By: Chris Manning | | January 26, 2022 | Photo courtesy David Alliger


ATHENS — Despite having a gauntlet of matches at the end of the season, Towanda had a goal of finishing their NTL schedule strong, and they accomplished that on Wednesday with a 34-29 win over Athens.

The victory pushes the Knights into second place in the league behind Canton, and sees them end the dual meet regular season on a three-match winning streak with victories over Wellsboro, Wyalusing and the Wildcats.

“We’re finishing the season exactly the way we hoped,” said Towanda coach Bill Sexton.

Originally, this was each team’s first dual meet of the season, but neither wanted to wrestle the first week of December, so they pushed it back to the last week.

“By having Canton, Wyalusing and Athens within a week-and-a-half period of time, that’s kind of how we wanted to end the season, you know, hopefully with us in the top two or three,” remarked Sexton. 

Towanda won seven matches to Athens’ five — with a no contest at 113 — starting things off with a forfeit at 126. They got falls at 138, 152, and 189, with a major decision at 106, but it was two decisions at 145 and 172 that really decided the match.

Sawyer Robinson (145) scored a 12-6 decision over Athens’ Lucas Forbes, and Aiden Miller (172) once again came up big, beating Athens’ Cameron Whitmarsh 6-2.

“Those guys have been stepping up for us,” said Sexton. “Sawyer Robinson, he fought to get down to 145. He’s now stabilized there, he’s put together a couple of really solid matches for us -—one in defeat, one in victory tonight. But he’s stating to give us full six-minute efforts, which are good.”

As for Miller, he maybe the cardiac kid on the team, pulling out close decisions to secure dual meet wins. He did at Wyalusing, and, again, Wednesday night against Athens.

“We’re starting to get something out of Aiden Miller,” said Sexton. “Aiden has bounced all over the line-up. Of course, he’s a 72-pounder, he’s wrestled as high as 215 for us this year. His record doesn’t look too impressive, but he knows how to wrestle, and he’s working on getting better each time.”

Riley Vanderpool (138) had a big pin over Athens’ Jacob Courtney in 3:33 for the Knights, while Jace Gunther (152) and Bryant Green (189) also got falls with Hayden Space (126) staring the match with a forfeit. Wyatt Stranger (106) had the major decision, shutting the door on any chance the Wildcats had to win.

Towanda led by as much as 30-11 after seven bouts.

For Athens, its three big guns all got big wins — Kaden Setzer (132) and Gavin Bradley (120) had pins, while Karter Rude (160) scored a technical fall. They also got some big falls at the two heavyweight spots — Caleb Nason (215) and Joshua Nittinger (285) — to take it from a 19-point Towanda lead down to a seven-point advantage, but just didn’t get the toss up wins they needed.

It didn’t help that Mason Vanderpool wasn’t available, but Wildcat coach Sean Bradley wasn’t making any excuses. 

“That’s no excuse,” he said. “Without him, yes, that limits us a little bit.”

However, for him, he felt Courtney’s loss to Vanderpool could have gone their way

“Jake probably didn’t wrestle the way he wanted to there,” said Bradley “Riley did great, that’s a big deal, a freshman pinning a junior right there, and a tough one at that. We have that kind of team where we have to count on those hammers to win matches for us. Jake, we get a three-point decision there, we win.”

Despite the setback, Bradley liked what he saw from his team.

“Some of the kids wrestled awesome,” he said. “Caleb (Nason) kept digging, fighting, Cameron (Whitmarsh) fighting back, almost winning a match (at 189). Keaton Sinsabaugh got majored, and may have been his best effort of the year, because that kid is good. So, you know, we’re coming around, things just didn’t bounce our way today.”

After Space opened the match with a forfeit at 126, Athens immediately tied it as Kaden Setzer (132) scored a fall over Towanda’s Rylee Sluyter in 1:00.

At 138, Vanderpool went to the cradle early on Courtney to go up 4-0. In the second, he scored an escape,  but then Courtney used a single-leg to get a takedown, cutting it to 5-2.

Vanderpool, though, got a reversal, then went to his cradle again to get the fall in 3:33.

“That was a big match, too,” said Sexton. “You’ve got a veteran kid for Athens, and we have a freshman whose having a good year, and getting better every time he goes on the mat for us. He’s young, but he’s a very experienced wrestler. And, like I keep telling him, and all these freshmen, you’re not freshmen, you’re not new here. You’re varsity wrestlers now, got out and act like it, and Riley’s acted like it right out of the box, I was real pleased with that.”

