PATTON - Cambria Heights' Joe Davis broke his leg playing football against Penn Cambria in October, and there was some concern he wouldn't be able to wrestle his senior season.
But, after surgery, in which a pin and plates was inserted, and rehabilitation, Davis returned to practice earlier this month.
"Every time I went to the doctor, the [return] time just kept getting longer and longer," he said. "They found more things wrong, but then we were able to convince the doctor to clear me. For awhile, I didn't think I was going to get to wrestle. It was a little scary."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn Cambria’s Mike Eckenrode controls Cambria Heights’ Ray Niebauer before pinning him at 145 pounds.
Since coming back, Davis, the Mirror's top-ranked 126-pounder, has gone 8-1, and none of his wins were bigger for his team than Tuesday night against Penn Cambria. Wrestling Jacob Wilkinson in the last bout at 132 and the dual meet tied, Davis pinned Wilkinson in 1:23 to give the now 5-2 Highlanders a 37-31 win.
"How can you not feel comfortable with Davis, no matter who he's wrestling?" Heights coach Mike Eckenrode said. "Davis is just an all-around good athlete, good kid, good student. You can have him anywhere in the lineup, but when you have him at the end, that's awesome.
"I didn't think he was going to come back this year because the surgeon said there's still a screw in there that he wanted to take out, but Joe talked him into leaving it in there until after wrestling season."
The dual meet was the only area match that wasn't postponed because of the latest winter blast, and it was a good one to watch for those who made it to the gym. Penn Cambria (8-10), which forfeited three weights again, has made close matches a habit lately, fighting Bedford, Central Cambria and Heights to the end before losing.
"I like to look at the head-to-head matchups, and I think we did very, very well," said PC coach Todd Niebauer, whose team won six of the 10 contested bouts. "I thought we fought hard in a lot of matches. Everybody knows we're around, so what more can I ask for?"
One of the keys for Heights was the pre-match disk flip, winning the toss and choosing the odd matches. It didn't really come into play until the sixth bout.
A major decision by Heights' Eric Kuskoski (138), pins by PC's Mike Eckenrode (145) and Austin Farabaugh (152), a 5-0 decision for Levi Niebauer (14-1) over Dom Farabaugh (160) and a pin by Jake Driskel (170) preceded the first big moment in the meet.
The Panthers had to make a move at 182, and Niebauer decided to forfeit that weight. Heights' William Hoover picked up the forfeit and Coach Eckenrode bumped sophomore star Dennis Link (14-4) up to 195, where he pinned Matt Wyland in 2:26 to give his team a 19-18 lead
"If we get the flip at 182, it might have made a difference," Coach Niebauer said. "I was hoping they'd send Link to get the forfeit, but I knew they wouldn't."
"Dennis Link is a stud," Coach Eckenrode said. "I'll put him up against anybody. I'd put him last in the lineup too any time."
After a pin by PC's 15-3 John Wilkinson (220) and a forfeit win by Heights' 13-0 Aaron Gill (285), PC's Nolan Link (18-5) moved up to 113, leaving no bout at 106, and defeated Mike Dautlick, 8-2.
"Mike Eckenrode asked why we didn't bump [Link] to 120, but I don't like giving up a lot of weight," Coach Niebauer said, "and I knew they had Davis left."
After Heights' Mark Zabinski won by forfeit at 120, PC's Zach Stevens tied the dual meet at 31 by majoring Brady Mezzello, 13-1, at 126. That led to Davis playing the hero role.
"You're always going out a little bit nervous for a match," Davis said. "When it's on the line like that for your team, it's even bigger. You have some nerves and butterflies, but you just have to wrestle your match."
"Overall, I think we wrestled well, but I didn't like how we got pinned," Coach Eckenrode said.
138-Kuskoski, CH, maj. dec. Myers, 10-0; 145-Eckenrode, PC, pinned R. Niebauer, 3:29; 152-A. Farabaugh, PC, pinned Legros, 5:49; 160-L. Niebauer, CH, dec. D. Farabaugh, 5-0; 170-Driskel, PC, pinned Waksmunski, 1:24; 182-Hoover, CH, won by forfeit; 195-Link, CH, pinned Wyland, 2:26.
220-Jo. Wilkinson, PC, pinned T. Mezzello, 3:58; 285-Aa. Gill, CH, won by forfeit; 106-No bout; 113-Link, PC, dec. Dautlick, 8-2; 120-Zabinski, CH, won by forfeit; 126-Stevens, PC, maj. dec. B. Mezzello, 13-1; 132-Davis, CH, pinned Ja. Wilkinson, 1:23.
Records: Penn Cambria (8-10); Cambria Heights (5-2).