While the stakes haven't been as high in recent years as they once were, Honesdale and West Scranton remains one of the best wrestling rivalries in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Back in the 1990s, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the winner of this annual dual meet would go on the claim a Lackawanna League championship.
During one particularly dominant period, the Hornets or Invaders copped the Division One crown seven straight times.
On Thursday night, the two teams squared off again in a match that went right down the wire ... much to the delight of a big and boisterous Maple City crowd.
The match score stood deadlocked at 27-27 with just two bouts remaining, but West closed with a flourish and slammed the door on a 39-27 victory.
"I know that we lost tonight, but we're a young team and there are some big positives to take away from this match," Coach Chulada said. "The kids are really starting to take to heart what we're teaching and that's exciting to see."
With this disappointing loss, Honesdale's league record dipped to 2-2. The Hornets will be back on the mat this weekend, competing at the Minisink Valley Tournament.
Making a Statement
Sometime during the warm-up period just before Thursday's match, West Scranton wrestlers tried to get inside Zach Smith's head.
Several Invaders heckled Honesdale's star as he went through his final preparations, apparently hoping to blur his focus.
Smith sprinted to the mat and utterly demolished his opponent at 182. Zach recorded a lightning-quick takedown right off the opening whistle and had Austin Fox on his back almost immediately.
An injury timeout just prolonged the inevitable as Smith sealed the deal on brutal clamp with 16 seconds left in the first period. This pin pushed his record to 17-3 for the season.
Page 2 of 3 - "Zach seems to be hitting his stride at the perfect time," Coach Chulada said. "He's building his confidence match-by-match. We're really looking for Zach to do some serious damage this year at districts, regionals and beyond."
Unfortunately for the hometown faithful, Smith's win was one of too few high points on this particular evening. The Hornets put up a gallant fight, but eventually ran out of gas against a more experienced squad.
West Scranton raced out to a 13-0 lead right out of the gate.
However, Evan Kennedy stepped up and put a stop to the Invaders' early run. The Hornet junior mauled Tim August at 138, hammering out a 13-2 lead before finally posting a pin late in the third period.
This clamp, which came with :45 remaining in regulation, upped Kennedy's record to 15-7 on the season.
West retaliated with a fall of its own at 145, but Eric Daniels drew Honesdale to within 10 points with a hard-fought 4-3 decision at 152.
Once again, the Invaders posted a pin and once again the Hornets responded.
Logan Miller, a junior making just his third start of the season at 160, brought the crowd to its feet by clamping West's Wali Abdullah at the 1:20 mark.
Mike Failla and Joe Quinn then combined to give Honesdale a short-lived advantage.
Failla went toe-to-toe with Joe Cawley in a grueling bout at 195 that stretched through two overtime periods. When the final buzzer sounded on this epic encounter, Failla emerged with a 4-3 victory.
"Mike Failla did an outstanding job tonight and I'm really proud of him," Coach Chulada said. "Mike lost to that kid at Towanda, so he got a little bit of revenge out there."
When Quinn strode to the mat at 220, West Scranton's advantage had been whittled to just a single point at 25-24. When he walked off, Honesdale owned a 27-25 lead.
Page 3 of 3 - The bout was scoreless after one period, but Jason Manning broke the deadlock with an escape and nursed a 1-0 lead into the third. However, Quinn tallied a late takedown and hung on for an electrifying 2-1 decision.
"I'm very pleased with how Joe wrestled tonight," Coach Chulada said.
"That kid (Manning) pinned us at Towanda, so there's another example of one of our kids getting a little bit of revenge."
Over & Out
Honesdale's narrow lead didn't last long.
West crushed dreams of a Hornet comeback with three straight wins to close out the match. The Invaders posted a decision at heavyweight, a pin at 103 and a forfeit at 113 for a deceptive double digit victory.
"I'm never happy with a loss and I know we can beat that team," Coach Chulada said. "But, we're young and we battled all match long. I'm certainly optimistic about the future."