Montoursville wrestling opens with win over Lewisburg
Warriors coach Matt Yonkin chose his words carefully after the strangest wrestling season anybody in the gym has ever experienced kicked off. What he was saw on the mat were the ramifications of a three-week shutdown of high school sports ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf in early December.
How officials enforced the now mandatory mask rule varied from the junior high to the varsity match. Yonkin and his staff learned they have to have extra masks on standby on the bench after Kayden Frame got blood on his and the official wouldn’t allow him to keep using it.
“I think the reality of the season has already shown itself,” Yonkin said. “The limited practices, the breaks, conditioning was definitely an issue. Technique was definitely a issue. The start of the season (Friday) showed the way it’s going to be this year.”
It surely was different. Momentum was almost non-existent for either team because the mat had to be sanitized following each bout. Sometimes it meant volunteers mopped down the mat. Sometimes they used a misting machine with disinfectant to cover the mat. Handshakes were as common as a June snowstorm.
Montoursville overcame the opening-night rust to post five falls and two more forfeit wins as its upper weights helped pull away from a young Green Dragons team which was overmatched against the 10th-ranked Warriors.
“They’re a seasoned team with a lot of hammers. But you want to face them to gauge where you’re at,” Lewisburg coach Justin Michaels said. “You’re seeing one of the best teams in the state and it really opens my guys’ eyes and they can say if I want to be at that level, I have to put the work in.”
Montoursville’s hammers did the work it was expected to. Returning state placewinner Isaac Cory posted a fall at 152 pounds. Top-ranked Cael Crebs recorded 12 takedowns before scoring a fall in the second period at 189 pounds. Returning state champ Branden Wentzel grinded through a rough match, fighting his own wind and a game performance from Lewisburg’s Jace Gessner to win, 8-1, at 106 pounds.
In between, Montoursville picked up wins where it had to. Lucas Sherwood added a fall at 126 pounds. In his first varsity match, freshman Evan Bloom ran a half-nelson when he was down 2-0 in the third period to pick up a fall at 160 pounds. Cole Johnson scored a takedown with 32 seconds to go to win, 5-4, at 120 pounds.
It wasn’t a pretty performance. But it was the kind of performance a team like Montoursville has put together in recent years even when it’s not at its best. Yonkin could rattle off the areas afterward where Montoursville needed to improve, but in a season where 2 1/2 months of competition is being condensed into five weeks, finding the time to improve on those areas will be the real test for the veteran coaching staff.
“We have some catch-up to do and it’s going to be rough based on our month of January where we’re going to be wrestling every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with not much time off,” Yonkin said. “So I think we’re going to have to re-look at how we do things and make sure we get our conditioning where it needs to be and get our technique where it needs to be. It felt good to be on the mat and it felt good to see where we’re at and where we need to go.”
“I know I felt a little sluggish, and I think everyone does right now,” Cory said. “This whole season has been a circus. It’s been crazy with everything going on. We got shut down and then everyone is trying to make weight in a week. It’s just been a mess.”
Lewisburg got the kind of production it expected from its veteran leaders. Senior Logan Bartlett put together a strong win at 145 pounds, scoring three critical back points at the end of the second period on his way to a 9-1 major decision over Frame. Returning state qualifier Kaiden Wagner was workmanlike scoring six sets of back points before getting a fall at 132 pounds.
Freshman Quinton Bartlett picked up his first varsity win with a fall at 113, and Derek Shedleski won, 11-6, at 172 pounds in a sometimes contentious match.
Lewisburg was clearly outmatched with seven freshmen or sophomores in the lineup. But Michaels’ focus was more on just competing. He can take the lessons learned Friday night against one of District 4’s best teams and use it to guide the Green Dragons in a season where everything seems chaotic.
“I give both teams out here credit. You can say I don’t want to this because I want the easy way out or I don’t want to wear a mask,” Michaels said. “But everyone is going through the same thing. Not everything is going to be perfect, but you have to adapt to the change. We have to deal with it and keep moving forward because everyone is on the same playing field.”
#10 Montoursville 48, Lewisburg 19
138: Broc Lutz, M, pinned Daniel Leao, :36.
145: #18 Logan Bartlett, L, maj. dec. Kayden Frame, 9-1.
152: #7 Isaac Cory, M, pinned Hagen Persun, 3:30.
160: Evan Bloom, M, pinned Trent Wenrich, 4:59.
172: Derek Shedleski, L, dec. Caleb Moser, 11-6.
189: #1 Cael Crebs, M, pinned Zander Walter, 2:23.
215: #1 Dylan Bennett, M, won by forfeit.
285: Lane Stutzman, M, won by forfeit.
106: #1 Branden Wentzel, M, dec. Jace Gessner, 8-1.
113: Quinton Bartlett, L, pinned Jackson Watkins, 3:49.
120: Cole Johnson, M, dec. Tom Lyons, 5-4.
126: Lucas Sherwood, M, pinned Derek Gessner, 4:56.
132: #12 Kaiden Wagner, L, pinned Hunter Miller, 3:43.
Takedowns: Montoursville 23, Lewisburg 8.
Records: Montoursville (1-0, 1-0 HAC-II); Lewisburg (0-1, 0-1, HAC-II).