Say what you want about all the good wrestlers on Claysburg-Kimmel's team and its 7-0 record, but the attribute that was key in lifting the Bulldogs to wins over Northern Bedford Thursday and Bedford Saturday was patience.
The Bulldogs were down 18-0 to Northern Bedford and came back to win, 32-21. They were down 21-0 to Bedford and rallied to win, 36-33. It was the first time C-K had beaten both teams in the same year since the 2004-2005 season.
The wrestlers and coaches could have panicked. They could have done things on the mat that could have gotten them into trouble. They could have pressed too hard with throws and headlocks and wound up on their own backs, but they went about their business knowing what they had as a team was good enough to win.
"Don't ever give up," C-K coach Dave Marko said. "Sometimes you have to be patient, but these kids aren't stupid. They're running the numbers in their heads too. They understand. What happens with that is some guys on the other team start to think 'We've just got to hang on to the lead.' And now all of a sudden, maybe they're not wrestling to win anymore. They're just wrestling to survive."
The dual meets were similar in that they started in the upperweights, where C-K had a disadvantage against the Panthers and Bisons. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their strength was waiting in the wings in the form of Ty Dively, James Dodson, Cole Claar, Corey Aungst and Tyler Ickes.
What we've discovered, however, are future stars like Dylan Weyant, who had huge wins in both matches, and Clayton Claar, who was losing to Shayne Rininger when he "went big" and pinned him with 16 seconds remaining, can also make contributions.
That the Bulldogs beat Bedford and stepped into the No. 1 spot in the Mirror rankings, unseating the Bisons from that position for the first time in awhile, might have been a surprise considering they weren't at their best when they wrestled against Northern Bedford less than two days before.
"Even though we beat Northern, none of us were happy with the way we wrestled that match," Marko said. "The big statement that has been made was 'Demand more of yourself, demand more of each other.' "
Marko opted not to work his team too hard Friday after the NBC match to keep them fresh for the Bisons. Smart move.
There will be more challenges down the road, and the Bulldogs will likely face them with the patience they displayed last week.
Two things to look forward to this week are the Richland Duals starting Friday and the two-pound weight allowance kicking in Saturday.
Unbeaten Huntingdon, ranked third this week in the Mirror rankings, will look to defend its title in the Duals, but it won't be easy with over 30 teams in the field, including C-K, Chestnut Ridge and Penn Cambria. It's a meatgrinder, and the team with the most depth and, yes, patience, usually wins it. It should be interesting.
As far as the weight allowance, look for a lot of wrestlers to starting dropping a weight as they begin to get ready for the postseason. Some of those wrestlers will be down a weight for the Duals on Saturday.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.