Coming into the Polytech/Indian River varsity wrestling match on Jan. 17, both head coaches — Polytech’s Danny Boone and IR’s Jeff Windish — knew it would come down to the wire.
Call it a feeling or coach’s intuition. They knew that every point would be crucial to their teams’ chances of victory, right down to the very end. And, sure enough, both coaches called it right.
Unfortunately for the Indians (5-3), the Panthers (5-2) benefited from consecutive match-ending decisions by Mike Russo (130 pounds) and John Walters (135 pounds) over David Harkness and Sean Cummings. They ground out the 34-30 victory after Darjuan Pitts (125 pounds) recaptured a 31-30 lead for Indian River with a 17-1 major decision over Ryan Murray.
Both teams swapped the lead twice and the match was tied once at 18-all following a Perry Townsend (215 pounds) 4-0 pin over Mike Varalvian in a little over a minute. But when it came down to brass tacks, the Panthers earned more bonus points than the Indians.
They each earned three decisions, but Indian River fell short in the pin department with only South River tournament champion Bo Wilkinson (140 pounds) and Townsend getting pins, compared to Polytech’s four pins.
With Darjuan Pitt’s major decision, he was the Indians’ only other wrestler to earn any bonus points.
The Indians’ other South River tournament champion, Mike Magaha (119 pounds), scored seven times in a 14-4 decision during a very technical win over Luke Wise-Martini.
Josh Hitchens (189 pounds) earned a 12-6 decision over Ryan Schafer and scored two near-falls but couldn’t get the pin for additional points.
“I knew this match was going to come down to the end, and it kind of played out like I expected. But when it comes down to a tight match, you need bonus points,” Windish said. “That’s something that you’ve got to have.”
And when it came down to the wire on Jan. 17, Boone made sure his wrestlers knew remembered their mantra: “It’s all about how few points you give up, no matter if you’re up or down in the match, because that’s what decides matches.”
And when it came down to crunch time, Russo and Walters didn’t give up much. They combined to give up only five points while earning 19 to secure the win.Russo held strong long enough to keep IR’s Harkness from sinking in his hooks as he attempted to tie the match at 7-all. Harkness had scored a reverse from the bottom start position early in the third period and Russo simply waited him out to earn a 9-5 decision. It gave Polytech a 31-30 lead.
Walters never gave Cummings a chance. He jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead within the first 15 seconds and never looked back. He eventually completed the third period and the match with a 13-0 decision to seal the Panthers’ victory.
And even though Indian River lost a close match that they had really wanted to win, Windish acknowledged afterward that it very well could have gone their way in the final two matches.
“David’s a tough kid,” Windish said. “He didn’t wrestle last year because of a car wreck, but that was a match that very well could gone either way. Anyway you look at it, I was pleased with his effort.”
Had Harkness earned a decision, Indian River would have led by six points heading into the final match. In that case, with a Walters pin of Cummings, Polytech would have ended up the spoiler in a tie. Under a Harkness decision and with that Walters pin, Polytech would have ended up as the loser if everything else played out as it did.
But Harkness didn’t earn the decision and the Panthers prevailed on a night that was close for both teams.
Indian River will return to the mat with a home match against Cape Henlopen tonight at 7 p.m. and then head out on the road with away matches against Caravel on Saturday, Jan. 20, and against Sussex Tech and Sussex Central the following week.
ndian River places second at the South River Invitational
Indian River’s five finalists fueled them to a consecutive second-place finish in their last two tournaments of the regular season at the South River Invitational in Anne Arundel, Md., Jan. 12-13.
Magaha and Wilkinson both came away tournament champions and became the first members of their team to earn the honor throughout the four tournaments held this season. Delphino Pascual, Dominique Morris and Townsend each settled for second-place finishes.
And to make Magaha’s championship a little sweeter, he tech-pinned all four of his opponents and then pinned them.
Cummings came away a third-place finisher. Pitts snagged fourth place, and Luke Saylor and Hitchens both secured sixth-place finishes.