SAINT MARYS – Coming into Thursday night, it was clear Bison Head Coach Jeff Aveni was not happy with the effort Tuesday night against Tyrone. The match was not predicted to be close, yet it came down to a tremendous effort by JD Graham to win by fall at the end of the final match. There seemed to be a lack of mental toughness.
The Bison Wrestling Team responded by winning 8 of 13 wrestled matches, and 9 of 14 total for a solid 39-24 victory over their host, the Flying Dutch of Saint Marys. That made Coach Aveni feel that things are getting better, but he still thinks there is room to improve. The Bison improved to 4-2 with the win.
The match started at 152 pounds, right before Clearfield’s strongest part of their lineup started at 160 with sophomores Mark McGonigal (13-2), Hayden Kovalick (11-6) at 172, senior Brett Zattoni (9-8) at 182, and sophomore Oliver Billotte (14-2) at 220. While Zattoni would lose by a 3-2 match, McGonigal scored a major decision, Kovalick got a first period pin, and Billotte won a wild 9-8 match.
The match score at this point did flip flop a few times, as Saint Marys’ Tylor Herzing scored a first period fall over Clearfield’s Logan Firanski at 152 to put them up 6-0. But after McGonigal and Kovalick, they were up 9-6, because a team point was taken away from Clearfield for a singlet violation after Firanski’s match. It may be one of the few times in Bison history they actually had negative points.
The match took a turn when Saint Marys’ Jeremy Garthwaite pinned Bison Matt Bailor (1-2) at 195, which put them up 15-10, but the matches from 220-120 put the lead in Clearfield’s possession for the remainder of the night.
Billotte may have had the most impressive match of the dual meet, as he’s generally a pin or be pinned kind of guy (where he’s usually the one getting the pin.) Instead, Billotte found himself on his back early in the first period, and had to battle back from a five point deficit. When Billotte finally led late in the third period, he wrestled smartly and made sure Saint Marys’ Alex Lukaschunis wasn’t able to convert anymore counterpunch haymakers.
Billotte may have given Clearfield some momentum, as teammate John Doran (7-7) would win 4-1 over Saint Marys’ Colton Swanson, and then Bison freshman Evan Davis (11-6) came out and walked off the mat 16 seconds later with a pin over Tanner Quackenbush.
As action moved on, Clearfield got wins from sophomores Nolan Barr (9-6) at 120, Karson Kline (11-5) at 132, and Luke Freeland (8-7) at 138.
Greg Tettis at 145 put the final points of the night on the Saint Marys side with a second period fall over Bison senior Peyton Smay.
The Bison showed that they are now in shape as no one appeared to be gassed, and everyone is at the apparent weight they need to be at as well. But for this team to continue growing, they’ll need to learn to push themselves hard into their second wind during matches. They’ll need to work on their mental toughness and psychologically believe that they can wrestle for six minutes, push the pace, get into scrambles and keep seeking to generate points and let good things happen. Coach Aveni said he saw that out of JD Graham on Tuesday and Oliver Billotte during this match, and he hopes that the fire he’s beginning to see takes off.
Next week, the Bison wrestle a usually tough Penns Valley at home on Tuesday before hosting the 12th Annual Bison Duals next Saturday. That’s the tournament this team turned the corner last year, and he hopes it proves to be another fruitful year for this young team.