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South Western wrestler Owen Wherley recorded a pin in the final bout of a dual meet against New Oxford to seal a 35-34 comeback victory for South Western. Jim Seip/GameTimePA.com

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As Gavin Smith left the mat after his 9-1 major decision against Matt Poust, he felt sure he had given South Western the extra point it needed to beat New Oxford.

A couple minutes later, he got confirmation that he was right as teammate Owen Wherley provided the Mustangs with a walkoff pin in a 35-34 victory against their YAIAA Division I foe. Wherley, a 145-pounder who qualified for states last season, quickly took down Evan Brown and put him on his back. After a couple near falls that had the South Western crowd — including a packed student section wearing ugly Christmas sweaters — screaming for a pin, Wherley finally got the call with 33 seconds left in the first period.

“I figured I’d just do what I always do and go out and try to get the takedown," said Wherley, who had never wrestled in a situation that would determine the winner of a dual meet before. "They always come out fast at first, so you’ve just got to slow them down a little bit and take them down. I just went from there.”

Smith had given the Mustangs four points with his major decision at 138 pounds in the previous match, to cut New Oxford's lead from nine points to five, setting up Wherley with the opportunity to score a pin for the win.

“Owen’s a great wrestler, awesome on top, just dominates his opponents," Smith said of his confidence in his teammate. "I wanted more just to have a safety net so that he wouldn’t have to get a pin, but I was pretty confident he would.”

South Western led 18-4 early in the match after pins by Gage Thomas, Tom Osborn and Dan Mummert, but fell behind 28-18 after losing four of the next five matches and forfeiting the other.

That's when a bold strategic move by coach Nate Murren set up the Mustangs comeback. Because of the result of the coin toss before the match, New Oxford had to send its wrestler out first at 120 pounds. The Colonials sent out junior Zurich Storm, a state qualifier last season, to which South Western decided to forfeit, drawing boos from the dozens of New Oxford fans packing the opposing stands. The decision to sacrifice six more points and put New Oxford ahead 34-18 allowed South Western to send out Chase Mowery at 126 pounds and Derek Wilson, who placed fifth at states last season, at 132 pounds with neither facing Storm.

“We didn’t think that through before the match, but as the match was progressing and knowing their wrestlers a good bit, we made a move, and we had to risk a lot by giving up another six points to try to earn the points we needed,” Murren said. “We want to get (Mowery and Wilson) bonus points.”

The plan worked, but not quite as well as planned, as Mowery picked up a 10-1 major decision and Wilson just missed a major decision with a 9-3 victory. Those bouts left South Western trailing by nine with two bouts to go, and set up the heroics of Smith and Wherley.

“I kind of thought that was coming when we drew even at the beginning of the match," New Oxford coach Brian Martin said of Murren's strategy. "We figured it out a little bit, and we knew where we were gonna be even before we started the match.”

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Highlights of five pins from the New Oxford and South Western wrestling match on Dec. 17. South Western won, 35-34. Jim Seip/GameTimePA.com

at South Western

152 — Nolan Poust (NO) maj. dec. Jordan Sheppard, 12-3. 160 — Gage Thomas (SW) pinned Jon Alpaugh, 1:06. 170 — Tom Osborn (SW) pinned Jaskanny Lua, :48. 182 — Dan Mummert (SW) pinned Darrick Rudisill, 1:24. 195 — Joey Hoffman (NO) dec. Tom Aumen, 8-7. 220 — Dalton Smith (NO) pinned Joe Yeater, 1:40. 285 — Brock Hartman (NO) pinned Scott Dickmyer, :30. 106 — Austin Brotherton (NO) won by forfeit. 113 — Kurt Smith (NO) dec. Adam Leib, 2-0. 120 — Zurich Storm (NO) won by forfeit. 126 — Chase Mowery (SW) maj. dec. Brennan Romanoff, 10-1 . 132 — Derek Wilson (SW) dec Michael Rudisill, 9-3. 138 — Gavin Smith (SW) maj. dec. Matt Poust, 9-1. 145 — Owen Wherley (SW) pinned Evan Brown, 1:27.

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