arose at the most opportune of times.
He scrambled, trying to get behind Drick, only to find himself in a position to take the Montgomery senior to his back as well for 7-2 win. The excitement for Hunt came as he avenged a loss to Drick a week earlier in a 1-0 match in the two teams' final dual meet of the season.
"When we wrestled last week, he beat me by one in the same exact match," Hunt said after receiving his second consecutive sectional gold medal. "I upped the anty a little bit and took some more shots and I'm glad I could get the win."
Hunt forced Drick to play catch-up for much of the final two periods of the match after he scored a reversal less than 30 seconds into second period. But even after Drick tied the match with a third-period escape, Hunt was active on his feet.
He consistently was able to get a front headlock where he was able to snap Drick to the mat. Hunt was never able to scramble behind for the takedown though.
"That's a dogfight position," Hunt said. "It's who is stronger right there and who has better positioning. Even though I had the upper hand, he had the clinch on tight and I couldn't move my arms to get it tight."
But Hunt had the motivation of the week of second-guessing what happened in last week's loss. And even though he hadn't scored on his feet through the six minutes of regulation, he had his opportunities.
The mohawk-sporting junior finally got an opportunity in overtime he didn't miss on.
"He's a tough competitor," Hunt said. "I know being a senior he's going to come out in a brawl. I knew I could heat him, but I knew it was going to be tough."
TO GET BIGGER
When Muncy head coach Denny Harer sat down Dakota Nixon at the start of the season and they discussed Nixon certifying at 147 pounds for the year, Nixon's response was less than enthusiastic.
"I said, 'I'll see what I can do'," Nixon said after winning the 145-pound title Saturday at the Central Sectional. "I think I got certified for 46.8, so I barely got it, but I knew what I had to do."
Nixon had been playing football at Muncy at about 170 pounds, but the returning district qualifier said he could see the weight coming off rapidly once he got back into the wrestling room. His descent to get down to the 145-pound weight class has been gradual as both he and Harer agreed he wouldn't get down to be eligible for 145 until just before the sectional tournament.
It was a necessary drop, though, according to Nixon. At 152, he just didn't feel big enough to compete at the highest levels because he's a little shorter than most 152-pounders. He's always been a well put together wrestler as strong as anyone in his weight class, but that is only magnified as he's made the drop to 145.
"Down at 47 I feel much stronger," said Nixon, who is ranked 13th in the state at 145. "I got a lot stronger wrestling up, but when I dropped down for postseason, you feel a lot stronger than your opponents."
His first match at 145 this season wasn't until he wrestled Montgomery's Zach Woodcock in the quarterfinals Saturday, and that was a 3 -minute technical fall victory. He followed it up with an 11-1 win over Hughesville's Matt Heinreich before beating Bloomsburg's Sam Miller in the 145-pound finals, 3-1.
Nixon even wrestled three matches this year at 160 pounds, including his final one in the regular season against Wyalusing's Austin Boom. His only two losses have come to two-time state placewinner Cole Walter of Mifflinburg and Benton's Dominic Vitale who both won 152-pound sectional titles Saturday.
But he posted strong wins over Tri-Valley state qualifier Hunter Harner, Central Mountain's Demetri Probst, Troy's Nick Stephani and Jersey Shore's Colton Killion wrestling up at 152 pounds.
"I still feel like I have the quickness, too, because as I drop, I feel quicker because I don't feel as fat," Nixon said. "I'm down to my competition weight now where I should be."
TITLE'S NICE, BUT NOT ENOUGH
Angelo Barberio was quick to point out that he was proud to win the Central Sectional 106-pound championship Saturday, but he's by no means satisfied. The Muncy sophomore cruised through the sectional tournament Saturday, winning by fall in 37 seconds in the quarterfinals, by major decision in the semifinals, and 4-2 in the finals over Benton's Alan Diltz.
"I have to learn to open up a lot more," Barberio said. "I know when we go into the room this week that's what we're going to practice. Overall I was happy with my performance, but there's still a lot of work to be done."
Two of Barberio's three losses this year have come up a weight at 113 as he seeked out the best competition he could get. One was to Drick and the other was to Athens freshman Brian Courtney, the North Section champion at 106. His only loss at 106 came in the first round of the district duals to Wyalusing's Josh Haley, the runner-up to Courtney in the North at 106.
At 106, though, Barberio has had an even better season than last year where he was a District 4 runner-up and regional qualifier. He comes into the District 4 tournament this week as the third seed behind top-seeded Brian Friery, who's ranked second in the state by papowerwrestling.com, and Courtney. Both Courtney and Friery are undefeated.
So while a sectional championship was nice, and definitely something to be proud of, Barberio's thoughts are elsewhere.
"I still have a lot of work to do to get to the state tournament and place at states, because that's really my goal," Barberio said. "It's just another stepping stone. I'm focused on districts now because districts is going to be a battle at 106. I have to take it one week at a time."
PUSHING THE PACE
Garrett Hoffman is constantly pushing the pace on a wrestling mat. For six minutes he doesn't slow down. He's bought into Montoursville head coach Jamie Yonkin's "One more" philosophy during workouts.
It may mean one more drill, or one more sprint. Hoffman's bought in to it because he can see the conditioning is paying off in his matches. By the time he finished off his 6-2 win over Bloomsburg's Brandon Conrad in the 170-pound Central Sectional final on Saturday, Hoffman looked ready to go another six minutes. It's all part of the plan.
"A lot of these kids are in good shape, but I kept pushing the pace," Hoffman said. "With the strong technique I feel like I have, I can keep pushing the same pace and it's tiring them out, but I still feel like I'm in the first or second period."
That's why there was no panic when Hoffman gave up the first takedown of the match to Conrad in the finals. He's always back to his feet quickly and back to the center of the mat to start wrestling again.
Heck, even when he's got to stop the clock for blood time, he tries to get things patched up quickly so as not to give his opponents a break. And with a District 4 170-pound bracket which is loaded with wrestlers capable of finishing in the top five and advancing to regionals, Hoffman knows any little advantage he can get will be huge.
"If you let up for a second," Hoffman said, "the match can switch around and you can be in trouble."
That's why he's pushing the pace."