By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
---- — Seth Martin laughed when recalling that he read in this column last week that it looks like the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I title will come down to the Jan. 26 meet between Mifflinburg and visiting Williamsport.
Martin's reaction at the time, he said, was, "So that's the way it is."
Well, coach Dave Murray's Wildcats are still the overwhelming favorite to win the title, but Martin and his Seals shaved a bit of luster off that Jan. 26 meet when they took down the Millionaires on Thursday night in dramatic fashion.
The Seals, with a depleted lineup since early in the season, are now 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the HAC-I with division meets left at Jersey Shore, at Shamokin and home with Shikellamy. They lost to Mifflinburg by eight points on a day when senior 145-pounder Max Beach was injured in an automobile accident and his replacement that night got pinned.
Martin knows that it would have been different had the Wildcats not been missing the standout brother duo of Cole and Ty Walter but, as it was, his team missed an opportunity.
The Seals also lost junior 160-pounder Mike Ede for the season to a shoulder injury sustained in the first placement bout of the late-December Bethlehem Hurricane Classic. Beach is recovering from a concussion sustained in the accident and is expected back, but no one knows when.
"I would like to have seen what we could have done with a full lineup," said Martin. "We have only had a full lineup for about half the season."
So what the Seals did in Billtown could only be described by Martin as "awesome."
Martin told his assistant coach, Jim Roush, going into Thursday's meet that there was no way they could beat the then HAC-I unbeaten Millionaires straight-up. He said they would have to bump everyone up a weight.
"I said before the match that it was risky, but we had to do it, and it worked out perfectly," Martin said.
In a meet that began at 170 pounds, the Seals' Eddie Try got a first-period pin at 152 to give Selinsgrove a 33-32 lead, putting the outcome in the hands of 160-pounder Nick Kratzer.
The former East Juniata wrestler was trailing 3-2 with 12 seconds left when he and opponent Howard Hind went out of bounds. Kratzer got what proved to be the winning takedown in a 4-3 decision with four seconds left.
"I have never been part of such a close match (as a coach)," said second-year coach Martin.
And probably none as thrilling as a come-from-behind win on the road.
MILESTONE NIGHT: A rare win over neighboring Line Mountain was enough to more than satisfy Upper Dauphin coach Todd Rupp on Thursday night. But, in addition to a 34-33 win which puts the Trojans in the driver's seat for the Tri-Valley League title, it was the program's 400th dual meet victory (400-316-9) in its 42-year history.
Rupp, in his eighth year, has 79 of those wins and the Trojans are 14-1 this season. Thursday's was the first win over the Eagles since 2004.
Next up in wins at UD is Rupp's predecessor, Dave Barder, who had 169 in 18 seasons, although, for 13 of those, he shared the wins with co-coach Bob Crabb.
WHERE ARE THE NUMBERS? Minutes after his Braves fell to unbeaten Mifflinburg on Jan. 5, first-year Shikellamy head coach John Supsic was lamenting the fact that he had little wiggle room without the team's customary full lineup. He had lost three starters to season-ending injuries. Reminded that in his days as a Braves' wrestler, there was never a problem because there was so much depth in the program.
"Those days are gone for everybody," Supsic said, but remained optimistic that when his guys can get down a weight (likely after this weekend's Escape the Rock Tournament), the team would get better.
But it got worse before it could get better. One wrestler left the team and another was deemed ineligible by the PIAA, which also took away their two wins. The team with the largest and nicest mat room in the Valley is close to having the lowest numbers of anyone.
Off-the-mat issues have made it a trying time to be a Shikellamy fan, but Supsic and his staff will weather the storm and will be glad for the patience of their supporters.
n Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school wrestling for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.