By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
Blake Carl qualified for the District 4 Class AA tournament last season as a freshman, but did not come out of the gate this year looking like any kind of post-season threat.
The Line Mountain 126-pounder lost his first eight bouts this season on a team that is missing starters and needs everything it can get to win dual meets.
But in the final meet of the day in the Line Mountain Dual Tournament on Saturday, Carl’s 10-9 win over Southern Columbia standout Brett Shepard gave the Eagles a 15-point advantage with three bouts left (two forfeit wins by the Tigers and one by the Eagles).
Line Mountain won 39-30 to get to 8-8 on the season. It also gave the Eagles the title over runner-up Meyers. Both the Eagles and Mohawks were 4-1, but the Eagles won the head-to-head match-up.
Line Mountain coach Mike Martz said of Carl, “He was the hero.”
The Tigers finished 3-2, but, more importantly, nailed down a berth in the upcoming District 4 Class AA Duals, improving to 15-13.
The Eagles put themselves in position to clinch a berth, but they need to win at Shamokin on Tuesday night in their final regular-season dual.
The soft-spoken Carl, who produced more points Saturday than words in a post-meet interview, entered the tournament with a 4-11 record and got pinned twice and lost by decision.
Shepard, before facing Carl, was 20-2 and had three pins in the tournament.
Carl said his coaches told him to avoid being pinned.
Nevertheless Carl went right after Shepard, getting the first of his five takedowns (to go with a reversal) and control the Tiger junior, except late in the second period when Shepard took him down for a 7-6 lead.
Carl seemed unfazed. He got a quick reversal, then let Shepard up, took him down again and cut him loose again in the third.
“I just didn’t want to give up back points,” Carl said.
Martz said, “I just said to him, ‘Look we’ve got (Seth) Lansberry behind you; we don’t want to put any pressure on you. Basically wrestle to win, but don’t give up bonus points,’ so he went out there with no pressure on him and wrestled a really good match.
“He’s been building confidence the last couple weeks, “ Martz added. “He’s really stepped it up of late. Everybody here was a big part of what we did (Saturday),” Martz added.
Southern coach Jerry Marks said he knew the meet would be close. The Tigers lost 145-pounder Connor Houseknecht to a shoulder injury earlier in the day, and, “I expected to win 126 with Shepard and Carl and that fell through.”
The matchup of the Tigers and Eagles was one of teams mirroring one another in that both had high hopes before losing several wrestlers to injury and defection. The meet resembled a game of X’s and O’s with the Tigers giving up 30 forfeit points and the Eagles 18, in addition to two double-forfeits.
Marks said, “We don’t have enough (wrestlers) and it’s frustrating. There is really nothing we can do, but the positive thing is we’ve got eight or nine guys who work hard in the wrestling room, and we qualified for district duals. (Saturday) we had to win one match (to qualify), and that was one of the goals at the beginning of the year; I never thought that these guys would accomplish that. I’m pleased with what we did here.”
Among the standouts on the day for the two Valley teams, Southern’s Blake Marks (152) and Steve Toczylousky (170) had four pins apiece, and Kent Lane (132), Jake Becker (285) and Shepard each had three. For the Eagles, Lansberry (145) and Rayce Boyer (195) each had three.
In addition, Line Mountain sophomore Cameron Newman had a perfect day which included a major decision over Oley Valley senior Ryan Pretz, who was 22-2 coming in.