CANTON - R.C. Hunter could hear his coaches yelling to sink in a half-nelson on his opponent. The Williamson senior was getting his bearings straight after just turning his opponent with a tilt when his coaches began screaming from the bench.
Hunter found the opening, first getting the half-nelson in, and then sinking it deep to be able to score the first-period fall in Thursday's first bout. It was a monumental win for Hunter (24-5) because Canton had to make its run in the upper weights last night if it wanted to win.
Hunter gave Williamson a much-needed six points as the Warriors wrapped up the Northern Tier League Small School division title with a 40-33 win over Canton. In the process, Williamson also eliminated Canton from contention for the District 4 Duals tournament, and secured its own No. 2 seed in the district duals tournament.
The Small School title was the second consecutive one for Williamson, and it can still win its first-ever outright NTL title with a win over Wellsboro on Feb. 7.
"This is about these kids. It's not about the program or anything else. It's about these kids," Williamson head coach Mark Everett said. "These kids have worked really hard. It's not a program thing. It's the fact that these 14 kids that are here decided they were going to put the work in and they were going to make a team that was a good team."
Part of the transformation from a solid dual-meet team a year ago to a team that is 20-2 has been the emergence of wrestlers like Hunter, especially in the upper weights. Hunter was just 15-15 a year ago and qualified for the District 4 tournament. He won his 24 bout of the season last night and has turned himself into more than just a potential win in the Warriors lineup. He's become an expected win.
He was in control of Canton's Josiah Bardo, who has been battling illness over the last few days and bumped up a weight class, with five points in the first minute or so of the first period. But as he was re-setting himself after tilting Bardo for three points, Hunter utilized the opening he got to pick up the fall.
The win put Canton's run on hold before Tyler Cole, Garrett Wesneski, Connor Route and Brady Bryington all recorded bonus-point wins.
"I don't know that he could have done that last year," Everett said. "He had big leads last year and he'd reach back or do something crazy and get thrown on his back. Now he's a go-getter and he's determined. It's his senior year and he wanted to win this and he wanted to win the league."
"I was really looking forward to going against Tyler Cole. It didn't happen, but it was still a good match and I'm proud of it," Hunter said. "I was listening to the coaches last year, but this year I've been listening to them a lot more during my matches about what I have to do, and it's really helping me out."
The strength of Canton's lineup lies in its upper weights, an area Williamson has improved on vastly this year, but still isn't quite at Canton's level. Cole, Wesneski and Route are a combined 59-9 this year and recorded 16 points in their three wins last night.
Bryington, a freshman 285-pounder, added six much-needed points when he caught Williamson's Dakota Bolt going for a big throw and was able to score the fall. Nine of Bryington's 11 wins this year have come by fall.
"I really thought we could weather it if we gave up three," Everett said. "But when we gave up six, I thought it was over."
"It was a great win for Brady being a ninth-grader in that position," Canton head coach Lyle Wesneski said. "I told him just stay in good position and believe in yourself. You'll get a shot, so make it count when you do."
Canton held a 26-6 lead after Dennis Route won by major decision at 106 pounds. It was a cushion the Warriors needed as they turned into the heart of Williamson's lineup.
But Williamson recorded five consecutive six-point wins to turn the deficit into a 36-26 lead with just three bouts remaining. Returning state qualifier Tyrus Hamblin picked up a forfeit at 113 before Carl Gorg (120), Herman Briggs (126), Trevor McWhorter (132) and Logan Everett (138) all picked up falls.
Sandwiched between a decision win from Canton's Brook Gleckner and a major decision for Jacob Butcher, Williamson's Billy Barnes picked up a major decision at 152 pounds to secure the win for Williamson.
"With our lighter weights, we were pretty comfortable (down 26-6) because we knew we'd be able to come back," Hunter said. "We loved the challenge tonight. We knew we were going to come over here and face one hell of a team. It just felt like a great accomplishment."
For Canton (10-12), it was its fifth loss this season by seven points or fewer. The Warriors are going to miss the District 4 Duals tournament likely by one win. Teams must have a .500 record to qualify and Canton has just one bout remaining.
On top of last night's loss, Canton lost by three points to Wyalusing and Lewisburg, and by four points to Montoursville and Midd-West. Other than Midd-West, those five teams represent teams which will likely be in the top 10 seeds for the district duals tournament.
"It is frustrating," Wesneski said. "We had opportunities throughout the year to win a couple matches and we didn't. I feel bad for the kids because we would be a tough out. I don't know whether we'd beat some of the top teams, but the other 12 or 13 teams in there, we're a tough out. I just wish the kids had an opportunity. But you learn from it."
106: Dennis Route, C, maj. dec. Caleb Robbins, 10-2; 113: Tyrus Hamblin, W, won by forfeit; 120: Carl Gorg, W, pinned Brennan Gleckner, 1:59; 126: Herman Briggs, W, pinned Dylan Marbaker, 2:52; 132: Trevor McWhorter, W, pinned Brendan Cohick, 2:29; 138: Logan Everett, W, pinned Darrin Killian, :36; 145: Brooks Gleckner, C, dec. Garrett Heffner, 8-5; 152: Billy Barnes, W, maj. dec. Travis Butcher, 15-1; 160: Jacob Butcher, C, maj. dec. Michael Presto, 11-3; 170: R.C. Hunter, W, pinned Josiah Bardo, 1:32; 182: Tyler Cole, C, maj. dec. Mark Brennan, 10-0; 195: Garrett Wesneski, C, pinned John Nevius, 1:06; 220: Connor Route, C, pinned Austin Moore, 1:15; 285: Brady Bryington, C, pinned Dakota Bolt, 2:33.
*Match started at 170 pounds
Takedowns: Williamson 10, Canton 8.
Records: Williamson (20-2); Canton (10-11).