HARRISON TWP. – Kingsway wrestling coach Mike Barikian had enough faith in his program on Wednesday night to know that even without any movement in his lineup – not that he has any leeway all season long – his Dragons were in a good position again neighboring Clearview.
The Dragons have had a rigorous schedule and even though a visit to the Pioneers gym, with the conference title on the line, barikian felt his team had the training, stamina and intangibles to beat a program that had taken a loss just once this season.
That said he didn’t see the match playing out the way that it did and that came in large part due to senior Ryan Crane.
“I’m excited for him,” said Barikian, whose team ran off seven straight bouts, including Crane’s 7-6 upset decision over previously undefeated David McCullough, and 10 overall on the way to a 43-12 win over Clearview. “I told him last week that this is the best that I’ve seen him wrestle over the past three years. He continued that tonight and it was a big win for us to get going.”
Kingsway (12-7 overall, 4-0 division) needed the win to clinch the Tri-County Royal Division and did so in stunning fashion. While maybe not an upset, Clearview (17-2, 3-1) entered with just one loss in a 46-26 loss to undefeated Howell (20-0) in mid-January, Kingsway still needed to be at its best in a hostile environment.
“It was a pumped up crowd,” Crane said. “But it should be. This is a big match and we wanted to prove ourselves. For me personally, I’ve struggled against (McCullough). I think he pinned me last year.”
After the opening two bouts were split, Crane got an early takedown and after some back and forth in which the senior led the entire way, McCullough got a takedown midway through the final period to tie the score at 6-6. With history on his side and a sense that Crane – who almost had a pin early in the second period – may have emptied the tank, McCullough let Crane escape.
That’s when Crane found something extra and the match finished out with both wrestlers working hard.
"This is a pretty big win for me," said Crane, who is now 11-9 on the year. "He's beaten me the last few years so this is a big night for me. I just had to go out there and work hard.”
Still it can be said the Dragons won the battle but the war, not so much. Both teams are in the Group 4 tournament that will start on Monday night and if things stick to chalk, next Friday the two could meet again at Kingsway in the South Jersey Final.
“I think that would be a great matchup next Friday,” Crane said. “It will be at our place and we will be ready. I think the momentum is definitely on our side.”
“I’m sure (Clearview) will go every move they can make,” Barikian said. “We are who we are so you won’t see much change from us but then why would we with this score.
“I’m confident in how we approach the season and how we prepare. I like where we are right now.”
As for any momentum, Barikian understands that can be fleeting but did note one thing.
“I’d much rather be on this end of the score than that one,” the coach said with a smile.
* One for the team: Kingsway's Cheney Kinner lost 4-3 to Clearview's Jack Love but Kingsway coach Mike Barikian remained enthusiastic about the opening weight. "We have asked a lot from Cheney this year. He's had to wrestle up a weight class and really, I thought he had a great bout with the exception of that one takedown he gave up. He's done a lot of little things for us that go unnoticed.
* Early upset: At 160 Ryan Crane secured the biggest win of the night with a 7-6 decision over previously uindfeated David McCullough.
* The quick pin: At 195 Alieis Almanizar pinned Dalton Noakes in 10 seconds. The pin gave the Dragons three of only six bonus points won on the night and really sealed Clearviews fate.
* See you soon: The two could meet again in a week in the South Jersey Group 4 Final at Kingsway. The final score may not be an indication of how close these two programs really are and look for that to be on of the highlights of the finals in seven groups.