By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
Noah Kuba’s plan was to get down to 106 pounds for the post-season, which started Saturday with his Wildcats hosting the District 4 Class AA South Sectional Tournament.
Not only did he fail to make it to the lightest weight class, he decided it would not be fair to teammate Cooper Wagner if Kuba wrestled at 113 after Wagner cut weight to get there.
Things could not have worked out better, not only for Kuba, but Wagner, as well as the team.
Kuba overcame a size disadvantage and pulled off a 5-3 overtime win over Lewisburg’s Dante Taylor to win the 120 championship, just after Wagner knocked off Southern Columbia’s Brett Shepard 9-4 to win the crown at 113.
The efforts helped the Wildcats hold off surprising Midd-West in the team race as Mifflinburg prevailed 134-125.
The host team advanced five wrestlers to the district meet next week in Williamsport, all as champions. In addition to Kuba and Wagner, the Wildcat winners were Cole Walter (132), his brother Ty at 160 and returning state champ Nazar Mironenko at 285.
Kuba overcame more than simply being undersized. He gave up a first-period takedown and still trailed 2-1 in the third with time running out. But the Wildcat junior kept fighting and eventually got it into overtime with a last-second takedown. After a scoreless first overtime period, Kuba used a Granby to try to get a reversal. He only got the escape, but picked up a penalty point on a locked-hands violation and made it stand up for a 5-3 overtime victory.
“I think I lost a little bit of muscle for 120,” he said. “I knew I could take him down, but it was a matter of finishing. I’d get in on him but I couldn’t finish most of the time and that was the problem.”
Except when it counted.
“I finished it that time. It worked,” he said. “I think with bigger guys it’s harder to finish. I was used to wrestling 113-pounders all year.”
He said he has only ever lost once in overtime and he has a lot of confidence when he gets into that situation. “I went for the rolling Granby from my feet because I knew I had to try something crazy for the win. And I knew I could ride him out for the last 30 seconds.”
Kuba said winning the team title felt good, especially to get it for first-year coach Al Fluman.
The coach said, “I was really pleased that Noah was able to pull one out. He had some struggles throughout the year and hopefully the weight thing is something he can put in the rearview for the rest of the season and do just as well as we had planned (for him) down at 106.”
Fluman admitted that, with a season of highs and lows, repeating as sectional champion helped ease some of the pain, especially for having missed the district team tournament.
He said one of the goals was to qualify for the duals. “Does it erase it? No, but it does make it a little better,” Fluman said.
Midd-West had two champions in Zach Heeter (145) and Alex Lieberman (170) and advanced six.
Milton, new to the sectional, had champions in Ryan Solomon (195) and Ryan Preisch (152) and moved five. Lewisburg, back in the section after a few years, also fared well, with Brandon Smith (220) getting his second sectional title and seven moving into the district meet.
Line Mountain had champions in Cameron Newman (106) and Seth Lansberry (138), but advanced six.
Newman, a junior, renewed old acquaintances with Midd-West freshman Corey Stauffer, who entered the final at 33-0 to Newman’s 27-6.
The two had wrestled throughout their elementary careers, but not in high school.
He said that when he saw Stauffer’s record in the brackets, he had to wonder who the Mustang frosh had wrestled.
“Earlier in the day when he was wrestling (Lewisburg’s Brian) Friery he really impressed me,” Newman said.
Newman took Stauffer down and picked up two near-fall points, but Stauffer got a locked-hands penalty point and a reversal to close to 4-3 after one period. Newman picked it back up in the second with a reversal and three back points for a 9-3 lead. The two exchanged takedowns around a Newman escape for the final of 12-5.
Smith and Solomon, who have locked horns numerous times throughout their careers, went their separate ways this season and sailed through the first weekend hardly breaking a sweat.
Solomon, a returning state champion and three-time PIAA place-winner capped his day with a 14-second fall, that coming on the heels of a 16- and an 18-second fall.
Smith, who drew a first-round bye and got a 40-second pin in the semifinals, matched Solomon with a 16-second pin of his own.
“I wasn’t even paying attention to his match; I was down there warming up. Good for him, but I just had to wrestle my match,” Smith said. “You have to take care of your own business.”
Smith is glad that his path to a coveted state title is not blocked by Solomon. He said, however, that, “in a weird way I might miss the close losses to him, but, in the grand scheme of things, I am pretty happy.”
Also winning titles were Southern Columbia’s Kent Lane (126), Midd-West’s Zach Heeter (145) and Shamokin’s Anthony Anonia (182).
The top three advance to the district event, which starts Friday.