Messiah Athletics

GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Losses in each of the first six matches put a serious damper on Messiah’s dual-match home opener Friday in Brubaker Auditorium, as the Falcons dropped a 28-9 decision to visiting Centenary.

The Cyclones — ranked 15th in the latest Brute/Adidas Top 30 Poll — nabbed bonus-point victories in the night’s first three matches, shot out to a 23-0 lead and never looked back, handing Messiah its second dual-match loss of the season.

“(Centenary) is a tough team,” said Messiah head coach Bryan Brunk. “They don’t have any holes and are tough top to bottom. I thought we were in a lot of tough matches, but I thought they won a lot of the close situations. They really got after it.”

After suffering major decision defeats at both the 125- and 141-pound cards — with an injury default at 133 — Brunk’s squad dropped its first close match at 149. Sophomore Chris Hardenberg had riding time on Centenary’s Jon Stillo, but an escape with just 15 seconds remaining in the match gave Stillo a narrow 8-7 win.

“I thought Chris wrestled a great match,” Brunk said. “But it was those situational things where we got beat. He gave up an escape with 15 seconds left in the match and another with just eight seconds left in the first period. Those make the difference in a close match like his. I was pleased with his effort though, and pleased with how he wrestled.”

Messiah failed to get on the board until freshman Ricardo Plummer earned an 8-5 decision over the Cyclones’ Charles Cannella at 174, though the win got a bit of momentum rolling. Junior Tim Stewart followed with a 6-5 comeback win at the 184-pound match, while senior Pat Hogan closed the night with a 7-6 decision over opponent Joseph Zitone.

“Ricardo was a big highlight for us tonight,” Brunk said. “He outwrestled his opponent from start to finish. We’d like him to be more aggressive, but he’s a freshman. He’s going to continue to get better and better. Tim Stewart’s M.O. continues to be, ‘get behind early and come back.’ You have to love that type of never-say-die mentality, though. He refuses to give in no matter what the score.”

Brunk and company started the evening without one of their top wrestlers, and ended it minus another. Junior Matt Cross sat out with a knee injury, while Bracey wrestled top-ranked 133-pounder Will Livingston for just over a minute before being pulled with a rib injury.