Luke Hribar and the Forest Hills wrestling team had been in this position before – twice, in fact.
Last season the Rangers had two chances to beat Westmont Hilltop in a dual meet, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
Not this time.
Hribar reversed his result from a year ago to post one of two key overtime victories for the Rangers on Tuesday night as they beat the Hilltoppers 37-32 in front of a large crowd at Westmont Hilltop.
“We came into this match knowing it was going to be a dogfight. I wanted to set the tone,” Hribar said. “We were kind of the underdogs – they beat us last year. We know we had to come out on fire to win.”
Hribar scored a takedown with 20 seconds left in the sudden-victory period to beat Noah Gresh 5-3 at 220 pounds in the first contested bout of the night.
Gresh’s 3-2 victory over Hribar last season as the Hilltoppers edge the Rangers 39-34 in the District 6 Class AA semifinal. This time Hribar fought off three big-move attempts by Gresh to get the victory.
“He’s been working really hard in the room,” Forest Hills coach Jake Strayer said. “He deserved to win that one.”
Freshman Dustin Flinn delivered the other overtime victory for Forest Hills, as he scored with 2 seconds remaining in sudden victory for a 4-2 win over Roy Dunn at 138 pounds.
Dunn scored a defensive takedown 15 seconds into the match but could do little after that. Flinn nearly turned him twice in the third period but Dunn was able to narrowly avoid giving up points in both instances.
“I think both of our guys deserved to win in overtime,” Strayer said. “They controlled the match most of the time.”
After forfeiting to Tanner Dluhos to start the dual, the Rangers (4-1, 4-1 LHAC) won five of the first six bouts. Westmont Hilltop’s lone win in the stretch came at 285, where Max Yonko pinned Dalton Gable.
Jude Martyak trailed Sean Wilks 4-2 in the second period before pinning the Westmont Hilltop 106-pounder to pull Forest Hills within three points. Easton Toth locked up a first-period cradle for a fall over Connor LaMantia to give the Rangers a lead they would never relinquish.
Defending state champion Jackson Arrington pinned Luke Benner at 120, and Noah Teeter’s 9-0 major decision over Tanner Kushner at 126 pushed the Forest Hills lead to 25-21.
The Hilltoppers (5-1, 5-1) broke the string at 132, where Conner Polacek notched a 4-0 victory over Garet Connor.
Flinn’s overtime victory was followed by Erik Gibson’s pin of Zane Blackburn at 145. Ryan Weyandt clinched the dual-meet victory with a 3-0 shutout of Noah Korenoski at 152 pounds in a battle of state-ranked wrestlers.
“In tight dual meets, you’ve got to do everything right,” Westmont Hilltop coach Matt Beaujon said.
“You’ve got to make sure you get the bonus points and make sure you’re not giving up the bonus points.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team. We’ll take what we learn from this experience and move forward with it.”
Westmont Hilltop put up bonus points in the final three bouts as twin brothers Hudson and Hunter Holbay recorded back-to-back pins followed by Mason Muto’s technical fall, but it was too little too late for the two-time defending district team champions.
“Even if you win this match 37-32, we’re still a third of the way home (in the season),” Beaujon said. “Any match like this, you take the experience and try to grow from it. We’re always a work in progress. We’re not going to tuck our tail here. We’re going to keep moving forward and hopefully at the end, we’ll be around.”
The Hilltoppers were on the losing end Tuesday night, but Beaujon said the dual was a win for the sport, with strong vocal support on both sides of the gym.
“I tell the kids all of the time, outside of my freshman year, I didn’t have the opportunity to wrestle in environments like this,” he said. “From a wrestling perspective, I think any stranger comes walking in here, they’re like, ‘Oh, wrestling’s thriving!’”