Belle Vernon wrestling team beats Connellsville, clinches share of subsection title
Over the years, many wrestling teams have wilted under the pressure of trying to beat Connellsville in its own gym in a big match.
This year's Belle Vernon squad was not one of those teams.
The Leopards, hungry to win the 2A subsection in Section 2-AAA, came into the Falcons' gym Tuesday, won eight of 14 bouts and walked out with a 37-22 victory.
The win clinched no less than a share of the subsection title for the Leopards, and they can win it outright with a victory over Ringgold on Wednesday.
“From what I've been told, it's the first time we've ever beaten Connellsville,” Belle Vernon first-year coach Tyler Nauman said. “That makes it a huge match. We just have a dedicated group.
“They want to wrestle, and they want to be good. It was about buying into our system, and they are being rewarded.”
It was their second home loss this season for the Falcons (13-4, 5-1). Connellsville lost to Latrobe on opening night. Connellsville coach Tommy Dolde is hoping that this regular-season defeat helps his team if Connellsville and Belle Vernon meet again next week in the section championship match.
“We learned some things, and that's what we wanted,” Dolde said. “The section championship is decided next week, and that's what we want to win.”
Connellsville started with a win. Tyler Kenney (113 pounds) opened with a 4-3 victory over Tyler Seliga.
The Leopards (8-2, 5-0) took an 8-3 lead on back-to-back major decisions by Brendan Hasson (120) and Mitchell Hartman (126).
The Falcons pulled to within 8-7, thanks to a major decision by Brenden Cooper (132). Belle Vernon won the next four bouts to take a 26-7 lead.
Cameron Evans (138) and Jarod Verkleeren (145) won back-to-back decisions before Derek Verkleeren (152) and Joshua Godzin (160) each won by fall.
Evans' victory was a 6-4 triumph over Bryce Butler. Jarod Verkleeren handled William Bell, 7-2.
The Falcons made a small move to get back in the match. Dale Provance (170) and Tommy Provance (182) each won on decisions. But the fact that Connellsville couldn't collect any bonus points in those two bouts was important, Nauman said.
“We had two kids bump up and were team players,” Nauman said of Austin Bell moving to 170 and Milton Kobaly jumping to 182. “They wrestled the Provance brothers, and they kept the bonus points to a minimum.”
Nauman also credited Jarod and Derek Verkleeren for wrestling strong matches.
“Everybody contributed,” Nauman said. “We did what we needed to do to win.”
Belle Vernon clinched the victory when William Korber (195) caught Matt Butler on his back and pinned him. With the match decided, Connellsville's Gunnar Lynch (220) won on a decision before Dakota McWilliams (285) picked up Connellsville's only pin of the match.
Belle Vernon's Jacob Dunlop (106) closed the match with a pin.
Despite losing, Dolde noted he was proud of the team's effort, especially considering that several wrestlers stepped into the lineup to fill spots that recently have been vacated.
Dolde credited the efforts of Alex Knopsnider (152) and Riley Eans (160) for filling the voids. He also acknowledged that despite some strong efforts on his team's part, losing to Belle Vernon wasn't a surprise.
“We could see it coming,” Dolde said, noting Belle Vernon had beaten Connellsville in each of the past two seasons at the junior high level.
Still, Dolde isn't conceding another loss should the teams meet again.
“I think we can win at 138 and 195,” Dolde said. “We can overturn those two matches, and if we don't give up some bonus points, then it's a match.”
The Falcons host Liberty (W.Va.) in a nonsection match Wednesday.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.