SOMERSET — The balance of power in Group 1 had swung in favor of the Delaware Valley wrestling team by the time the state championships took place on Sunday.
After beating the Terriers by one point just over a month ago, Kittatinny couldn’t replicate the feat in the Group 1 championship at Franklin High School.
Delaware Valley quickly tipped the tide in their favor by opening the game with a pair of wins at 138 and 144 pounds and added another at 165 to claim a 36-23 win over the Cougars.
“Other coaches may have a different opinion, but I don’t particularly like seeing the same team twice,” Gill said. “…Beating them helped us get here through Roselle Park instead of Paulsboro, but seeing them before apparently hurt us in the way they can mix and move.”
The Terriers knew where they could swing the game and came out firing.
After a decisive Delaware Valley Ben Levy win over Avery Yeager in January, Levy added a bonus point with four third-period takedowns and a major 12-3 block decision to open the game at 138 pounds.
And the Terriers returned 144 to take a 7-0 lead. Last time out, Reece Smith got a 6-4 decision over Brayden Schneider. On Sunday, the Cougars’ sophomore was beaten twice in the second period and knocked down in the third by a 6-3 decision.
“We are very comparative, not the score, but in terms of competition we should have been right with them,” Gill said. “It’s a bit difficult when the very first game when things weren’t going well. We lost 7-6 the first time and it was even worse. We won the second game the first time and lost the one -the.
“In Game 2 we lost four (points) when we had only lost three before and instead of having three we lost three. In the second game of the evening we were in trouble.”
Bryce Coesfeld emerged with a 4-2 decision in his swing fight at 150 before a roster change sent the Cougars hammering Steven Dalling against Sean Thomas, who lost a one-point decision to the brother from Dalling, Ethan, the last time.
Steven Dalling used a big second period, including a backhand, one out and three back runs, to claim a major 12-4 decision and tie the score, 7-7. That would be as close as the Cougars would get for the rest of the game.
But Ethan Dalling couldn’t get past Ethan Sheeley, who lost to his brother in a technical crash in January. Sheeley scored three in the second period and fended off a third-period out on a breakout with six seconds left to make it a 5-4 decision.
“When (Thomas) comes out against Steven, we said, ‘Hey, no problem,'” Gill said. “Apparently the kid that Steven beat the first time around was too good for Ethan. They changed that game, and I didn’t think it would be a bean hill, but apparently it worked. We still got the win from Steven Dalling, but we don’t have each other.”
Delaware Valley extended their lead at the top weights, with a Trevor Bowen pin at 190 pounds extending the lead to 19-7. Ty Eldred got a major decision at 215 pounds, but the Terriers picked up three straight wins, including a pin from Owen Kucharski at 106 and a technical drop from Jake Taylor at 113 to clinch the game with a 33-11 advantage with three fights to play.
“I don’t know if it’s the pressure. I don’t know if it’s trying to maintain the high level of performance over and over again,” Gill said. “We got hot and stayed hot for a long time. We just got cold on February 13. It just wasn’t our day.”
Shane Nelson and Chris Casale had 12 combined points for Kittatinny with packages at 120 and 132 pounds, respectively.
The loss ended an eight-game winning streak for the Cougars (20-3), who secured their 23rd division title with a 39-26 victory over Emerson/Park Ridge on Wednesday. They were able to host the group semi-finals on Friday thanks to their victory over the Terriers last month.
The Cougars’ only three losses this season have come against Group 4 champion Phillipsburg, Group 1 champion Delaware Valley and Group 2 runner-up High Point.
“It’s going to hurt for a few hours and then we have to get ready for the districts,” Gill said. “To think that we’re here and there are two teams left in Group 1 and we’re one of them, second in Group 1, tomorrow won’t sound so bad. Right now it hurts.”