CURWENSVILLE – Many fans exited Patton Hall Tuesday night after another throwback chapter in the heated Clearfield-Curwensville rivalry believing the host Golden Tide had defeated the Bisons for only the third time in a wrestling series that dates back 55 years.
That was the initial announcement when referee Bob Colgan and head coaches Jeff Aveni of Clearfield and Duane Wriglesworth of Curwensville got together with the scorekeepers following an emotionally-charged match full of peaks and valleys for both squads that ended 37-37.
The Golden Tide bench and fans exploded when they heard Criteria E – the greater number of falls, defaults, forfeits or disqualifications – favored the Gold and Black, and the celebration began.
Several minutes later, though, Aveni was made aware of the fact the Bisons’ five pins had offset the Golden Tide’s three falls and two forfeits, negating that criteria, so he challenged the decision, contacting Colgan while Wriglesworth was being interviewed by the WOKW-FM broadcasters.
Colgan returned from the locker room with an official rulebook and, upon further review with the two coaches, determined the Bisons had prevailed 38-37 on Criteria H, most first points in the 12 bouts that were contested.
A 13-9 edge gave the Bisons their third win of a very uncharacteristic losing season, but most of their followers in the capacity crowd headed downriver unaware of the overturned outcome.
“I wasn’t paying attention and I said, ‘Well, all right,’ ” Aveni said of the initial ruling. “At first I said it should be all even, and Dewey said, ’No, it’s 5-4,’ and that’s the way they announced it.
“We counted six pointers wrong,” Wriglesworth explained. “We thought they only had four.”
The confusing finish overshadowed an intense match that was full of surprises, by both teams, with momentum swinging back and forth and Clearfield emerging victorious by overcoming the two forfeits with pin power.
Rivalries bring out the best in athletes and the fact that each lineup had only three matmen with winning records wasn’t reflected in the efforts and performances by the Bisons and Golden Tide.
Curwensville registered the first 10 points when Travis Lansberry received a forfeit at 113 pounds and Tyler Mays (15-8) double-legged Frankie Aveni to his back and tilted the Bison for two more points at the first-period buzzer on his way to a 9-0 major decision at 120.
“Mays impressed me scoring all those points in the first period and then just wrestled smart the rest of the match,” Wriglesworth said.
At 126, Christian Stone (21-5) erased the zero on Clearfield’s side of the scoreboard by running a bar and sinking in a half nelson to pin Brandon Sass at 2:39. The Bison standout had piled up an 11-2 lead with three takedowns and two sets of back points in the first period.
Jake Keller (25-2), who joined Curwensville’s Century Club on Saturday at the Fred Bell Tournament in Grove City, answered by spread-eagling Jake Lancaster in 35 seconds to restore the 10-point advantage.
“Jake’s our captain, and he led by example,” Wriglesworth said.
Then, the Bisons swept five bouts in a row to charge into a 33-16 lead.
Dylan Graham (17-11) provided the spark with a workmanlike 5-2 win over Trey McKenzie. Takedowns early and late were the difference in the 138-pound bout, the clincher a double-leg with 18 seconds remaining.
“Even though he lost, Trey wrestled Graham very, very tough,” Wriglesworth said. “It was really an inspiration to the team because I think a lot of people in the crowd probably expected Graham to possibly pin McKenzie.”
In a pivotal bout at 145, the Golden Tide’s Alex Holt lifted Wyatt Stucke for a takedown in the first period and countered a headlock for another takedown in the second period for a 5-2 lead. He chose neutral in the third period, and that decision backfired. The much taller Bison sophomore used his leverage against a single-leg attempt to gain control and proceeded to hook up a cradle for a stunning fall at 4:59.
“I thought we were going to win that match,” Wriglesworth said.
After Nolan Barger (24-3) bumped up to 152 and put Clearfield in front for the first time at 21-16 by cradling Dakota Royer in 50 seconds at 145, teammate Kody Hepfer pulled off another shocking finish.
Locked in a 1-1 tie with Austin Pollick and overtime looming, the Bison senior powered Golden Tide 160-pounder Austin Pollick to his back for another crucial fall with only 13 seconds left.
“That was just a straight-up cement job,” Aveni said. “It’s something he’s done a lot of times this year. He’s lost probably at least four matches where he cemented the kid. He’s so strong that he can do that, and every time he tucks his hand underneath the kid’s shoulder so he can’t pin him.
“We’ve been working on… Hey, readjust your lock so you can get that. And he waited for his opportunity, the kid put his head down, and he went and got it.”
Wriglesworth said, “I knew we had a shot at winning that, but, at the most, (I thought) we would give up only three. And it was at the end of the period, too. That hurt.”
Like Hepfer, a senior with only three wins, 170-pounder Garrett Timko followed with a buzzer-beater fall to widen Clearfield’s lead to 17 points. Timko used his strength advantage to take down Nate Wriglesworth three times but was unable to turn him until working a half nelson for the pin with just one tick left in the second period.
“Those guys work hard, and they‘re nice kids,” Aveni praised Hepfer and Timko. “I’ve been nice to them, I’ve yelled at them, I’ve tried everything, and they just kind of look at me in the same way.
“So we’ve really pushed them and challenged them in the last couple weeks, and now they’re starting to believe in themselves.”
