MIFFLINTOWN - When Ty Treaster scored an early takedown at 195 pounds, Juniata fans saw a chance for their wrestling team to clinch its first Tri-Valley League match in two years before it was over.
When Line Mountain's Brendan Renn flipped Treaster and gave the Eagles a three-point lead with one bout to go, the match was suddenly in the hands of Patrick Fitzgerald.
Luckily, the Indians' 220-pounder has some pretty big hands. He used them to show Rayce Boyer the lights, and gave his team more than it needed to win the match, 35-32.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Juniata’s Patrick Fitzgerald, left, throws Line Mountain’s Rayce Boyer to the mat on the way to pinning him Wednesday, delivering a 35-32 win for the Indians in the Tri-Valley League dual meet. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Fitzgerald went after Boyer aggressively, taking him down quickly and keeping his head locked up until he could find a pinning combination. He knew any bonus points would win it - and that anything less, even a decision, would mean the visitors headed home with a victory.
"I knew what I had to do," Fitzgerald said. "I just went out and pinned him. I had to get at least a major."
The difference proved to be Juniata's ability to find success in the upper weights, while working with the knowledge that Line Mountain was going to send out lighter wrestlers in a large-scale lineup shuffle. And so Fitzgerald, who's capable of filling either the 220- or 285-pound spot, ended up against the Eagles' 195-pound wrestler in the crucial match.
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* Juniata travels to the King of the Mountain Friday
"We had planned that he was going to go 220 and they were going to bump the whole lineup," Juniata coach Mike Robinson said. "Our expectations of what they were going to do held true."
Well, he might not have expected four of the first five bouts to go against his team, with Juniata's only points in that span on a forfeit. The Eagles' Cory Warford pinned Dalton Osborn in 35 seconds to start off, then Juniata's Tyler Miller got a forfeit to make it even.
Then came a heartbreaker at 113, where Cole Walters led Line Mountain's Ethen Marquette in the second period, but gave up an escape and a takedown in the final 30 seconds for a Marquette decision. The next two went to the visitors as well, although only one bonus point was allowed in that span.
"We knew right away when Line Mountain rolled in here that they were ready to battle," Robinson said. "You've got to give them the utmost respect - they shuffled kids around to get that win. They were right there - it was in their reach."
The Indians were able to take and build a lead as Line Mountain forfeited to Adam Barrick and Sean Heggs - the latter drawing catcalls from the stands - and Luke Nanna turned Blake Carl four times en route to a technical fall. A Derek Beitz pin gave Juniata its biggest lead of the night, 29-20, with four bouts remaining.
But the Indians lost four of five after Heggs got the free six at 145, including another major decision and the pin at 195. That, Robinson said, is because of an unusual situation his team faces as he tries to bulk a few wrestlers up into the top of the lineup.
"We're trying to get him to gain some weight, and he's doing well," he said of Treaster. "It's just tough to keep that weight on. It's a good situation for a coach because you don't have to worry about those kids cutting weight."
Still, the Indians weren't out of it, opening the door for Fitzgerald to be the hero.
"I knew what we had coming. We've got a well-balanced team. When one of these guys falls, someone else comes through," Robinson said. "To have Patrick Fitzgerald following up at the end - I'll take that any day."
Juniata (6-0, 1-0) heads to the King of the Mountain Tournament Friday and Saturday at Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall.