Bermudian Springs wrestling coach Dave McCollum discusses how the team's difficult schedule this season has prepared the Eagles for a postseason run. Bermudian will face Bishop McDevitt for the Class 2A team championship on Saturday. Matt Allibone
The Eagles needed a pin by Austin Clabaugh to secure the victory
Somehow, Bermudian Springs had a chance.
The Eagles went into the final bout of the District 3 Class 2A team final against Bishop McDevitt having lost eight of the first 13 matches. Three of their five wins came by forfeit, and another was due to disqualification by stalling.
Still, Bermudian trailed the Crusaders by just four points. If star 132-pounder Austin Clabaugh could pin or tech fall Bodee Tolbert, the Eagles would be district champs.
But without the luxury of being able to wrestle conservatively, Claubaugh lost a close bout by one point. Bermudian fell to Bishop McDevitt, 37-30, at Milton Hershey High School on Saturday. The Eagles finished second and will still host a match in the team state playoffs.
"Come third period, I had to give myself all the time I could to try and get (the pin) and in the process I ended up giving up points," Clabaugh said. "I should have wrestled better in the first period regardless, there's no excuse for me not to get the takedown and start off dominating. I'm not satisfied with that, I need to go out and dominate regardless of what the terms of the match are."
Clabaugh, who competes with Tolbert on the same club team in the offseason, had beaten his friend 3-0 earlier this season. But desperately needing bonus points to give his team a win on Saturday, the Bermudian captain was forced to take chances he normally wouldn't. The bout was tied 2-2 in the third period before a reversal gave Tolbert a 4-3 win.
Still, there were a number of bouts that swung the direction of the match. A key match was at 285, where Bermudian's Ryan Forsythe lost 4-3 to Michael Cross in quadruple overtime. Forsythe had pinned Cross during the two teams' dual meet earlier in the season.
In Saturday's rematch, Cross kept the match close by wrestling extremely conservatively, before getting an escape in the final tiebreaker to win. Bermudian coach Dave McCollum said he thought Cross should have been called for stalling and lost a point during regulation.
"Ryan got a little bit out of his game...but I thought (Cross) backed up the entire third period and the overtime period to the edge of the mat," McCollum said. "I couldn't believe the official didn't hit him for stalling because he literally backed up. That to me was the difference in the match because from my perspective, that kid should have been called at least two, three, maybe even four times."
While Bermudian lost to the Crusaders by nine points in the regular season, the Eagles got a boost on Saturday when one of Bishop McDevitt's wrestlers was disqualified prior to the match for drinking "water or Powerade or Gatorade" during weigh-ins, according to McCollum. Two other forfeits gave the Eagles an 18-point advantage.
But with the exception of a pin by 220-pounder Noah Fleshman and a six-point win by 170-pounder Darren Beall due to stalling, the Eagles couldn't win any other bouts. The crusaders got two pins of their own and a technical fall.
Bermudian will host a preliminary match in the PIAA tournament on Monday against the third-place finisher in District IV.
"Man-up, stay positive, get stronger because of the loss," McCollum said of his message to the team. "You can't ask for a better situation than to wrestle on your home mat for an opportunity to go to the Giant Center. Hopefully our season won't end there. It will just start there."