Aveni opted to forfeit to Chad Desmett at 182 and send Devin Sinclair against Jake Kavelak at 195.
The strategy appeared to be the correct one when the Bison soph with one win hit a five-point move, but the Golden Tide junior fought out of danger, came out on top of Sinclair and recorded a pin at 1:53.
“Whenever Kavelak was able to get that fall, I knew we were back in it,” Wriglesworth said. “I didn’t expect to see him get six.”
Soph 220-pounder Ricky Magnuson then regained the lead for Curwensville at 34-33 when he ran an arm bar to turn Shane Billings and used a body press for a fall with time running out in the first period.
“I felt confident that Magnuson could give us six,” Wriglesworth said. “Ricky did a real nice job.”
That left the outcome up to the biggest and smallest wrestlers.
Golden Tide junior heavyweight Brad Stubbs lifted Jordan Lancaster for a takedown right at the middle period buzzer for a 3-1 squeaker that made it necessary for Bison bantam Noah Cline to engineer at least a major decision in a duel of freshmen 106-pounders.
He did, though it wasn’t until he got under Sam Bressler in the neutral position for his third dump and a five-point move midway through the third period and an 11-3 major. Bressler valiantly battled to avert a meet-ending fall and escaped with 27 seconds left, but he couldn’t score a takedown he needed to cancel Cline’s bonus point.
“Stubbs wrestled smart,” Wriglesworth said. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen there. Stubbs, this is only his second year of wrestling. And Lancaster is a seasoned wrestler.
“It’s tough when it comes down to a freshman in the last match. You want to make sure he doesn’t make any mistakes and doesn’t give up six, which he did. He fought hard out there for us.”
Aveni was especially happy to see Cline come through under pressure.
“Noah has never beaten him before,” Aveni said. “Bressler has beaten him every time they’ve wrestled. That was a 6-2 bout last year at JOs, and he lost it. He changed it into a major decision. He controlled the match, and he controlled the tempo and really did a great job.
“I’m very proud of Noah. We’ve been telling Noah all year how much better he’s gotten. I think, tonight, he realized it. That was a big match for Noah.
“We considered going to 13 at the beginning, but I felt, at this point in the season, I need Noah to have his confidence going into districts. I think he proved it to himself tonight.
“I was very confident putting Jordan Lancaster and Noah Cline on the mat at the end. Jordan just had some bad luck. I feel terrible for him. I knew he wanted to win that match.
“Then, it comes down to Noah. I really thought Noah was gonna get an opportunity for the fall, which he did. He had to be patient and wait for his opportunity. He finally got the dump and held on to the arm long enough to get some back points. And that gave him the major decision to tie the match up.”
Both coaches expected a close battle.
“I thought there was a lot of great bouts,” Aveni said. “There were a lot of kids that matched up ability-wise. We had to convince our kids to rely on their condition, and I felt we did that in a lot of weight classes.
“Either way, when you get to 37-37, both teams are winners. I think we both wrestled well. It was good for the sport, good for the area.”
Wriglesworth said he was very proud of how his wrestlers performed, too.
“There were a couple toss-ups that went our way and a couple toss-ups that went their way,“ he said. “We didn’t realize it would be this close. To come down to that criteria, what can I say?
“It’s a tough loss. To be up and be so down. It’s tough to take.
“It was a great atmosphere in here. I just feel sad we were on the short end.
“We just have to get over it and get ready for our next match.”
The Golden Tide (5-12) must regroup in a hurry with a trip to Philipsburg-Osceola coming up Thursday,
The Bisons (3-11) will have almost two weeks to continue working in their mat room before hosting Mifflin County on Feb. 14.
CLEARFIELD 38, CURWENSVILLE 37
113 – Travis Lansberry, Cur, won by forfeit. (Cur 6-0)
120 – Tyler Mays, Cur, major dec. Frankie Aveni, 9-0. (Cur 10-0)
126 – Christian Stone, Cl, pinned Brandon Sass, 2:39. (Cur 10-6)
132 – Jake Keller, Cur, pinned Jake Lancaster, :35. (Cur 16-6)
138 – Dylan Graham, Cl, dec. Trey McKenzie, 5-2. (Cur 16-9)
145 – Wyatt Stucke, Cl, pinned Alex Holt, 4:59. (Cur 16-15)
152 – Nolan Barger, Cl, pinned Dakota Royer, :50. (Cl 21-16)
160 – Kody Hepfer, Cl, pinned Austin Pollick, 5:47. (Cl 27-16)
170 – Garrett Timko, Cl, pinned Nate Wriglesworth, 3:;59. (Cl 33-16)
182 – Chad Desmett, Cur, won by forfeit. (Cl 33-22)
195 – Jake Kavelak, Cur, pinned Devin Sinclair, 1:53. (Cl 33-28)
220 – Ricky Magnuson, Cur, pinned Shane Billings, 1:56. (Cur 34-33)
285 – Brad Stubbs, Cur, dec. Jordan Lancaster, 3-1. (Cur 37-33)
106 – Noah Cline, Cl, major dec. Sam Bressler, 11-3. (37-37)
Clearfield wins on Criteria H: The team having the greater number (total match points) of first points shall be declared the winner.
Referee – Bob Colgan.