By Dan Gilles
Lutheran West coach Dave Ressler knows that the real Patriot Athletic Conference championship won’t be decided for another two weeks, when the conference tournament is held.
However, finishing undefeated against the Longhorns’ Stripes Division foes – and claiming the dual meet division championship –was just as important, especially since they accomplished that feat last season.
Last Thursday night, in a stroke of scheduling genius, Lutheran West met Clearview in the final PAC Stripes dual of the season, and both teams came in undefeated.
In the end, the Clippers finished off their 5-0 Stripes Division season (8-2 in the overall PAC) with a 47-35 victory over the Longhorns at a PAC quad that also featured host Brookside and Buckeye from the Stars Division.
“You’d say that the real thing is the conference tournament, but I disagree,” Ressler said. “I think the real thing is the dual meets. We’re proud to be the defending champs (in the Stripes), and Clearview just had a great team this year.
“I’m very happy for (Clearview coach) Jason (Steadman). He’s a great guy. And it’s a great accomplishment to be able to run the table and finish undefeated. But we’ll get ready for the conference tournament.
“Maybe we can sneak up on some people and come away with that title.”
Lutheran West could not rebound from the disappointing loss to Clearview, falling to Buckeye in the nightcap, 40-36.
The first two duals (Clearview-Lutheran West and Brookside-Buckeye) started at 160 pounds, which played into Clearview’s strengths.
Clearview’s Felipe Valadez’s 17-2 technical fall over Ryan Moore got it started, and that deficit swelled to 29-5 after the heavyweights were done with three pins and a forfeit.
David Cooper (220) and Deion Arnold (285) each earned pins within the first minute for Clearview.
However, the Longhorns started stringing together some wins with the lighter weights. Following a forfeit at 106, Tim Mecklenburg (113) and Bryce Deblock (120) each earned first-minute pinfalls to cut Clearview’s lead to 29-23.
“Without those pins by Billy Daniels (182), David Cooper and Arnold, it’s a tight match,” Steadman said. “That kind of gave the younger guys at the lighter weights a little bit less pressure.
“I knew (Lutheran West) was loaded in the early weights. We had to build up a lead in order to withstand that. Starting at 160 definitely worked to our advantage.”
Ressler agreed with Steadman’s assessment.
“That’s not the place where we wanted to start,” he said. “One hundred six was where we wanted to start, because that’s where our best guys are. Starting at 160, it kind of limited us as to what we could do and who to put where.
“We were kind of forced to stick with what I had in the lineup and not do any tinkering to try to gain an advantage.”
The dual wasn’t clinched until sophomore Derek Foster pinned Gevin Maxwell in 4:28 at 145. That gave Clearview 47 points, which proved to be the magic number.
Another key matchup was Ryan Rusnak’s bout with Mike Hollingsworth at 126. A Rusnak win would have made the deficit at most three points, and a pin would have tied things up at 29.
However, Hollingsworth was able to catch Rusnak on his back and pin him in 1:35.
“Even moving my 106 to 113 (Mecklenburg) paid off, when he was able to get the stick real fast,” Ressler said. “But 126 was a big blow for us. We know Michael is so tough and Ryan is really good, too. We got caught and gave up the six.
“We thought, even if we lose, we’d only lose three to the decision, so giving up the six points there really cost us.”
Chance Huey (138) and C.J. McNamee (152) each earned pinfalls to make the final score respectable and try to build some momentum over to the Buckeye match.
Starting at 170, the only wins Lutheran West could gain in the six matches were three forfeits from Gabriel Petkac (182), Zach Prah (285) and Jacob Ressler (106). However, a pinfall for Mecklenburg in 1:33 at 113 gave the Longhorns a 24-17 lead with the toughest part of their lineup on deck.
However, Deblock was handed a 14-6 major decision from Brandon Nagy at 126, which started a downward slide from which the Longhorns could not recover.
Rusnak was pinned by Kyle Fowler in 3:44, Nicole Swanson was pinned in :19 by Mike Kieth, Huey was defeated, 4-0, by Anthony Kisiday and Gevin Maxwell was handed a 13-4 major decision loss by Danny Inman to cap off the dismal five-match skid.
In all, Buckeye scored 23 unanswered points to grab a 40-24 lead. Despite forfeits from McNamee and Andrew Liese at 152 and 160, it wasn’t enough to prevent a sweep.
“I’ve really been concentrating on how we fared in the Stripes Division,” Ressler said. “We only won one ‘crossover’ dual this year, which is disappointing. But to go 4-1 in our division makes us feel good.”