Falcons Honor Seniors With 44-9 Thumping Of Muhlenberg
Grantham, PA — The scene Friday night was one fitting of a program honoring its senior members, as over 400 enthusiastic fans poured in to watch Messiah face visiting Muhlenberg College in the Falcons’ only appearance in Brubaker Auditorium on the season.
And when the hosts actually got to wrestle, they were dominant.
Facing a banged-up and shorthanded Muhlenberg side, Messiah (9-9) cruised to its most lopsided win of the season, generating a pair of pins to go with four forfeit decisions, culminating in a 44-9 blasting of the Mules.
Only a disheartening shoulder injury to junior Mike Bressler could put a slight damper on the evening’s festivities, as the Falcons gained momentum just a week away from the Empire Conference Championships.
“It was a dominating performance,” said Bryan Brunk, Messiah head coach. “When we met before the match, we recognized that we were a little frustrated that we wouldn’t be getting to wrestle in all the matches, and we were a little frustrated our match time got pushed back (due to a winter-storm induced rescheduling of a women’s basketball game beforehand). So, we wanted to put on a show. We didn’t want to showboat, but we did want to show these fans what four years of wrestling at Messiah was like. We wanted to put on a show. And, we did.”
The Falcons’ real exhibition began in the 141-pound weight class, where — following a fofeit win at 125 and a 13-7 loss at 133 — senior Alex DeHart claimed a 10-0 decision over the Mules’ Andrew Clark — an opponent whom DeHart defeated by only a 6-4 count last year.
Senior Domineak Commodore then brought the house down at 149, pinning Muhlenberg’s Matt Parker in 1:47 — giving a large contingent of Commodore supporters good reason to go crazy.
“Dom had a ton of people here for him tonight,” Brunk said. “His grandma escorted him out during the senior ceremony, and he couldn’t have had a better match.”
Immediately following Commodore’s match came heartbreak, however, as Bressler suffered what appeared to be a dislocated right shoulder in the third period against Muhlenberg’s Keith Swanson at 157. As Bressler attempted to attack with a swim-like move, Swanson blocked it, sending the Odenton, Md. native to the mat in obvious pain.
As Messiah’s athletic training personnel tended to Bressler’s right arm — now hanging limp — it was clear that the Falcons’ two-time all-conference performer was in dire straits.
“That was tough to swallow,” Brunk said of Bressler’s injury. “It was just a freak thing the way it happened. This late in the season, it’s hard to think that he’ll be back.”
Senior Trent Zempel seemed driven by his teammate’s injury, pinning Muhlenberg’s Kenneth Ludwig in 4:40 at the 165-pound weight card, a victory that put Messiah up by a 22-9 score. Following his win by fall, Zempel came off the mat, shook Brunk’s hand and went straight to the corner of the facility where Bressler was being worked on.
“This is a group that is all about being a team,” Brunk said. “Even Mike, after the match, was asking about possibilities at 157 if his shoulder doesn’t miraculously heal. This is a very team-oriented group in a sport that can be very individual in nature.”
Following three additional wins by forfeit, senior Dando Speers concluded the evening in strong fashion, earning a major decision against the Mules’ Chris Galletta at 285, an impressive feat considering the weight Speers — a usual at 197 — was giving up.
“Dando wrestled great, and I thought both Dom and Trent both showcased their ability before their pins,” Brunk said. “We wanted to show the crowd what we could do. For us, there’s nothing more exciting than a dual meet, team to team. We had a great crowd out here tonight, and I thought we really put on a good showing.”
Brunk’s club will now turn around and host rival Elizabethtown College Saturday afternoon in Hitchcock Arena, taking on the Blue Jays in another dual meet slated to begin at 4 p.m.
“Our goal every year is to be peaking heading into the conference championships and then into nationals, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want a winning record,” Brunk said. “We’ve got a chance to finish the regular season 10-9, and while we don’t focus on win-loss records, (Saturday) is one we’d really like to have. We’ve gone 2-2 against E’Town over the last four years, with the home team always winning. Saturday will be a big one for us.”
125 - Danny Lethbridge (ME) forfeit (6-0)