Northern Tier Sports Report
TOWANDA — Towanda made a little history on Saturday in their 41-27 win over Wyalusing during NTL wrestling action. It’s the first time they’ve ever won the Standing Stone Trophy in their home gym.

“It’s nice, we’ve never done that before,” said Black Knight coach Bill Sexton. “We’ve won it before but never two years in a row.”

Towanda pulled out a close win last year at Wyalusing, then got key wins down the stretch - particularly from Rylee Sluyter at 133 pounds - to retain the rivalry trophy.

“I thought it was a hard fought match,” Sexton said. “I thought Wyalusing wrestled very well tonight, they always do, and we always wrestle tough against them. It doesn’t matter what our records are, it doesn’t what we have going on, we both showed up and wrestled really hard tonight.”

There was also another first on the night, the first time the two teams handed out the Branish/Schnure Memorial Award. The award honors former coaches Ed Branish (Towanda) and Karl Schnure (Wyalusing), both of home helped put their respective programs on the wrestling map. 

One wrestler from each team gets the award as decided by their coaches after the match, and there was very little secret who would nab it for the Knights. Down 27-25 going into the bout at 133 Sluyter would pull out a second period fall to put Towanda up for good.

“That’s a big match,” Sexton said. “That’s why he got the Branish/Schnure Award tonight. He went on the mat for a pivotal match. We both needed to win it, he went out and won the match. Two kids that are having good years, pretty evenly matched match, he took it to the next level and was able to get us the big points.”

The sophomore was excited to be the very first Towanda recipient for the new honor.

“It feels great,” remarked Sluyter. “It was a hard fought match and I got a pin out of it in the end.”

Riley Vanderpool (139) followed with a fall to secure the win for Towanda.

Mason Higley (172), and Audy Vanderpool (285) also had falls for the Knights, with Anthony Rifenbark scoring a forfeit.

“I was pleased with Audy Vanderpool tonight,” said Sexton. “He went out wrestling a kid who was mainly trying to survive, I think, and Audy took a real predatory stance tonight. He went right after the kid, he kept working, he kept working, he kept working for the takedown. He finally got the takedown and took care of business.”

Jace Gunther (160) notched a major decision, with Sawyer Robinson (189) and Chase Geurin (145) adding decisions.

“I thought we got a good match out of Chase Geurin at the end, too,” Sexton said. “He got himself into trouble. He had to fight his way off his back after getting the opening takedown. He came back and wrestled tough on his feet to put the match away. Even though the dual meet was over at that time he did a good job stepping up for himself and getting a good win for him.”

For the Rams Zachary Fenton (215), Isaiah Harvey (107), Cole Patrick (114), and C.J. Carr (127) all had falls with Ayden Hunsinger (152) opening the match with a decision.

They needed the win at 133, and also at 145, if they were going to get the Standing Stone Trophy back.

“We knew coming in that there were going to be some matches that were pretty hard to win, and some we were pretty sure we were going to win, but there was enough in the air that, we thought, if we win enough we could,” said Wyalusing coach Michael Earle. “That’s typical Wyalusing-Towanda rivalry stuff. Almost one way, almost the other.”

Towanda led 13-3 when Fenton got his fall, and their lightweights were able to get them leads fo 21-19 and 27-25 before things turned towards Towanda’s way.

“We didn’t start out in the most favorable spot for momentum,” remarked Earle. “So, with Zach getting one, and, then Mike Newman has only been wrestling for less than a year, and to go against a big, strong, much heavier kid and battling. Then a couple freshmen getting a pin, and CJ also getting a pin set the stage for a good, exciting finish there.”

Carr was Wyalusing’s recipient for the Branish/Schnure Award.

“We talked about it as a team, having the first time with the award how do we pick, how do we choose someone, so the team decided to come up with somebody who best represents the ideals of Wyalusing wrestling, and everything that coach Schnure helped implement from the very beginning of our program,” explained Earle. “He’s definitely a hard worker and represents everything about our program really well.”

