HERSHEY —After making school history on Feb. 12 at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class 3A Team Championships, Tunkhannock was out for bigger things on Friday night and looking for District 2 lore at the Giant Center.
For more than half of the Tigers’ second round consolation match against Canon McMillan, they were in position to become the first Wyoming Valley Conference team to ever win two duals at the state tournament.
Then the Big Macs reeled off wins in five of the last six matches and ended Tunkhannock’s aspirations with a 34-18 victory. Tunkhannock also lost two matches by one point, and two others by three. Now, the team has time to relax and get ready for the individual postseason, which gets underway with the District 2 Championships on Feb. 26 at the Kingston Armory.
“I think we kinda let one get away there maybe. We lost a couple close matches,” Tigers coach Bob Hegedty said. “I told them ‘Me and coach (Cory) Ray are very proud of them for what they accomplished so far.’ We wrestled some real good teams down here. We’ll get back in the room on Monday and get back at it again.”
The Tigers won the first three bouts in the dual against Canon McMillan on decisions from Jake Richards (138 lbs.), Connor Munley (145) and Bill Manley (152) to go ahead 9-0. After Mike Manley lost a tough 1-0 bout, Dalton Ray extended Tunkhannock’s lead to 12-3 with a decision at 170.
But Canon McMillan, the runner-up from the WPIAL, got consecutive pins at 182 and 195 to take its first lead, 15-12 at the halfway point of the dual. A decision by the Tigers’ Sam Rice at 220 pulled them back even, tying the score at 15-15.
Even after the Big Macs won the next three matches to take a 29-15 lead, Tunkhannock still showed fight with three weights remaining. Tom Bachman (120) won by decision to inch the Tigers closer, and CM lost a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct as the deficit was cut to 28-18. With two matches to go and two of the team’s top wrestlers still waiting to hit the mat, the stage was set for more Tunkhannock drama — like it has mustered all season. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Tommy Traver and Dakota Quick both lost by decision to conclude Tunkhannock’s chance at becoming just the second Class 3A team in District 2 history to win two duals at the state tournament.
“When we got down to the end, Tommy and Dakota both lost tough matches,” Hegedty said. “I thought our guys wrestled tough all weekend. They wrestled hard and really didn’t back down. They went at kids.”
The Tigers joined the 2014 Wyoming Valley West team as the only squads from the WVC in Class 3A to win a meet at the state tournament when they defeated District 12 champion Father Judge 45-22 in the first consolation round on Friday morning. Berwick in 2008 also won a dual at Giant Center in Class 2A.
In the match against Father Judge, the Tigers clinched the win with five weights remaining when 195-pounder Sam Rice notched a pin in 29 seconds, giving Tunkhannock a 39-6 lead.
Right after that match, 220-pounder Ricky Stevens turned in an impressive victory, making sure that even if there were penalty points, the Tigers would win. Stevens was losing by five points late in the third period before getting an escape, then hitting a headlock that turned into a fall with just 23 seconds left in the match.
“I was on bottom and was thinking roll or something, then I got out and I was thinking something big. I just hit that move and there it was,” Stevens said. “I have 20 pins this year and it was like any other pin, really. I was looking for anything I could get. I tried the headlock before and I couldn’t get it. I just had to keep going and knew at some point I’d hit something.”
Traver set the tone for the dual starting off with a pin in 2:34, giving the Tigers a 6-0 lead against fellow freshman Caesar Fountain. After that, the Tigers picked up five more pins to turn the match into a rout as they rebounded nicely after a loss to nationally-ranked Bethlehem Catholic on Thursday night.
Munley, who hasn’t been in the Tunkhannock lineup a whole lot this season, also picked up a big pin for the team by sticking his opponent on his back in 3:44 in the 145-pound match four bouts into the dual.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant.