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Underclassmen Shine at Petrofes; Seniors Cross, Stewart Reign
Senior Tim Stewart earned three come-from-behind victories for the championship at 174.

Grantham, PA — The Annual Petrofes Invitational is a test of both mental and physical fortitude, as 12 teams compete in a total of 506 bouts over less than 15 hours.

For a spectator, this is a grueling weekend. But for the athletes, it’s what they train for; and the Falcons didn’t disappoint.

“We hung very close with some national caliber teams this weekend and saw a lot of promising results,” head coach Bryan Brunk said. “Our guys proved to be very aggressive and kept wrestling the entire match regardless of the outcome. That’s something we preach at Messiah.  Our effort and attitude should not be governed by how the match is going.”

As a whole, Messiah finished 4th in the team standings with 128 points and were led by their two senior captains, Matt Cross and Tim Stewart, who each won their weight class.

Cross, who placed second in last year’s Petrofes at 165, was dominant throughout this year's tournament earning two falls, a decision, and a medical default at 174. 

In the finals of the tournament, Cross faced a very talented Louis Puca of SUNY-Cortland.  However, Cross put on a takedown clinic and an extremely punishing top ride in the first two periods of the match.  After Cross finished his 5th takedown of the match during the third period, Puca was forced to withdraw from the match due to an apparent ankle injury.

Stewart’s journey to the championship was a little more interesting as he battled for three come-from-behind victories.

In the finals, Stewart faced nationally ranked #9 Andy Jenkins of Mount Union.  It was a closely contested battle with both men in on several shots, but unable to score until a flurry of action in the final minute of the match.  With about a minute left, the score knotted at 1-1, Jenkins caught Stewart flat-footed and got in deep on Stewart’s leg, driving to finish a double leg takedown.  Stewart wasted no time in escaping and for the final 40 seconds of the match attempted attack after attack but to no avail. 

Finally, with about six seconds remaining Stewart attempted a shot, was countered, and started to come back to his feet, but before fully standing up dove back in on Jenkins’s ankles, tackling the Mount Union grappler to the mat as the clock ran out. 

The last-second takedown secured the victory and the championship for Stewart at 184.

“The thing with Tim is that he is unflappable,” Brunk said. “He’s always going to keep wrestling, keep scoring, keep believing that he can win.”

The senior captains’ example and influence has set the tone for the 2011-2012 Falcons and was evident in the impressive performance of several underclassmen.

Freshman Kaleb Loht continued to have an impressive rookie year, finishing 4th at 133. Classmate Devin Anderson placed in his first college tournament, 7th at 197.

Another solid performance came from sophomore Ben Kramer who finished 4th at 165.

“Kramer had a great weekend of wrestling,” Brunk said. “He truly believes that he can beat anyone and works very hard, so it is great to see him have a good weekend.” 

Messiah’s group of super sophomores also included Matt DelGallo (8th-133), Victor Bracey (4th-141), Steve Cannon (8th-165), Rico Plummer (5th-165) and Charles Jones (7th-197). 

With eight of Messiah’s 11 place winners coming from either the freshman or sophomore class, it seems like the Falcons not only have solid young talent poised to achieve good things this year, but also a strong nucleus to continue to build on for years to come.

Messiah will travel to Cortland, New York next Saturday to take on the Rochester Institute of Technology and host SUNY-Cortland.  Wrestling is slated to begin at 12:00 p.m.