Rarely can a tri-meet leave all three wrestling team’s coaches with something to smile about, but that may have been the case at Western Tech on Wednesday evening, when the Wolverines hosted Eastern Tech and Lansdowne.
Eastern Tech coach Kevin Cross may have had the widest grin, after his inexperienced Mavericks won both matches.
Western Tech coach Juan Solera can take comfort in his squad’s close 39-33 loss to the Mavericks, in a duel that came down to the final match.
“We lost to them 72-9 last year,” said Solera, whose squad ended the night with a 51-18 victory over neighborhood rival Lansdowne.
The Vikings, who fell 76-6 to Eastern Tech in the first bout, were forfeiting seven of the 14 weight classes, but even Lansdowne coach George Dunn took delight in the work of some of his individual wrestlers, like 145-pounder Jon Horn, who secured first-period pins in both of his matches.
Defending county, regional and state champion Tejon Anthony (18-2) praised the hard work of Lansdowne freshman Ronnie Bryant, who lasted six minutes without getting pinned, despite losing 13-2, at 138 pounds.
“He was actually pretty tough,” said Anthony, who was 35-4 last season. “He didn’t treat me like a state champion. He treated me like any other wrestler and came out and wrestled tough.”
In the previous match, which was against Eastern Tech’s Jacob Cox at 132 pounds, Anthony ended it with a pin in 56 seconds.
That cut the Eastern Tech’s lead to 36-33 with one match remaining and set up a dramatic final at 138.
Eastern Tech senior Kevin Isennock built a 3-0 lead late in the second period and held on for a 3-2 victory over Stan Hollowak to clinch the victory and help the Mavericks improve to 6-3 in dual meets.
“He (Kevin) is having some rib issues. He tweaked something,” Cross said. “He wasn’t 100 percent today, but I’m happy for him.”
Kevin’s twin brother, Eric Isennock, returned to the mat and earned a first-period pin over Western Tech heavyweight Wasem Mansour that cut the Wolverines lead to 24-18.
Back-to-back forfeit victories, by Eastern Tech’s Doug Ramirez (106) and Sam Caravello (113), put the Mavericks in front 30-24 and they never trailed again.
Ramirez (11-5) hasn’t lost in a regular-season match this season.
“Having to forfeit (2 weight classes) is pretty tough for them,” Cross said. “It stinks, but it’s all about getting the weight classes filled, making weight and everybody works and the best man wins.”
Leading 30-24, the Mavericks appeared ready to take control of the match when John Basbas (120) led Western Tech sophomore Malachi Gatewood 8-1 midway through the second period.
But, Gatewood rallied back to tie at 9-9 with 48 seconds left.
After he cut Basbas loose for an escape with 37 seconds left, Gatewood went ahead 11-10 on a takedown with 18 seconds left and added three more back points for a 14-10 decision.
“That was a pretty big morale booster and I give so much credit to that kid (Gatewood),” Cross said. “He wrestled so hard and I even told him how proud I was and of how much heart he showed. Coming back from 8-1 to win was pretty incredible.”
Even more amazing was that Gatewood’s only four victories on varsity as a freshman last season were forfeits.
“He did not win a single match, but this year he has a winning record,” Western Tech’s Solera said. “He’s kind of like the firestarter for the team because he’s the lightest guy on the team and he’s shown a lot of heart and perseverance.”
He certainly got the attention of Western Tech’s defending state champion.
“I know he fired me up. I was ready to go after I saw his match,” Anthony said.
Gatewood’s win brought Western Tech within three, 30-27, but Alex Ciekot pinned Thomas Anderson to bump it back to 36-27 before Anthony’s pin made it 36-33 and Isennock iced it in the final match.
Eastern Tech’s other points came on pins by Ian Chiveral (170) and Cullen Jones (182).
Western Tech’s Carlos Winston (145), Payton Beechum (195) and Necho Freeman (220) registered pins, while Tony Simuel (152) and Austin Harrison (160) won decisions.
Beechum has won 16 of 18 matches this season and Harrison has lost only twice in 20 bouts for the 5-6 Wolverines.
“They (Western Tech) have got a lot of good wrestlers on that team,” Cross said. “They have done a good job bringing the program along.”
Meanwhile, Cross, whose young squad graduated three state qualifiers, likes the direction of his program.
“We’re still competitive and we’re still getting the wins,” said Cross, whose squad’s only losses were to Owings Mills, Perry Hall and Mount Hebron (by seven points).