Clark wins first Bethlehem title

By on January 3, 2018
Evan Clark

Evan Clark

If history was any indication, Evan Clark knew what he was up against last Friday.

The Warwick senior advanced to the 220-pound finals at the Bethlehem Holiday Classic, where Delaware Valley’s John McCarthy was waiting.

These same two had squared off exactly one year ago with the bronze medal at stake, and it was McCarthy who sneaked past with a 3-1 decision.

“I expected it to be a hard-fought match between both of us,” Clark said, “and it was.”

This time, however, Clark prevailed, capitalizing on a second-period takedown to win 3-2 and claim his first Bethlehem Tournament championship.

“It’s pretty big for me and it’s really big for the team,” said Clark, who improved to 11-0, “because I don’t think we’ve had five place-winners at that Bethlehem Tournament in a long time.”

Senior Ryan Stewart also advanced to the finals and took home the silver medal at 285, while senior Luke Hirtzel took sixth at 152, and senior Logan Boring (182) and junior Roland McClune (195) each took home eighth-place medals.

“It was a great job from all the wrestlers,” Warwick coach Ned Bushong said. “This was the best showing we have had in many years at one of the most competitive tournaments in the State.”

Clark certainly stepped up with an excellent showing, starting with a 5-2 conquest of Garnet Valley’s Coltin Deery in his opening match.

From there, he topped Quakertown’s Ralph Martin 2-1 on a tiebreaker, then edged Spring-Ford’s Tyler LaRocca 4-2 in the semi-finals.

In all, Clark’s four wins at Bethlehem came by a combined seven points.

“I’m just trying to find a way to win,” he remarked. “If I can win by 15 points and tech fall him, or if I can win by one point and barely scrape by, I’m just looking for a win.”

Against McCarthy (8-2), Clark’s second-period takedown was the difference in the match.

“I tried to get into a snap and spin, but it was more like the start of a cement job,” he said. “We were toward the outer edge of the circle, so I spun behind as fast as I could and managed to get the two.”

Clark also added an escape in the match, while both of McCarthy’s points were scored off escapes.

“We both really couldn’t hold each other down,” Clark said. “(McCarthy) is just an absolutely great wrestler and the competition up there is just unbelievable. I guess it was kinda bittersweet because he beat me last year 3-1 in a close match and this year I just came out on top.”

Stewart (12-1) is no stranger to coming out on top, and his 8-4 win over Easton’s John Pineda in the semis vaulted him into the championship bout.

There, he suffered his first loss of the year, falling 3-2 in a tough loss to Tri-Valley’s Dan Scheib.

“I thought I wrestled really well,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t enough to get that gold.”

Scheib (13-0) took the early advantage with a first-period takedown, and Stewart’s escape halved his deficit to 2-1 at period’s end.

“I think I was just a little bit off-balance and my sprawl wasn’t good enough,” Stewart recalled.

The two wrestlers then traded escapes in the second and third periods, setting the final score.

“I was trying stuff in the last 30 seconds of the match trying to do something to get the points because I was down by one,” Stewart said, “but nothing was really working.”

Scheib and Stewart also battled in the heavyweight finals last year, with the Twin Valley grappler pulling out a 2-1 win.

Asked about his approach on Friday, Stewart said, “I faced him with absolutely no fear since I knew, if I was going to lose to him, it’s not like it’s going to be a huge surprise to everyone — the crowd and stuff. So I just went at him with no fear and I think that helped me a lot in the match. I might be able to use that the rest of the season.”

Earlier, Stewart pinned Phillipsburg’s Patrick Sharpe in 2:18 and he decked Wilson’s Sal Pugliese in just 58 seconds in the quarterfinals.

In the 152-pound brackets, Hirtzel (11-5) suffered a 4-1 quarter-final loss to Pennridge’s Evan Widing, the eventual bronze-medalist. He bounced back to beat Easton’s Isaiah Reinert 5-3 and then Northampton’s Michael Kistler 9-3 in his first two consolation bouts, getting him into the medal rounds. In the fifth-sixth place bout, Saucon Valley’s Angelo Mahaffey pulled out a 3-1 win over Hirtzel.

At 182, Boring (11-3) won two of his first three bouts, then suffered a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Parkland’s Adam Lizak in the seventh-place bout.

McClune (7-3) also took wins in two of his first three bouts before dropping an 8-2 decision to North Penn’s Daniel Sibel in the 195-pound seventh-place match.

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