Honesdale captures first-ever District Two Class AA crown

The crowd was so loud that no one near the mat could hear.

Not the referees.

Not the scorekeepers.

Not the clock operators.

Not the coaches.

Not even the wrestlers themselves.

Hundreds of Honesdale fans were on their feet chanting. The bleachers shook and the rafters rattled as the clock ticked inexorably toward zero.

Incredibly, once again it had all come down to one bout … one bout to determine the 2016-17 District Two Class AA team duals championship.

Grand Finale

Honesdale and Western Wayne had already treated local fans to a classic match during the Lackawanna League season.

And now, the Hornets and Wildcats were engaged in another epic with a trip to Hershey hanging in the balance.

Just two points separated the teams after 13 bouts. So, a win by either Nick Lizza of Honesdale or Western Wayne's Mike Tomasetti would decide the match.

The two grapplers battled back and forth through an ugly first period, but Lizza began to take control in the second. He led 7-3 heading into the third and seemed to feed off the raucous crowd.

Honesdale's freshman phenom tallied another takedown to start the frame, then added three back points. Less than 30 seconds later, Lizza put Tomasetti on his back.

Pandemonium ensued as the referee slapped the mat with 37 seconds remaining.

Lizza leapt to his feet. He pumped his fists as the crowd went wild and confetti rained down from the stands.

Honesdale coaches exploded off the bench, dancing and hugging one another beneath a scoreboard that read: 34-28, Hornets.

“I'm speechless,” said an emotionally drained Coach Ryan Chulada. “I have no words. I'm just so proud of these kids.

“They've worked so hard and bought into what we're teaching. They're a phenomenal group and I couldn't be happier.”

Western Wayne Coach Dante Terenzio was also spent following yet another grueling match. However, he was gracious in defeat.

“You have to give them credit,” he said. “Honesdale won just about every toss-up bout. We wrestled pretty well, but the bottom line is that their kids just wanted it a little bit more.”

With this electrifying win, Honesdale advances to the PIAA state tournament, which is once again being held in Hershey.

Mat action gets underway Thursday afternoon when the Hornets take on District 10 champion Reynolds.

Wrestling begins at 2 p.m. at the Giant Center.

On the Mat

Honesdale rocketed out to a 13-0 lead Saturday at Pittston Area.

The Hornets notched three straight wins to open the match, thanks to Troy Russell, Joey Rutledge and Matt Davis.

Russell posted a second period pin over Western Wayne's Mitchell Herzog at 126 to get things going.

Rutledge followed with a 12-3 major decision over Brad Carey at 132.

And, when Davis gutted out a brutally physical 5-3 win over Mike Maguire at 138, Honesdale had itself an early double-digit lead.

“We definitely got off to a strong start,” said Coach Chulada. “I'll take having Troy Russell out there for the first bout any day of the week. He's a veteran guy who sets the tone.”

Western Wayne finally got on the board at 145 when Braden McIntosh rallied for a 14-9 decision over Brandon Lawson.

The 'Cats then closed the match deficit to 13-7 when Harrison Clookey powered his way to an 11-2 major over Honesdale's Gerald Pepper at 152.

At 160 pounds, Michael O'Day turned in yet another clutch performance when the Hornets needed it most.

The junior overpowered Alexander Hollister en route to a 16-9 decision, giving his team a 16-7 lead on the big scoreboard.

Next up were Western Wayne's Ryan Atcavage and Jake Kabonick of Honesdale at 170.

This one went right down to the wire before Atcavage emerged with a 7-5 win.

So, at the halfway point of the season's most crucial match, Honesdale held a narrow 16-10 advantage.

Stage Set

In conversations before the match, both coaches indicated that results from 182 through 285 might well be the ultimate difference.

And, that's exactly what happened.

Alec Dragos sprinted to the mat at 182 and pitched a shutout. The Hornet senior dominated Matt Trygar on his way to a 5-0 decision.

This set the stage for the afternoon's wildest bout.

Beau Freiermuth went toe-to-toe with Swoyer and came away with an unexpected second period pin (3:06).

“Beau has been one of the best stories of the year,” Coach Chulada said. “He's a a senior, but he's only a first year wrestler. Beau is as strong as they come and he has that football mentality. He goes out there and just never gives up.”

For his part, Coach Terenzio was shocked at this turn of events.

“I didn't see that one coming,” he said. “I really thought, on paper, that one was ours for the taking. Hats off to Freiermuth, though. He's a big, strong kid and he got the pin.”

To their undying credit, the Wildcats refused to roll over and submit. Western Wayne responded with three straight wins.

Cole Fuller clamped John Kuhns-Miller at 220, while Bayly Williams posted an 11-1 major at the expense of Matt Blaine.

And, when Dimitri Reggie pinned Honesdale's John Ingenito at 106, the 'Cats suddenly had a razor-thin 26-25 lead.

To the Wire

Dennis Putzi and Ryan Dunn hit the mat at 113 with the decibel level steadily rising and gold medals within reach.

Putzi, who's been one of the Hornets' most consistent wrestlers all season, responded with a heart-stopping 1-0 decision.

“He's come so far in the last two years,” said Coach Chulada. “I can't say enough about him. He's just a great kid.”

Putzi's win pushed the score to 28-26 and left the Hornets' fate in Lizzi's competent care.

Less than five minutes later, Honesdale wrestlers, coaches and fans were celebrating the District Two Class AA crown.

“I love these kids,” said Coach Chulada. “They're just a pleasure to work with. The parents, the school district and the community have all been behind us the entire time.

“Now, it's time to start thinking about Hershey. We're not just content to be be going. We want to get there and do some damage.”