MILTON Jacob Huling has been working with the Jersey Shore coaches on making sure he's getting to his shots specifically for a match like the one he wrestled Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs' coaching staff wanted him to push his pace against a wrestler like Shikellamy's Dan Karpinski to negate the upper body moves Karpinski likes to throw. So when Huling, a sophomore 195-pounder, scored the first takedown of the bout Saturday, he accomplished exactly what his coaches were looking for.
Huling beat Karpinski by four points in what was a crucial bout of the Bulldogs' 33-25 win over Shikellamy in the District 4 Class AAA Duals championship match. Jersey Shore won the title for the second consecutive year and advanced to Hershey for the PIAA tournament beginning Thursday. The Bulldogs face the District 7 runner-up either Canon McMillan or Franklin Regional in their first match.
Jersey Shore's Noah Ulmer, top, picks up back points against Shikellamy's Nick Gittens during the Class AAA final of the District 4 Duals Saturday at Milton.
Huling said the first takedown was the one that helped build his confidence against Karpinski, but it was the second one which gave him a 4-1 lead which allowed him to relax a bit.
Karpinski beat Huling in their first meeting this year back on Dec. 20, 3-2, and that's what Huling learned he had to stay away from Karpinski's penchant for wanting to wrestle almost exclusively upper body.
"I just feel so much more relaxed from the first takedown," Huling said. "I think it helped that I love the first time because I wanted to win so badly for the team."
"He did a good job the last few days of working on that shot," Jersey Shore head coach Shawn Weaver said. "I can't say enough about what he's done for us and that win was huge. That's the match for us."
Huling's win was part of a grind-it-out kind of afternoon for Jersey Shore that saw the Bulldogs win five of their eight bouts by five points or less. The only bonus-point wins for Jersey Shore came from falls from Allen Saar at 113 pounds, Zak Herman at 152 pounds and Nate Caputo at 285 pounds.
Junior Austin White set that grinding tone for the Bulldogs in the first bout when beat Anthony Best, 1-0. The only point came from a third-period escape from White.
He rode Best for the entire second period and avoided a late takedown attempt in the third period to hold on for the win.
"It felt like once we got that first win, we were so pumped and we got behind each other," Huling said. "It was just really exciting."
White got the win bumping up a weight class. Because the match started at 145 pounds, Weaver said he and his coaching staff had to decide immediately how they were going to use their lineup. And right up until the coin flip prior to the match, the team was planning on leaving their lineup intact before finally deciding to bump up White and the other wrestlers around him in the lineup.
"The first match is always huge," Weaver said. "Dealing with high school kids where emotions run high, if that match goes the other way, who knows what happens."
After Herman picked up his fall at 152, the Bulldogs were able to weather the storm of four consecutive Shikellamy wins which allowed the Braves to build a 15-9 to lead after Dwyane Pepper picked up a fall in 2 minutes, 47 seconds at 195 pounds.
Huling then pulled out his biggest win of the year and first-minute Caputo's fall followed to put all the momentum squarely back in Jersey Shore's corner. Noah Ulmer followed with a 10-5 win, and Saar's fall in 3:06 forced Shikellamy to play catchup down 27-15.
"It just wasn't meant to be," Shikellamy head coach John Supsic said. "I don't think we came out and wrestled with the intensity we needed. We definitely didn't have our 'A' game. In some situations we were gassed. (Jersey Shore) wrestled extremely tough and they were well-prepared."
Maybe Jersey Shore's biggest accomplishment was preventing bonus points from Shikellamy's best wrestlers. Pepper did score a fall at 195, and Dylan Houseknecht scored a fall at 120, but the Bulldogs' Dominic Loffredo held Jesse Shambach to a decision despite wrestling for the first time in six weeks.
"I think our mentality all the time is you have to go out and battle," Weaver said. "In a dual-meet situation, bonus points are huge."
"I knew we were in trouble three or four matches into it," Supsic said. "I knew where we needed to make up points and it was going to be tough for us to make up points where we needed to. Nothing went our way. Just one of those days."