BEREA – In their final regular-season action, the Heidelberg University wrestling team fell to 19th-ranked Baldwin Wallace on the road 26-10. The match was highlighted by victories for Justin Kihn and Dillen Decker for the Berg, who both finished the season a perfect 5-0 in Ohio Athletic Conference dual action.
Heidelberg fell to 6-11 in dual matches, including 2-3 in the OAC while Baldwin Wallace wrapped up their regular season at 18-8, 5-0 in the OAC, clinching their 1st outright wrestling title since 1973.
In the evening's first bout, Tyler Price was very aggressive out of the gate against Chris Doyle at 125, but both sides were able to fight off each other's shots in the early going. Doyle was able to get a takedown late in the first period after finally capitalizing on a shot as Price trailed 2-0 entering the second period. Starting on the bottom in the second, Price stood up very quickly for the escape to make it just a 2-1 deficit. After a bit of defensive wrestling, Price picked up a takedown of his own to take the lead. An escape by Doyle was quickly countered with by a takedown as well as back points made it a 7-3 hole for Price going to the final period. Price started the final period on top, but Doyle earned an escape early in the period. Price was unable to get anything going as the bout ended with him falling by a 15-3 major decision.
Brandon Conrad faced a tall task in Jesse Gunter at 133, who is ranked 2nd in the nation in the most recent NWCA individual rankings. Conrad drew first blood, literally and on the scoreboard as he recorded a takedown after a brief break to clean up Gunter's injury. Gunter was able to escape rather quickly, however, as Conrad led 2-1. Conrad continued to display some impressive defensive wrestling, as he was able to roll out of shot after shot by Gunter, but he finally succumbed to a takedown late in the period, but an impressive escape by Conrad with one second left immediately after giving up a pair of back points made it a 5-3 deficit going to the second period. With a neutral start to the second period, Gunter quickly scored another takedown to take command and was able to ride out the rest of the period. Another neutral start to the final period saw Conrad score a reversal after giving up another takedown, but he fell by 14-5 major decision.
At 141, Justin Kihn was quick to score, as his single leg shot turned into a takedown and a 2-0 lead against Jake Landers. After a bit of riding time, Kihn gave up an escape, but another solid single leg trip by Kihn made it a 4-1 advantage, which was the score at the end of the period. Starting on the bottom in the second period, it took less than five seconds for Kihn to pick up the escape to lengthen his lead. Once again he was able to capitalize on a deep shot for yet another takedown as he continued to dominate the bout with over two minutes of riding time. Kihn allowed an escape with no contest and stayed aggressive to make it a 9-2 lead entering the final period with one more takedown. He continued to wrestle well in the final period as he finished off a 10-2 major decision victory.
Kendall Newell gave up an early takedown in the 149 pound bout to Joey Schmidt to fall behind 2-0 in his first career OAC dual action. That turned out to be all the scoring for the period, as Newell was unable to work up for the escape. Newell started the second period on top and was able to ride out the entire period to cut into Schmidt's riding time that was accumulated in the first period. Once again in the final period, Newell was on top from the start, but this time Schmidt was able to earn the escape quickly to make it a 3-0 lead. No more scoring would occur, as Newell fell by a 3-0 decision.
At 157, Brian Brunner was almost put on his back right out of the gate, but he worked out of it without giving up any points against Richard Burke. Neither was able to land a shot for the remainder of the period, as Brunner actually led 1-0 after earning a point on a dangerous call early in the period. He started on the bottom in the second period and after an early scramble, Burke returned him to the mat without an escape. Not long after that, Burke was able to put Brunner on his back with a cradle for the pin in a time of 3:53.
Aaron Banko quickly turned the tide back in the Berg's favor as he earned an early takedown against Anthony Arroyo at 165, but Arroyo then worked for an escape to make it a 2-1 lead for Banko. Both wrestlers took a couple shots in the remainder of the period, but that score held headed to the second period. Banko started the next period on the top, but after he ended up too high while attempting to get back points, Arroyo earned the reversal and rode out the period to make it a 3-2 deficit for Banko entering the final period. Staying on the bottom to start the third, Banko was just not able to work his way up, as he fell by a 4-2 decision after riding time was applied.
Freshman Darren Decker took on 8th-ranked Garrett Chase at 174, and he was able to fend off Chase early on and landed a single-leg shot, but Chase worked out of it with no score. Neither wrestler was able to score as the period ran out with no score on the board. Decker started the second period on the bottom, but was ridden out as Chase earned the full two minutes of riding time. Decker gave up the escape to start the third period and was looking for a takedown of his own, but Chase was able to counter him and take Decker to the mat for the 3-0 lead. That would be all the scoring, as Chase won 4-0 including a point for riding time.
In the 184 pound bout, Dillen Decker took on Ben Lebrun in a battle of wrestlers unbeaten in OAC dual action. Very late in the period, Decker was the first to score as he took Lebrun to the mat for a 2-0 lead heading to the second period. With a start on top in the second, Decker was impressive as he rode out the entire period to preserve his lead while accumulating riding time heading to the final period. Decker was on the bottom for the start of the final period and quickly worked for an escape for the 3-0 lead. Decker then countered with a re-shot with under a minute left for the takedown. He gave up one point for a potentially dangerous call and an escape, but he held on for the victory by a 6-2 decision.
Gage Finegan got the nod at 197 for the Berg against Tyler Maclellan of Baldwin Wallace, and neither was able to score in the first period. Finegan started the second period on top and gave up a quick escape to make it a 1-0 deficit. Maclellan extended that lead after earning a takedown and rode out the rest of the period with a 3-0 lead over Finegan. With a neutral start to the third, Finegan gave up another takedown to put him in a tough spot, but he earned the escape to make the score 5-1. That would be it for the scoring, as Finegan dropped a 5-1 decision.
In the night's final bout, John Eckroth faced off with Joe Belford at heavyweight. Neither wrestler was able to find an advantage in the opening period, as they entered the second period scoreless with Eckroth on the bottom. He quickly earned the escape to make it a 1-0 lead, but there was no further scoring as the two continued to feel each other out through two periods. Eckroth started the final period on top with that slim lead, but Belford quickly tied things up with an escape of his own. Eckroth allowed Belford in on a shot, but he worked out of it without giving up the takedown as regulation ended in a tie at one. In the first overtime period, there was no scoring, so Eckroth started the second overtime period on the bottom. Eckroth rolled out for the escape pretty quickly with no more scoring. On top for the next overtime period, Eckroth gave up a quick escape for the tie as they entered another sudden death period. As they had in all the other periods, neither was able to score from neutral as the next period began with Eckroth on top. This time he was able to stay on top early on and rode out the entire period without allowing Belford to escape. With Eckroth on bottom to start the next, he earned the quick escape, but then gave up a takedown to fall behind. Eckroth was able to tie things back up, however, with one more escape and earned the 5-4 win due to his 16 seconds of riding time.
Heidelberg will now set their sights on the postseason, as they will next take to the mats for the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Tournament, which begins on Saturday, February 27th in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. That two-day event starts at 11:00 a.m. at Lycoming College.