Senior Matt Hughes wins match for Palisades on pin at 220 pounds
Palisades was ahead by nine, 30-21, but it might as well have been a 33-30 hole.
Three weight classes remained, but the Pirates were scheduled to forfeit the final two, at 285 and 106 pounds, so that put the pressure on senior Matt Hughes to not only win at 220 pounds, but to win by at least major decision. (In the event of a tie, the home team would have lost on criteria.)
Hughes opted to win by fall in 2:26.
“I just go out and wrestle,” Hughes said, simply.
Underdog Palisades sent Pen Argyl to its first Colonial League loss of the season last Wednesday evening in Kintnersville. The Pirates prevailed, 36-33, to improve to 2-0 in league competition. Palisades beat Palmerton by the same score on Dec. 11 and will return to the mat on Jan. 2 when it travels to Northwestern Lehigh.
“It’s who works harder,” Pirates head coach Omar Poratta said. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to. When the spotlight’s on you, some people run for the shade, some people look elsewhere and others, shine, shine in the spotlight and, man, Matt Hughes shined in that spotlight – big time.
“He’s such a hard worker, and he’s a great kid to have in the room. It’s a great win for him. Fantastic win for the team and [Hughes] especially.”
Hughes had never faced his opponent, Keenan Schoenenberger, and for good reason. Up until this month, Hughes hadn’t wrestled for Palisades since freshman year, when a broken leg derailed his career. Other interests occupied his time once his leg was fully healed, but Hughes wanted to give wrestling another stab.
“I missed it,” he said. “I love Palisades wrestling and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The Pirates again have something special going in Upper Bucks.
“We don’t look like a team that is ranked 11th in the state,” Porrata said. “In the room, we don’t, but tonight, they just shined. They shine in that spotlight.”
Hughes wasn’t alone, either.
Palisades never trailed and was up by as much as 12 when Tyler Marsh picked up a forfeit victory at 132 pounds. The Pirates opened the match with consecutive pins by 113 Jacob Wasser (in 1:40) and 120 Jake Johnson (3:55). The Green Knights won the next three contested bouts, including a pair by fall, to make it 18-15, but 152 Christian Gretzinger notched a 6-2 decision over Stephen Beltz to push the lead to 21-15. Palisades and Pen Argyl split the next four matches. J.D. Donnelly won by forfeit at 170 and Joe Rossi grabbed a 6-1 decision at 182 for the Pirates.
“I knew we needed one of the heavier guys to get that win for us,” Gretzinger said.
Porrata pointed out it was key for first-year wrestler Nick Bord not to give up six points in his bout with Nathan Black at 195. The Green Knights sophomore did manage to pull out a 7-2 decision, but a Bord fall would have made Hughes’ match moot.
“If he gets pinned, we’re doomed,” Porrata said.
Instead, Palisades took down a Pen Argyl squad that was expected to depart the Pirates’ lair with an unblemished record.
“We do the most with the least,” said Porrata, who is moving full speed ahead without Jesse Snyder (torn ACL) and Nick Sanders (baseball). “We’ve never had a full line-up in my entire five-year career here. We had 19 wins last year with 12 guys. Now, we have 12 guys again. We’re beating teams just on pure heart, on pure heart and that’s something I absolutely love about these Palisades kids on my team. Love it. They come here and work hard every single day.”
A junior, Gretzinger credited the Pirates’ work ethic, which he called superb.
“It’s great being a part of this team,” he said. “It’s unreal. We don’t even have a full line-up, and we’re still getting out there, getting the wins. I don’t even know how it’s happening, but it is.”
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