Lewisburg qualifies for District 4 Duals

HUGHESVILLE — Lewisburg’s Jace Gessner knew exactly the position he was in. Don’t get pinned. Don’t get beat by technical fall. Do that against Hughesville on Saturday night and the Green Dragons secure their spot in the District 4 Duals.

That didn’t seem to be good enough for the undersized 106-pounder. Instead he went right at the Spartans’ Eli Olshefskie. And it turned into a win which qualified Lewisburg for the postseason.

The Green Dragons were the only of the three teams on the District 4 Duals bubble Saturday to win enough at the PHAC Quad Meet at Hughesville to earn its spot in next week’s tournament. Lewisburg went 3-0, posting a surprising upset of Mount Carmel (40-31), before beating both Hughesville (41-33) and Central Columbia (55-18). Also needing two wins in three matches to qualify for the Duals, Hughesville went 1-2 and Central Columbia went 0-3. Mount Carmel fell to the No. 7 seed in the tournament by going 2-1.

“I never expected that with Mount Carmel early on,” Lewisburg coach Justin Michaels said. “We just got into a rhythm and got to our pace and used our conditioning and the kids were feeling pretty high. We’ll take it.”

Lewisburg’s reward for wrestling maybe the best it has all season was the 14th seed in the Duals field. It’ll travel Wednesday night to face third-seeded Canton at 7 p.m. But that is something for Michaels and his team to worry about in a day or two. For the moment, Saturday night, the way his kids wrestled was worth celebrating.

He laid it all out on the line for his wrestlers before the game, and they responded. First it was by taking a 25-4 lead on Mount Carmel, which could have moved to as high as the third seed at district duals with a 3-0 day. Gessner earned the first of his three wins with a major decision against Mount Carmel. Gavin Sheriff added a much-needed fall at 132 pounds. And seemingly before anyone was settled into their seat, the Green Dragons were in position to pull off an upset not even their coach expected.

“This was the most vocal I’ve been all season long. I told the guys they’ve really battled all season long and we’ve sucked it up all season long,” Michaels said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries, forfeited a lot of weights, we’re young, but we got to this point and we’re fortunate to get to this point, so don’t let go of this opportunity. And they responded.”

Gessner’s biggest win, though, was against Hughesville with everything on the line. Lose by fall and the Spartans win by a point. Lose by technical fall and go to criteria. So Gessner just made sure he didn’t lose. He’s now won 14 of his last 19 bouts despite weighing in at less than 100 pounds.

“He works really hard and has great technique and he’s not going to quit,” Michaels said. “The biggest thing is the weight disadvantage because sometimes he’ll get outmuscled and overpowered. But we’re working on that, and getting more angles with quicker finishes and he’s doing it.”

Hughesville failed to qualify for the Duals, but coach Troy Charles was far more concerned with the effort he saw from his team last night. It’s an effort he’s been searching for as the Spartans have gone through a mid-season lull.

It was enough to leave the first-year coach encouraged knowing there’s a little bit of downtime coming up with not making the Duals field.

“We’ve wrestled Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for three weeks in a row and it’s a grind,” Charles said. “Our kids are worn down a little bit. So it’ll be nice to get a little refresh. I might even give them a day off to just get healthy and work on stuff.”