Battle to the end

Union City edges Eisenhower in Region 3 showdown

Jake Williams and Eisenhower finished second at the Sharon Duals.

UNION CITY, Pa. – The phrase “aggressive playcalling” gets thrown around a lot this time of year.

Usually, it’s referencing a football coach going for a fourth down they typically wouldn’t, or executing a trick play to give their team an edge and advance in the playoffs. The coaches are often touted if it works, and ridiculed if it doesn’t.

Eisenhower wrestling coach Kris Black made an aggressive playcall of his own Tuesday night in Union City. He decided to forfeit the opening bout at 152 pounds to “bump” some of his stronger wrestlers to higher weight classes in order to even the matchups.

It nearly worked.

The Knights went into the final two matches trailing 37-30. Wrestling at 138 pounds, his normal spot, Josh Bortz was trailing Judah Gardner 2-1 late in the third period.

Cael Black was one of four Eisenhower Knights to advance to the semifinals of the Section I tournament.

Knowing his team needed the win to stay alive in the match, he made an aggressive shot. Gardner caught him and took him down for an extra two points. Gardner’s 4-1 win put the match out of reach and the Bears took over sole possession of first place in Region 3 with a 43-29 win.

“I still think it was the right call,” Black said. “We made the bump to get in that position to win. We were right there. Josh wrestled a good match. He was going after it and ended up in a bad position. I can’t fault the effort. Everyone gave it their all tonight.”

The move certainly looked like the right one at the outset. Following the forfeit, Nate Holt decked Collin Hedderick in just 59 seconds to tie the match at 6-6. Alex Barnett went toe-to-toe with Marshall Vantassel at 170. Vantassel had a 4-2 lead after the first period, and was up 6-5 after two. A stalling point tied the match at 6-6. Barnett got a takedown, but Vantassel escaped and scored a late takedown to pick up the 9-8 decision.

“Alex is a team player and was all for (the bump),” Black said. “He went out and almost got (the win). No one complained about the bump. It was all about whatever is best for the team.”

Gavin Henry picked up a quick pin at 182 to stretch the Bears (7-0 overall, 5-0 Region 3) lead to 15-6. Cael Black (195) and Joe Bauer (220) gave the Knights (4-2, 4-1) an 18-15 advantage with second and third period pins, respectively.

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Eisenhower’s Josh Bortz fights for position with Union City’s Judah Gardner during their 138-pound match at Union City High School, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Gardner grabbed a late takedown to earn a 4-1 decision and seal the Bears’ win over the Knights.

Matt Long grabbed a pin at 285 and Evan Smith got Union City’s second win via forfeit at 106 to put the Bears back ahead 27-18.

Logan Jaquay needed just 56 seconds to put Quintin Hedderick’s shoulders to the mat at 113 to make it 27-24.

Jake Williams had a scare early in his 120-pound bout with Jayson Soliwada. Soliwada took Williams to the mat and scored a nearfall. Williams fought back and started wearing down Soliwada. Soliwada led 5-3 after one, but Williams cut the lead to 8-7 after two. Soliwada had taken an injury time during the period, and was visibly winded heading into the third. Williams took advantage and decked Soliwada 53 seconds into the third period to give Eisenhower a 30-27 lead.

“That was awesome,” Black said. “Jake is getting better and better. He pressed the pace and kept giving effort the whole time. I’m happy for him.”

The lead was shortlived as Will Burgess picked up a first period pin at 126 and Tallin Henry won an 11-0 major decision at 132 to put the Bears back on top 37-30 heading into the 138-pound match.

Austin Jaquith closed out the Union City win with a reversal of Garrett Head with less than 10 seconds remaining in the 145-pound bout. Head, who lost a match in Falconer earlier this season in similar fashion, threw his headgear in frustration after the match and the Knights were deducted a team point.

Eisenhower will have to find a way to shake the loss quickly. The Knights are back on the road today for another critical Region 3 match. This time with Corry, currently third in the region.

“We’ve got to find a way to get past it,” Black said. “Corry will be ready to go.”

– – –



152: Esteban Waldman (U) via forfeit

160: Nate Holt (E) pin Collin Hedderick, 0:59

170: Marshall Vantassel (U) dec. Alex Barnett, 9-8

182: Gavin Henry (U) pin Ethan Chambers, 0:16

195: Cael Black (E) pin Nate Kaday, 3:12

220: Joe Bauer (E) pin Tyler Hedderick, 4:01

285: Matt Long (U) pin Jeramy Card, 1:01

106: Evan Smith (U) via forfeit

113: Logan Jaquay (E) pin Quintin Hedderick, 0:56

120: Jake Williams (E) pin Jayson Soliwada, 4:53

126: Will Burgess (U) pin Easton Hedman, 1:31

132: Tallin Henry (U) maj. dec. Gannon Jaquay, 11-0

138: Judah Gardner (U) dec. Josh Bortz, 4-1

145: Austin Jaquith (U) dec. Garrett Head, 11-10