Steve Millward, a two-time PIAA Class AAA state wrestling medalist during his high school days at Bald Eagle Area in the mid-1980s, was an aggressive competitor on the mat who always pushed the tempo for six minutes.
Now in his fourth year as BEA's head coach, Millward - who went on to compete collegiately at West Virginia University - espouses the same philosophy he once used on the mat to the wrestlers that he now teaches.
"We've been trying to stress that when we get takedowns, our objective is to get pins,'' Millward said Tuesday night after watching his unbeaten BEA squad score seven falls and two major decisions in a 50-24 dual meet victory over Altoona at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse. "Whether our wrestlers are on top or on the bottom, we're always thinking about the pin.''
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Mante Barnes counters a headlock en route to decisioning Andrew Varner.
BEA improved to 4-0 in dual meets behind falls from Travis Giedroc at 106 pounds, Cody Stine at 113, Jacob Noll at 120, Clint McCaslin at 132, Matt Dillon at 145, Jacob Taylor at 170, and James Grieb at 182.
Taylor, a returning Northwest AAA Regional champion who won his second individual title at the prestigious Manheim Lions Holiday Tournament last week, built a 5-0 lead in Tuesday's 170-pound bout before pinning Markief Knode at 1:54.
"He works at it,'' Millward said of Taylor. "He deserves what he gets.''
Bald Eagle Area won previous duals over Hollidaysburg, Clearfield and Bellefonte before visiting Altoona Tuesday.
"It's a nice feeling to start the season the way we have as a team,'' Millward said.
Altoona started its dual meet season, and Tuesday's match, off in a nice way when junior Damien Smith pinned Ryan Hicks in 35 seconds to give the Mountain Lions their only lead of the night.
Stine, Noll and McCaslin registered falls around Altoona freshman D.J. Hollingshead's forfeit victory at 126. Altoona junior T.J. Brandt, a two-time regional finalist, drew the Mountain Lions to within 24-18 by pinning Dion Barnard in 3:45 at 138, after running up a 9-0 lead. Brandt improved his season record to 7-0.
"T.J. went out and did the job like he always does,'' Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said.
Another unbeaten Altoona junior, Mante Barnes, upped his season record to 10-0 by scoring a hard-fought 8-5 victory over Andrew Varner at 195. Barnes escaped with a minute left in the bout to break a 5-5 tie, then added a last-second takedown after countering Varner's shot. Barnes' win avenged his loss to Varner in last season's district tournament.
"If there's a highlight of the match for us tonight, that's it,'' Gilbert said of Barnes' grind-it-out win. "He's mentally tough, and he just gutted it out there.''
Altoona senior Connor Lesniak, who sat out last season with an injury, also showed a lot of heart Tuesday in a 2-0 overtime win over Tyler Baney at 152 pounds. Lesniak scored a takedown to break a scoreless tie and secure the victory.
"That was a great bout for Connor,'' Gilbert said. "He got hurt last year, and having him in the lineup is a great addition for our team.''
Bald Eagle Area got major decisions from Dustin Coakley at 160 and Dan Verbitsky to close out the match at 220.
"I thought our kids wrestled well, but we had opportunities, and I didn't think we executed when we needed to tonight,'' Gilbert said.
Meet notes: Altoona visits Mifflin County Thursday night ... Altoona senior 132-pounder Josh Price and BEA 145-pounder Dillon were awarded $500 scholarships before the match by Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Tubbs, recruiter for Blair County, as a reward for their classroom excellence in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
285-Smith, A, pinned Hicks, :35. 106-Giedroc, BEA, pinned Querry, 2:50. 113-Stine, BEA, pinned Rimbeck, :58. 120-Noll, BEA, pinned Stein, 1:41. 126-Hollingshead, A, won by forfeit. 132-McCaslin, BEA, pinned Price, 1:22. 138-Brandt, A, pinned Barnard, 3:45.
145-Dillon, BEA, pinned Pennington, 1:56. 152-Lesniak, A, dec. Baney, 2-0 OT. 160-Coakley, BEA, maj. dec. McCarthy, 16-5. 170-Taylor, BEA, pinned Knode, 1:54. 182-Grieb, BEA, pinned Buckrop, :35. 195-Barnes, A, dec. Varner, 8-5. 220-Verbitsky, BEA, maj. dec. Sinclair, 9-0.
Official: Bernie Chatman.
Records: Bald Eagle Area (4-0); Altoona (0-1).