CARY — Green Hope wrestler Chris Duckworth wore a serious expression as teammate Matt Mason was on the mat wrestling in the final match of the Falcons’ Tri-9 Conference opener against Athens Drive on Wednesday.
Green Hope had jumped out to a commanding 30-0 lead against the young Jaguars, but Athens was able to battle back and trailed just 39-33 entering the finale, a 170-pound showdown between Mason and the Jaguars’ Matt Garska.
The situation was simple; if Garska could pin Mason the match would belong to Athens, since the tiebreaker was total pinfalls and the two teams were even at five apiece entering the last match.
Garska, a junior, led 2-1 entering the final period. Mason could have elected to play it safe and try to survive the two minute period without getting his shoulders put to the mat.
Instead, the sophomore heeded the words of his coach and his senior teammate, coming from behind to edge Garza 4-2 and propel Green Hope to a 42-33 win, its first of the season.
“We asked him (Mason) to come through, I mean the fate of the match depended on him, and he delivered,” said Duckworth, who earned his own pin decisively in the 138-pound class to improve to 7-2 on the year.
Falcons head coach Steve Gursslin was proud of all his wrestlers, crediting Mason with a clutch win and acknowledging the strength of the heavier weights. All five Green Hope wrestlers at weight classes of 170 pounds and above were victorious, including Collin Power (182), Ian Callahan (195), Chad Mason (220) and Dallas Gonzalez (285).
“I told him (Mason) you’ve got to go out there and win it for the team, no pressure,” Gursslin said with a grin. “We always tell the guys to step and go for the win.”
Green Hope’s Danny Hegeman edged Grant Finkbeiner 9-6 in a back and forth match in the 126-pound class.
Athens Drive assistant coach Jay Cornish admired the Falcons approach to wrestle for the win, and believed that was a factor that might have separated the two relatively even groups.
“Instead of wrestling to win, sometimes our kids want to just hold on,” Cornish said. “We’re dealing with the ghosts of the past, but these young kids are starting to overcome the history at Athens and are starting to believe in themselves.”
The Jaguars (1-3, 1-1) were winless last year.
Jaguar junior Ahmed Huseni (160 pounds) scored a clutch win in the second to last match with a third round pin to move Athens to within six points of the Falcons.
Other Athens winners included Keith Markovich (152) with a 6-4 decision over Brian Messina in one of the most competitive matches of the night, Trey Cornish (113), Miles Vaziri (120), Abdul Shemna (132) and Jake Joyner (145).