HERSHEY – Although he came up short of his ultimate goal, Bison heavyweight Sean Owen passed an even tougher test at the PIAA State Wrestling Championships in Hershey’s Giant Center.
Owen, who came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision to Abington Heights’ Evan Craig in the tournament’s semifinals, bounced back with a pair of wins for a bronze medal.
“I said, hey it’s a test of your character. If you’re a true champion, you will come back from this. It’s a true test to see what you can do after your dreams are shattered,’” head coach Jeff Aveni said.
“I told him that match was over, and we can worry and dwell upon it tomorrow. But today, you still have wrestling to do.”
Owen didn’t let down his coaching staff, as he pinned Hatboro Horsham’s Alex Myers in 4:01 before converting on a double-leg late in the third for a 3-1 decision over Wyoming Valley West’s Tyler Cowman in the medal bout.
Aveni said that Owen’s winning takedown was actually developed and set up by assistant coach Brent Lykens for his match with Craig.
“We wanted to be able to work out of his under hooks and shoot a double-leg there at the end to win it. That was the shot we needed in the semis,” he said.
Craig, who is a two-time Cadet Greco-Roman National Champion, entered the match-up 39-0 and had recorded 31 falls on the season.
Owen dodged a Craig takedown attempt at the mat’s edge early in the first. Craig would later earn the two, but the Bison quickly escaped his grasp.
Owen came off the bottom for one and knotted the bout at two in the second. After a stall warning, he exploded forward for a takedown that was waved off the mat.
“We were hoping that Sean would get some takedowns on his feet, but he didn’t. He took a couple good shots in the match and got real close to scoring. Luck just didn’t pay out for him,” Aveni said.
Still deadlocked at two in tee third, Owen had locked up a cradle. He, however, was unable to take Craig to his back, before the action was stopped on the mat, provoking the Clearfield faithful. Craig would, then, escape for the win.
“He had it locked up and readjusted. He started to bring him back in the center of the mat to pin him. If they don’t stop that, he pins him. I’m very confident in that, but he was called out of bounds,” Aveni said.
Aveni said he has watched the film, and it shows two supporting points from each wrestler. He said that it also indicated that Craig wasn’t out of bounds.
“I don’t know why he called it. But he didn’t call it, when we were out of bounds. He called it when we were in. It was a very odd call,” he said.
Following the loss, he said he told Owen that it wasn’t his lack of execution but that things just didn’t go his way.
“Last year, he had a little bit of luck on his side and got a big move in the semis that put him in the finals. He just didn’t have that luck in that match this year,” Aveni said.
“Yeah, it cost him the state title, but in the same boat, he came down here three different times and placed fifth, first and third. It’s a huge accomplishment. And, we’re proud of everything he did, especially taking third here after a tough loss.”
Owen, who has finished his senior season 43-1, has moved into the second spot on Clearfield’s All Time Wins list with a 135-27 career mark.
Aveni praised his heavyweight’s accomplishments, while he’s only been competing in the sport since the seventh grade. He emphasized that his third, fourth, fifth and sixth year of wrestling came at the varsity level.
“Before he went out on the mat, I didn’t even want to send him out. I knew it was his last time to go out there as a Clearfield wrestler,” he said.
He said that Owen has to go down as one of the tops in the program’s 75-year history.
“I’ve been blessed to see many great wrestlers in the past nine years that I have been head coach. I also had a chance to work with Tim Taylor as an assistant a few years before that,” Aveni said.
“Sean is right up there with them. He’s definitely a Clearfield Wrestling Hall of Famer and one of the best to come through the program. But sometimes the best doesn’t always win down here.”