By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- Everyone in the Shikellamy Field House on Thursday night witnessed the unveiling of the next generation of Braves' wrestlers.
The Braves opened the season against rival Selinsgrove with five freshmen in the lineup and four of them won, including a Seals' forfeit in the final bout at 120 pounds, as Shikellamy rolled to a 62-9 Heartland Athletic Conference Division I victory.
The home team was so dominant that the Seals (1-1 overall, 0-1 HAC-I) did not score a point until the fifth bout when, in a battle of sophomores, Seal Nate Bingaman scored a s takedown with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in the second period en route to a 6-1 win over Joe Snyder. That made it 18-3 Braves and the Seals did not get on the board again until first-year varsity wrestler senior Harley Stahl got a first-period fall at 285 pounds. The Braves had a 23-3 takedown advantage.
Selinsgrove coach Seth Martin said he thought his team could win every match or it could lose every match. "I have an inexperienced team and tonight it showed, getting turned on half-Nelsons ...Our inexperience showed big-time tonight."
His Shikellamy counterpart, John Supsic, said the coaches are high on several of the freshmen, coming off the recent success of the junior high program.
He said he didn't expect such a lopsided score, but added, "You get momentum and start winning; momentum goes a long way in high school sports. We got the momentum and kept it going."
The first freshman to wrestle for the Braves (1-0, 1-0), Darryl Engelhart at 170, impressed quickly. Seals junior Darian Levanowitz hit Engelhart with a double-leg and looked like if he could keep the Braves frosh inbounds, he would score the first takedown. Engelhart not only fought out of it, he immediately scored a single-leg takedown for a 2-0 lead.
"I have just been doing what the coaches are telling me, to go hard and focus, and don't let one little mess-up get you down," he said.
He said the takedown boosted his confidence and proved to himself that "I could fight through it and one little move couldn't take me down."
The other Shikellamy freshmen to win on the mat were Nick Gittens, a fall in 4:52 at 106, and Dylan Kramer, a technical fall (15-0, 6:00) at 113. The other, Dylan Houseknecht, picked up the forfeit.
Shikellamy's other frosh, Jeremy Bacon, had a tough opening match-up as Stahl pinned him in 1:59.
If the meet had stayed tight, the key may have been in the second bout where Shikellamy's Tristan Paul, a junior wrestling his first match in nearly a year after recovering from a shoulder injury that required surgery, upended Seal veteran Tom Kramer 4-0 at 132.
"I worked on getting better since getting cleared in mid-summer," Paul said.
Paul said the two have wrestled in the past and he thought the win helped set the tempo considering that Kramer is one of the Seals' better kids. "He has always been a good, fun guy to wrestle."
The other Braves' pinners were junior Tyler Hepler at 126 (1:57); senior John Rohrbach at 160 (2:40); senior Jesse Shambach at 182 (1:29); and senior Dan Karpinski at 220 (1:39).
The most entertaining bout came at 195 with the Braves already up 39-3. Junior veterans Austin Lewis of the Seals and Dwayne Pepper of the Braves put on a show with Pepper pulling out a 7-5 decision.
Lewis got the first takedown and Pepper escaped for a 2-1 Lewis advantage after one. Pepper escaped and took Lewis down, but Lewis escaped, making it 4-3 Pepper after two. Lewis again went on top with a third-period reversal, but, coming out of an injury timeout, Pepper stood and turned in for an escape, then scored the winning takedown on a double-leg.
Martin said he told Lewis during Pepper's timeout that he must not relax. "I said 'he's going to be a ball of fire.' Then (Lewis) fixed his headgear and Dwayne shot out and that was it."