In Robinson’s win, it was Athens’ Lucas Forbes taking a 2-0 lead off a takedown, but Robinson scored an escape point, then added a takedown of his own to go up 3-2. Forbes got another takedown to start the second, but after he let Robinson up the match was knotted at 4-all. 

Robinson would get another takedown to go up 6-4, and rode Forbes out.

In the final period Robinson opened with an escape point, then added another takedown to take a 5-point lead. Forbes cut it to 9-6 with a reversal, but he couldn’t turn Robinson, letting him up again. Robinson then ended the match with one more takedown, and stayed on top until the final buzzer for the 12-6 win.

Then at 152, Jace Gunther pinned Athens’ Keegan Congdon in 1:09 with a cradle, pushing Towanda’s lead to 21-6.

Athens’ Rude stopped the bleeding, scoring a 24-9 technical fall in 5:24 over Towanda’s Mason Higley. 

Rude scored four takedowns in the first period, then got Higley into a cradle for back points to take an 11-3 lead. In the second Rude used two takedowns and back points to go up 17-6, but Higley would manage a takedown of is own, cutting it to 17-8. Rude, though, got an escape, and a final takedown for a 20-8 lead.

In the third, Rude used two takedowns to get the technical fall.

“I was pleased with it,” Sexton said about Higley’s effort to not give up the pin. “Rude is probably their second best kid, and a kid they’re looking for to medal at the state level, with a lot of experience.”

The coach mentioned how Higley had to help his mother escape a house fire in the middle of the night by jumping off the roof, and also how Higley has battled back from injuries early in the season.

“He really didn’t get in the line-up until after Christmas,” said Sexton. “But, he’s gotten better over time, he’s been out there for us and were looking for good things from him.”

That cut it to 21-11, but then followed Miller’s 6-2 win over Whitmarsh. Miller got two takedowns by dragging Whitmarsh’s head to the ground, then going behind to go take a 4-0 lead. He went up 5-0 after an escape in the first period, but Whitmarsh’s double leg blast saw him cut it to 5-2. Miller got another escape, and stayed on his feet the rest of the way for the decision.

At 189, Green racked up an 8-2 lead over Colin Rosh thanks to four takedowns. On a fifth takedown, in the third period, Green got the bar locked up, and turned Rosh for the pin in 4:59 to go up 30-11.

Athens would rally, beginning at 215, as Nason scored a fall in 5:34 over Towanda’s Spencer Jennings. After a scoreless first, Jennings used a throw to get Nason on his back for a 5-0 lead.

Nason scored a reversal to cut it to 5-2. Then, in the third, Nason made it 5-3 with an escape.

Jennings used another takedown to go up 7-3, but Nason reversed him, and got him on his back for the fall.

At 285, the only score through two periods was a Nittinger escape. In the third, Nittinger started on top, and was able to get the bar to turn Towanda’s Jared Gunther, pinning him in 5:04 to keep Athens’ chances alive.

However, at 106, Stranger secure the win, going up 5-0 in the first with a takedown and back points. He started on to in the second, and got the bar for another three back points. In the third He scored a reversal, with two more back points, for the major, putting it out of reach at 34-23.

At 120, Bradley scored a quick fall on Towanda’s Shane Atwood in 1:15.

As for district duals next week, the win secures Towanda’s first round home match, while Athens may be holding their breath.

“We gave one away, but, hopefully we learn from it,” said Bradley. “Hopefully, we still get a home match, too. That’s the other thing, I don’t really want to drive, but it is what it is.”





126: Hayden Space (T) fft
132: Kaden Setzer (A) fall Rylee Sluyter, 1:00
138: Riley Vanderpool (T) fall Jacob Courtney, 3:33
145: Sawyer Robinson (T0 dec. Lucas Forbes, 12-6
152: Jace Gunther (T) fall Keegan Congdon, 1:09
160: Karter Rude (A) tech. Mason Higley, 24-9, 5:24
172: Aiden Miller (T) dec. Cameron Whitmarsh, 6-2
189: Bryant Green (T) fall Colin Rosh, 4:59
215: Caleb Nason (A) fall Spencer Jennings, 5:34
285: Joshua Nittinger (A) fall Jared Gunther, 5:04
106: Wyatt Stranger (T) maj. Keaton Sinsabaugh, 12-0
113: No Match
120: Gavin Bradley (A) fall Shane Atwood, 1:15