Red Devils fight off Panthers

CRESSON – Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen was trying to figure out the dual meet tiebreaker criteria as the dual meet against shorthanded Penn Cambria was coming to a close.

Thursday’s match was almost as close as the first time the teams wrestled at the Blairsville Duals, a two-point win by the Red Devils.

But the criteria weren’t needed as CC senior 138-pounder Steve Pennington turned a close bout with Jake Wilkinson into a second-period pin, and, with PC needing two pins to send the outcome to criteria, Kerry Kirsch stayed off his back in a 4-0 loss to Mike Eckenrode at 145 to secure a 39-36 win by the now 8-8 Red Devils.

“I had it down as 39-34 [before the match],” Nikolishen said. “We would have had to wrestle at the top of our game to get 39-34. We had the opportunity to look at each other earlier. This one seemed a little more exciting. The first one, we really didn’t want to meet up against each other, so it really didn’t matter to us.”

“I knew it was going to be a tossup,” PC coach Todd Niebauer said. “We had some kids at different weights this time. We just have no room for error with 11 kids. We need bonus points from the good guys, and definitely not losses. When it happens, we know we’re battling out of a hole.”

Pennington was leading 2-1 when he took Wilkinson down, slipped in a half nelson and pinned him in 3:34.

“That was a big match for Steven,” Nikolishen said. “He has a switch, and when he turns it on, he can do some really nice things for us. He just looked like an animal this evening, and we’re happy about that.”

“It feels pretty good,” Pennington said. “I had to work hard to get us some points so we could win the match.”

Eckenrode took Kirsch down in the first period, reversed in the second and rode him the entire third.

“He comes off of the mat upset after a 4-0 loss,” Nikolishen said, “but what he doesn’t realize is wrestling isn’t always about winning. If there was a good loss, that was a good loss. It’s going to sound funny, but I’m real proud of him.”

The feature bout of the night might be a preview of the District 6 Tournament 106-pound finals between CC freshman Max Murin, ranked fourth by Off The Mat, and 12th-ranked Nolan Link. Murin won, 1-0, following up on his 6-2 victory over Link earlier in the season.

Link nearly got a takedown at the edge of the mat at the end of the first period, but it was ruled out of bounds. Murin (20-0) rode the entire second period, and Link (17-5) released him to start the third, but there were no more points scored.

“I thought it was very close [to a takedown],” Niebauer said. “It could have gone either way, I think. I think we’re right there with that kid. You don’t like to look ahead, but if we’re losing 1-0 to a kid we could see in the district finals, I’ll take that any day. But, we’ve got to take business the whole way through.”

Shortly after PC’s Nikki Weakland announced the lineups, the dual meet began to look like the Panthers’ Tuesday match with Bedford, with pins and forfeits speeding up the outcome. PC (8-9) forfeited four weights.

After PC’s Austin Farabaugh opened with an 11-4 decision over Bryce Thompson at 160, four first-period pins by PC’s Jake Driskel (44 seconds) at 170, Matt Wyland (12 seconds) at 182 and John Wilkinson (32 seconds) at 220 and CC’s Brenden Smith (47 seconds) at 285 followed.

Tom Howell’s forfeit win at 195 broke up that stretch of pins. Later, teammates Ian Ostrowski (113), Hunter Kish (120) and Tom Opdenhoff (132) also won by forfeit.

A pin by Zach Stevens at 126 tied score, 27-27, and Pennington’s pin gave the Red Devils a 39-27 lead. Dom Farabaugh closed the dual meet with a pin of Kevin Bednar in 5:42.

“I’m glad it didn’t come down to [criteria],” Nikolishen said. “We don’t want those kind of wins.”

Notes: Joe Farabaugh (1984 Penn Cambria grad) and Ben Watt (1991 PC grad) were inducted into the Penn Cambria Hall of Fame before the match. … Both teams had seven bout wins. … CC wrestles in the Richland Tournament this weekend.

160-A. Farabaugh, PC, dec. Thompson, 11-4; 170-Driskel, PC, pinned Kline, :44; 182-Wyland, PC, pinned Myers, :12; 195-Howell, CC, won by forfeit; 220-Jo. Wilkinson, PC, pinned Branick, :32; 285-Smith, CC, pinned Wineland, :47; 106-Murin, CC, dec. Link, 1-0.

113-Ostrowski, CC, won by forfeit; 120-Kish, CC, won by forfeit; 126-Stevens, PC, pinned Makin, 5:06; 132-Opdenhoff, CC, won by forfeit; 138-Pennington, CC, pinned Ja. Wilkinson, 3:34; 145-Eckenrode, PC, dec. Kirsch, 4-0; 152-D. Farabaugh, PC, pinned Bednar, 5:42.

Records: Central Cambria (8-8); Penn Cambria (8-9).