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Bunnell's hard work pays off in trip to regionals
Monday, February 18, 2013
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
ALTOONA - There aren't many people who stick around for the consolation semifinals at the District 6 Class AA wrestling tournament in Altoona.
Those who stuck around on Saturday, would beg to differ that the round is anything but dull.
With the masses dwindling at the Altoona Fieldhouse on Saturday, Moshannon Valley heavyweight Jack Bunnell brought the Black Knight fans to their feet with a fall over Richland's Matt Moose in 4:06.
Bunnell got to his feet and raised his arms in victory, as the pin secured the Mo Valley junior's spot in the Southwest Regional in two weekends at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
The raising of the arms was followed by hugging head coach Justin Fye ... and anyone else around who Bunnell could embrace.
"I was dead tired and I was hoping I would get him back on his back," said Bunnell of Moose, whom he nearly pinned at the end of the second. "I knew I had a big lead, but I was confident I could get a reversal (in the third) and I did, and put him back on his back.
"I was ecstatic. I ran over and hugged my coach, and I gave my mom a hug. Everybody was there to greet me, even some kids from West Branch. It felt amazing."
Bunnell was dropped into the consolations on Friday with a loss to eventual champion in West Branch's Morgan Selepack, and his journey through the consolation bracket began in the fourth round consolations.
After riding the Japanese whizzer to a quarterfinal matchup with Selepack, Bunnell's repertoire was more diverse in downing three straight opponents to reach the third-place bout - which he lost to Mount Union's Nikolas Smith.
Bunnell used his signature move in scoring an early takedown against Westmont Hilltop's Christian Roman before decking him in 1:21 in the fourth round consolations before utilizing a headlock to defeat United's Ben Mountain.
Mountain couldn't overcome the early 5-point move, and Bunnell had a counter for everything he had to offer.
Bunnell added four takedowns to finish off a 13-5 major decision.
"We know, as a staff, that he's capable of doing this all the time," Fye said of Bunnell, who was pinned by Mountain in last year's tournament. "For some guys, it's about getting that confidence. Hopefully, after something like this, he has that confidence for Johnstown in a couple of weeks.
"He works hard and he has a great attitude. You can't ask for a better kid. He continues to work hard and he had a great tournament. You can't ask for much more than what he did today."
In addition to avenging a loss to Mountain last season, Bunnell's fall against Moose was that much sweeter after being pinned in 28 seconds at the Richland Duals on Jan. 19.
Moose charged Bunnell throughout much of the first period, but was unable to score a takedown.
Bunnell used the Ram heavyweight's aggression against him, as he was able to turn him on multiple occasions before using a double arm to get the fall in the third.
"Coach went out and told me to have fun," said Bunnell, "and I just went after it (because) he pinned me earlier in the year at the Richland Duals. He bullrushed me at first, but I was able to reverse him and put him on his back.
"I didn't see him come at anybody like that in his other matches. It kind of surprised me, but once I fought that off, I was pretty good."
Bunnell couldn't keep the revenge tour going against Smith, who pinned him in 3:26 for third place. It was Smith's second fall of the year against Bunnell after putting him on his back in 43 seconds when the teams met for a dual meet.
Despite being unable to come up with a bronze, Fye is still happy with how Bunnell has progressed from a 7-14 mark a year ago to a 22-11 record and the distinction of being a regional qualifier.
"Against Moose," Fye said, "he was really wrestling tough on top. He was looking to pin him the whole time. It's just all about confidence. When you're wrestling heavyweight, you have to stay in good positions, and he was doing that.
"His opponents were making mistakes and he was capitalizing on it. I'm extremely happy for him. I'm not taking any credit (for our regional qualifiers) because they're the ones that wrestle. They all came out, wrestled aggressively and got rewarded for it."
Bunnell will be joining teammates James Stodart and Jake Ludwig, each of whom claimed District 6 titles, at the Cambria County War Memorial.
Like many of the fans that Bunnell brought to their feet, Stodart is happy to have another teammate making the journey to Johnstown.
"The more people that get to regionals, the better," said Stodart.
"I worried about (Jack) at the beginning of the year, but then he began picking up on things. He was working harder in practice, and he came out here and wanted to get out.
"He came out and did what he had to do."
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