"Getting in the duals is a goal for us," Supsic said. "We need (at least) two wins to get into the tournament so this was a big match for us."
The Braves overcame a slow start by taking advantage of three Milton forfeits and Tyler Hepler, Tristan Paul, and Nich Cashdollar picked up pins down the stretch to put Shikellamy one win closer to another post-season showdown against the Bulldogs with a 54-20 afternoon win over the Black Panthers.
Shikellamy (7-6, 4-2 HAC-I) will be heavily favored when the Millionaires visit on Thursday but Central Mountain and BEA present difficult challenges.
"We knew this was a huge match and we went out there and wrestled pretty well," said Supsic after his team won for the fourth time in its last five dual meets. "A couple of our kids lost that I thought might win but overall we did a good job."
Milton (2-6, 2-4) stunned the Braves by grabbing a 14-0 lead after just three bouts. State qualifier Ryan Preisch used five takedowns and two sets of back points to win an 18-3 (4:36) technical fall over Joe Snyder in the opening bout at 152. That result wasn't a surprise but Brandon Stokes' 3-2 victory over John Rohrbach that followed, and Gage Heller's third-period fall over Darryl Englehardt at 170 to finish the Black Panthers’ strong effort to start the match were stunners.
Stokes, a freshman, gave up a first-period takedown to senior Rohrbach in the battle at 160. But Stokes, who upped his record to 11-13, rode Rohrbach the entire second period and, after escaping early in the third, picked up a takedown with 26 seconds left in the match for the win. Rohrbach dropped to 16-5.
"I knew Stokes was a tough freshman but I thought John's experience as a senior would carry the day," Supsic said. "He gave up that takedown late in the third period and just couldn't get off the bottom again. Stokes is tough and, hopefully, John will learn from that."
Heller was able to shine in front of his uncle, former two-time state champion Charlie Heller, who was in attendance, by breaking open a close match with a pair of third-period takedowns before sticking Englehardt in 5:31.
"I thought there were a lot of toss-up bouts in the dual meet and that 160 and 170 were two of them, " Milton coach Mike Snyder said. "They were hard-fought matches and we won them at the end. That was a real good start to the dual meet after the win by Preisch."
But the Black Panthers couldn't sustain it. The Braves took advantage of a bit of Milton inexperience by getting falls at 182 and 285 plus a forfeit at 195. Shik's Jesse Shambach headlocked Grant Wargo for a fall in 1:46 at 182 and Dan Karpinski decked Sergei Shek in 1:47 at 285. Wargo and Shek are first-year wrestlers.
"We needed to take advantage of their inexperience there," Supsic said. "You have to because you never know what night happen. We've had guys who were winning matches that ended up getting pinned. We don't take anybody for granted and Milton's got tough kids."
None tougher than defending state champion Ryan Solomon whose first-period fall over Dwayne Pepper at 220 helped Milton carry a 20-18 lead into the lightweights. Solomon, the nation's top-ranked 195-pounder, according to Flowrestling, improved to 23-0.
With Milton forfeiting at 106 and 120, the Braves kept widening the lead. At 113, Dylan Kremer handled freshman Michael Boyd 5-1 and Hepler (126) avoided an early headlock attempt by Milton's Hunter Snyder and cradled the freshman for a fall in 43 seconds. At 132, Paul pinned the Black Panthers’ dangerous Zack Bennett in 3:32 and Cashdollar followed with a third-period fall over James Jones. The Braves’ Anthony Best wrapped up the win with a 7-2 decision over Taylor Houtz.
"We want another match with Jersey Shore and that goal has kept everybody hungry for a rematch," Supsic said, referring to the Braves' 34-33 pre-Christmas loss to the Bulldogs. "We had guys hurt in that match and they had guys hurt. It came down to the last match and I thought we might lose to them by 10 or 15 points so I was extremely disappointed. We want that opportunity to beat them this time around."