Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Forfeits Key as Eagles hold off Ephrata


Ephrata won the battle Tuesday night but in the end, Cocalico, by virtue of four forfeit wins, won the war.

The visiting Eagles used those forfeits to jump out to a commanding 24-3 lead. As it turned out, they needed them as the undermanned Mounts won the majority of the head-to-head bouts by a 6-4 margin.

In the end though, Cocalico got late falls from Max Martin (145) and Trevor Fichtorn (152) to clinch an eventual 42-21 victory over Ephrata and keep the Eagles alive for a Section Two title.

Cocalico improved to 4-1 in Section Two play and trails only unbeaten Conestoga Valley (5-0), which defeated Elizabethtown Tuesday night.

That was about the only thing Eagle Coach Matt Fittery was excited about following the win.

“We definitely are not happy about this,” Fittery said. “They beat us on the mat. It was 21-18 without the forfeits. In my mind, we lost that match. We got to give Ephrata props…they wrestled hard and they wanted it more than us. That was the disappointing thing. I really thought I saw a lack of heart from some of our kids. That’s really disappointing.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Ephrata Coach Josh Clair, who said he liked the fight in his kids from the opening bout Tuesday.

“Take away the forfeits and we won in head-to-head matches,” he said. That’s all I’m looking for with the team, knowing we got the forfeits. The kids fought. In matches where they clearly had the better kids, we kept them to decisions and saved bonus points. And with a rivalry like Cocalico, it shouldn’t take a lot to get the kids warmed up and get them going. Our kids were stingy, didn’t give up points and took advantage of any chance they got.”

After giving up forfeits to Cocalico’s Nathan Quinn (170) and Abdul Saad (182 to start the match, Ephrata (0-5) finally got on the board at 195 when Zach Lorah edged Ben Fromm by a 3-2 decision. Lorah carried a 2-0 lead into the third before Fromm reversed from the bottom to even things up. Lorah worked out for an escape at the 1:35 mark, and fought off Fromm’s last-second charge to post the one-point win.

Two more forfeits to Cocalico’s Roman Plotnikov (220) and john Fry (285) gave the Eagles a 24-3 advantage heading into 106 where Ephrata’s Austin Jones and the Eagles’ Josiah Gehr battled in the match of the night.

Jones built a 9-2 lead midway through the second period on a pair of nearfalls before Gehr began to charge back. Gehr got a reversal with 40 ticks left in the second and tilted Jones for two back points at the end of the period to get within striking distance at 9-6.

Gehr, just a sophomore, chose top to start the third, and secured a pair of tilts; the second with 20 seconds to go&tstr; to take a 10-9 lead. However, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Jones hit a reversal and held on for the exciting 11-10 decision.

“It was a good, exciting match,” Clair said. “Gehr is a tough kid. I remember when he was in elementary school, coming over to our camp during the summer. He’s tough. Jones was kind of sloppy tonight. It wasn’t his best match, but he was down with seconds to go and got the reversal when he needed it. An ugly win is an ugly win…it still goes down as a win.”

Fittery said while Gehr wrestled well, he felt the slow start cost him.

“He did a really nice job coming back and wrestling hard,” Fittery said of Gehr. “He started off a little slow so I don’t know if he was quite prepared for the match. He kept wrestling until the end and made a real close come back, and Jones is a tough kid so that was good for him because he sees he’s right there. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned that you can’t give up a big lead in the beginning.”

Ephrata’s Cameron Terry followed up Jones’ victory with a solid 5-1 decision over Cocalico’s Justin Moyer at 113 to get the Mounts to within 15 points at 24-9. But the Eagles responded with a pair of key wins at 120 and 126 to open it up to 30-9.

At 120, freshman Nate Fritz jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a takedown and two nearfall points against Ephrata sophomore Josh Harple. Fritz maintained that same lead after holding down the Ephrata wrestler for the full two minutes in the second, and then added an escape and takedown to capture an impressive 7-1 decision.

Then at 126, Ephrata’s Vince Evans cut Adam Miller’s 4-0 lead in half with a late second period takedown. However, Miller held that lead for most of the third period before getting two big back points with 10 seconds to go to clinch a 6-2 victory.

But Ephrata’s Thomas Evans stopped the bleeding at 132 with an impressive 8-3 decision over Lukas Lees. Evans opened the first period with a quick takedown, and followed up in the second with an escape and another takedown to open up a 5-0 advantage heading to the third. Then with Lees on the bottom, Evans hit a spladle that produced three back points before Lees fought out of it for the escape. Lees then added a late takedown but that was as close as he could get.

“That’s what he’s capable of but he hasn’t been wrestling like that all year,” Clair said of Evans’ performance. “He’s capable of doing some good things. He just needs to get out of that funk. He’s kind of like his older brother Mike. When he wrestles with a smile on his face he does well, and Thomas is just like Mike in that aspect. When he’s relaxed and having fun out there, he knows what he’s doing. He has the skill set and he finally put it together tonight. He wrestled a whole match. He’s tough on the mat but he finally wrestled better on his feet. A lot of times he’ll be close and the last minute or whatever he relaxes. Tonight he wrestled a good, hard six-minute match.”

The Mounts’ Tyler Mentzer then picked up the first fall of the night at 138, pinning the Eagles’ Hunter Garmen in 3:19 to draw the Mounts to within 12 points at 30-18.

But that was as close as Ephrata could get as Martin cradled Austin Reider for a pin in 1:09 in the 145-pound bout. Fichtorn then followed at 152 with a first-period fall against Ephrata’s Nate Cooper to put it out of reach.

The Mounts’ Dakota Rohrbaugh then closed the night with a tight 5-3 victory over Cocalico sophomore Darin Youndt at 160 pounds to send his team out on a good note.

“The kids came in this year knowing that we were automatically giving up 18 points (with forfeits),” Clair said. “They knew coming into the season that it would be tough to compete for team wins, so they’ve looked at it on an individual basis and just to contest each bout. Our record doesn’t indicate the improvement that they’ve made or the fact that we’ve been in a lot of matches.”