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Individual bouts in short-handed dual were competitive

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Montgomery’s Conner Harer wrestles South Williamsport’s Trent Morrison at 145 lbs in a high school wrestling match at Montgomery on Thursday.

MONTGOMERY — Eric Gerber lived every wrestling coach’s worst fear in this bizarre wrestling season Thursday night at Montgomery. Nearly half his team is stuck in COVID quarantine, so the South Williamsport coach brought just six wrestlers to what should have been an intriguing Mid-Penn dual.

The Mounties knew they were going to lose the dual before the whistle ever blew. Forfeiting seven weights to an undefeated Montgomery team gave them no chance at a win. So he and Montgomery coach Denny Harer made the most of the match, getting the best possible matchups for their kids. What could have been a wasted night for the Lycoming County neighbors turned into a productive night of wrestling even as the Red Raiders won, 61-6.

It would have been easy to push last night’s dual back in the schedule. But in a shortened season where tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, the two teams wrestled short-handed or not. It may not have been the most competitive dual from a team score standpoint. But the individual bouts were just the competition both teams needed.

“At some point, you know it could happen. We’ve seen it happen all over the player, so we were prepared for it,” Gerber said. “We tried to follow all the regulations and you’re doing everything you can, but you still end up in a spot where you’re missing some guys. We came here with the idea that we were going to wrestle. (Montgomery) has a lot of really good wrestlers. So we were excited for that and to push our guys to show us where they need to be improving.”

“We got some great quality matches,” said Harer, who won his 240th career dual. “That’s exactly what we needed.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Montgomery’s Colby Springman wrestles South Williamsport’s Lane Lusk at 172 lbs in a high school wrestling match at Montgomery on Thursday.

Montgomery won four of the six contested bouts, with the only losses coming to seventh-ranked Bobby Gardner and Lane Lusk, who improved to 11-1. It took a late third-period rally from Lusk to pick up the win in a great back-and-forth match at 172 pounds with Colby Springman.

But those tenacious battles were a welcome sight on a night where there were so few contested bouts. Beyond improving to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in the Mid-Penn, Harer learned some key information about where some of his best wrestlers are heading into a tough dual-meet tournament at Selinsgrove on Saturday.

Freshman Caden Finck was in deep on a pair of shots against Gardner but wasn’t able to finish either one in a 4-2 loss. Two-time regional qualifier Devon Deem followed the gameplan exactly and continuously scored points in a 10-3 decision in a matchup of state-ranked wrestlers at 152 pounds. Even in a loss, Springman showcased a toughness which was a step forward in Harer’s eyes.

“The idea for (Deem) is to stop looking at the scoreboard and keep scoring,” Harer said. “The idea is to stop winning 4-1 and 4-2 matches and put 10 points on the board every night. He did that (Thursday) against a quality opponent.”

Lorson’s loss to Deem at 152 was his third consecutive loss after starting the season 9-0. It was his second to another state-ranked wrestler.

“He’s a tough kid and he’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Gerber said. “He knows in order to get where he wants to be he has to wrestle kids like that. So learn from it and see where we can improve and keep working.”

Montgomery also picked up first-period falls from Conner Harer (145 pounds) and Bradley Leon (215). Kaide Drick used nine takedowns to post a 21-9 major decision at 160.

Knowing less than half his lineup would get a match last night, Harer put his team through a hard workout prior to the match. He wasn’t pleased with how the Red Raiders wrestled even in a lopsided win over Hughesville on Tuesday night, so he and his staff put an emphasis on not looking past any opponent.

Montgomery held a 17-4 advantage in takedowns Thursday.

“We have to stop looking at how many kids the other team has and focus on the task at hand,” Harer said. “I don’t care if they’re 0-30 or 30-0, we’re going to train the same way and wrestle the same way.”

Gardner, who is now 12-0 this year, bumped up a weight class to face Finck, who opened the year in the state rankings. Giving up size and height, Gardner bided his time until he hit a blast double in the second period for a takedown. He then countered a Finck shot in the third period for his second takedown to post a 4-2 win.

“I think I could have wrestled a lot better and got to my shots more,” Gardner said. “I could have moved him more. But I got a good shot off and was able to take him down.”

Montgomery 61,

South Williamsport 6

106: Brennan Emery, M, by forfeit. 113: Blake Snyder, M, by forfeit. 120: No. 7 Bobby Gardner, SW, dec. Caden Finck, 4-2. 126: Nevin Beachel, M, by forfeit. 132: Hunter Leet, M, by forfeit. 138: Alexa Laluz, M, by forfeit. 145: No. 14 Conner Harer, M, pinned Trenton Morrison, 1:11. 152: No. 14 Devon Deem, M, dec. No. 21 Landon Lorson, 10-3. 160: Kaide Drick, M, maj. dec. Caleb Jackson, 21-9. 172: Lane Lusk, SW, dec. Colby Springman, 9-7. 189: Ben Marino, M, by forfeit. 215: Bradley Leon, M, pinned Jake Casella, 0:40. 285: Weston Pick, M, by forfeit.

Takedowns: Montgomery 17, South Williamsport 4.

Records: Montgomery (9-0, 2-0 Mid-Penn); South Williamsport (6-6, 0-1 Mid-Penn).

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