When a final wrestling bout of Friday night’s match between Highland Regional High School and Timber Creek came to a close, fans of the victorious Chargers rose to their feet to applaud a hard-fought victory. At the same time, fans of the Tartans also stood up and let their wrestlers know that only on the scoreboard was Friday night’s match considered a loss.
Timber Creek reaffirmed its place as the area’s dominating wrestling team with a 31-22 victory over Highland, while the Tartans proved that youth doesn’t mean weakness in a valiant effort.
On a night filled with drama, excitement, loud crowd noise and even a few bursts of temper, just about everyone left Timber Creek satisfied.
“I love these kids,” Highland coach Mike Davidson said. “They give me everything they have. From Day 1 they have been on practice on time and stay till 6 p.m. every night. I couldn’t be prouder. I could not be prouder of the effort. I have seven or eight freshman in the lineup and only four upperclassmen and the effort I just got out there against a very tough Timber Creek team is phenomenal.”
Chargers’ senior Bryce Shade said Highland’s vast improvement over the last couple of years has added to the intensity of the rivalry.
“It gets so much more intense,” said Shade. “When the crowd gets into it there is so much more pressure on you when you are on the mat to get your crowd behind you and not let their crowd get behind them. In the beginning of the match they started out well and got their crowd behind them, but we just got to the part of the lineup where the stars are at and were able to come back.”
Highland jumped out to an early lead after senior Martel Harrison, who highly anticipated taking on the Chargers, reluctantly accepted a forfeit and Lucas Siegfried scored a 2-0 decision at 106 pounds. Timber Creek got within 9-5 on a tech fall from John Amato, but the Tartans came right back with a win by Josh Clark at 120. Clark's win symbolized the Tartans fight as he overcame a 4-2 deficit entering the third period to win 9-6.
Timber Creek took its first lead a couple of bouts later when Brandon Keller pinned Nick Wade and Brandon Virgilio scored a 6-4 decision to put the Chargers up 20-12. Sheldon Morris scored a win for Highland but the Chargers put the match away with victories from Dom Ruggierrio, Keith Bauberger and Shade.
Ruggierrio’s win was the 100th of his career.
“One hundred means a lot,” said Ruggerio. “I have been working really hard since my freshman year. I keep going to states and coming up short, but this year is the year.”
The Chargers once again loaded their non-conference schedule with some of the top teams on the east coast. The work has paid dividends as the team is undefeated and well on its way to another Olympic Conference title.
Shade insists there is still work to be done.
“I think we are not completely where we should be because of some injuries and sicknesses but once we get where we should be people will recognize it,” Shade said.
Meanwhile, Highland (11-2) showed it could hang with one of South Jersey’s top teams.
“I thought we came out and were tough,” said Morris. “We did good and next year it should be different.”