SYRACUSE — When Northridge were faced with adversity Thursday night, the bell was rung every time.
Winning three key swing bouts, the Raiders claimed 13 big points to beat Wawasee, 48-27, in Northern Lakes Conference wresting.
At 182 pounds, Raider sophomore Dylan Swank squared off with freshman Stephen Possell and Swank did the heavy lifting. Picking up three takedowns and a near fall, Swank scored a 12-4 decision and four points.
Two bouts later, Northridge’s Chris Connell found himself trailing Chad Eppley 7-4 heading into the third period of the 220-pound match. Eppley, who had beaten Connell the first three times the two met in previous seasons, had been decidedly more aggressive of the two through six minutes. In the third period, however, Connell earned an escape and then made a bold move and shot on Eppley, taking the Warrior senior to the mat for two and again moments later. After cutting Eppley loose, the clock ran out for a big three points.
“Chris Connell busted his butt,” said Northridge head coach Eric Highley. “He started out a little bit stupid getting back to old habits. Then he decided to start wrestling and came through.
“A lot of promise as far as what he can do. He works as hard as anyone on improving his game. Really proud of his effort.”
Lucas Wickey then scored a pin at 2:54 in the heavyweight match against Rodrigo Hernandez to give Northridge a 36-15 lead.
Following two pins from Wawasee’s Josh Matthews over Brody Erb at 106 and Tristen Ponsler over Kyle Miller at 113 to cut the lead to nine, Raider Todd Santiago scored a huge pin of Harvey Lopez with just four seconds left in the second period of the 120-pound match.
Raider veteran Devin Puckett ended the night with a quick pin of Ronny Shortt to cap the scoring.
“We work in practice a lot making sure we know what we are doing when we are tired,” Highley said. “We have to fight through that adversity, when the back is against the wall what are you going to do. Sometimes you have to win ugly, find a way to win and never give up throughout the whole thing.”
Raiders Jon Yoder and Levi Benton both scored pins for Northridge while Brian Clark and Nick Rozow each registered pins for Wawasee.
Wawasee head coach Paul Meyer wasn’t displeased with his team’s effort, but knows there were opportunities throughout the night that were definitely missed.
“The first step into the NLC is always a big one,” Meyer said, stammering through holes in his roster. “It’s tough to take one on the chin at home.
“The 182 and 220 matches were swing matches,” continued Meyer. “I had my 220 wrestle the kid before and stuck the kid in JV. If ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ were candy and pop, we’d all have fun, wouldn’t we? A couple swing matches here and there. My first four are all freshmen, all tough-nosed kids and I like them.
“We are getting there with some mindsets and the deer are in headlights. There are a lot of headlights in our eyes right now. We are filling 13 weight classes with seven freshmen.”
Wawasee will hit the road for LaPorte on Saturday for the six-team Super Duals and keep the road theme going with a jump back into Northern Lakes Conference action next Thursday against perennial NLC heavyweight Goshen at their place. Northridge will take its show to Plymouth this weekend as part of the Plymouth Super Duals.