Ayden Hunsinger gave Wyalusing a brief 3-0 lead with his 6-1 decision over Towanda’s Aiden Miller. Ayden got three takedowns in the match, but Miller refused to be turned, keeping the Rams from getting any bonus points.

At 160 Gunther was able to get those bonus points, beating Ethan Vanderpool 13-3. The Knight nearly got a fall with a headlock in the first period and refused to give it up, scoring back points. Vanderpool nearly got a takedown in the third, but Gunther held him off and finished on top for the major decision, putting Towanda up 4-3.

Higley then pinned Wyalusing’s Jordan Lamb at 172 in 3:31 to add to the lead 10-3. 

At 189 Robinson did a good job controlling the match against Alex Hunsinger, scoring a first period takedown. He added to his lead in the second, and then held off Alex’s third period attack to get the 8-5 decision to put the Knights up 13-3.

That’s when Fenton got his team some momentum back. Towanda’s Tristin Conklin did a good job staying on his feet for the first period, and much fo the second, though Fenton got a takedown late in the second, though time ran out before he could go for the fall.

In the third he got Conklin down again, and was able to turn him for the pin in 4:42, to cut it to 13-9.

The heavyweight match was like 215 in reverse, with Audy Vanderpool trying to get Newman to the mat, and Newman doing his best to stay on his feet. Late in the first, though, Vanderpool got him down, and turned him for the fall in 1:52 to make it a 10-point lead again.

The tables turned when they went around to the lightweights, with Harvey pinning Towanda’s Bryghton Yale in 3:40, and Patrick scoring a fall over Knight Lillie Maynard in 1:19 to give Wyalusing a 21-19.

Rifenbark would put Towanda back on top 25-21 with his forfeit at 121, however, Carr got a fall over Knight Hayden Space in 2:45 to give the Rams the lead back at 27-25.

Then came the match of the night, and the one both teams knew could decide who took home the trophy.

Sluyter came in 12-7 on the year while Earle was 12-10. Earle came out quick, getting to Suyter’s legs on a shot and soon a scramble ensued. 

It lasted nearly the entire first period, but ended with Sluyter getting the takedown.

“I got to get my head up,” Sluyter explained of his strategy. “I have to finish in this position so I get the takedown.”

He rode Earle out to keep the 2-0 lead after the first two minutes.

“That gave me confidence,” explained Sluyter.

In the second Earle took top and that’s when the craziness continued. The Ram got some quick back points on Sluyter, but the Knight was able to get a reversal, and started racking up back points.

“I just kept going from tilt to tilt,” he explained.

Earle, though, fought back, nearly getting a reversal and back points on Sluyter before Sluyter was able to regain control.

“I almost got myself pinned,” he said. “Luckily I got out on top. I was waiting to see what he was doing, and I just flipped by body over and got a bar off of that.”

Sluyter got the fall in 3:52 to put Towanda up 31-27. 

Riley Vanderpool then pinned Wyalusing’s Reuben Kinney in 41 seconds to secure the win, as he put them up 37-27 with one match to go.

The final match was back and forth, as well, with Guerin getting a third period takedown to go up 6-5. He then rode Wyalusing’s Cade McMicken the rest of the way to get the decision.

Wyalusing will end their dual meet season taking on both Williamson and NP-Liberty on Tuesday, then will head down to the West Branch Tournament this weekend.

Towanda has a busy week ahead - weather permitting - with three duals in a row: Wellsboro (Monday), Athens (Tuesday) and at Central Columbia (Wednesday) - before going to West Branch, as well.

But on Saturday Sexton was glad to see a full house watch his team win. Two years ago, the last time they hosted the Standing Stone Trophy, Covid-19 precautions kept the stands to just parents.

“It’s much nicer to have the full house like we had down at Wyalusing last year,” Sexton said. “This year it was a lot of fun. It’s always a lot of fun wrestling this match, and I like the results better than the last time we were here, too.”


152: Ayden Hunsinger (W) dec. Aiden Miller, 6-1

160: Jace Gunther (T) maj. Ethan Vanderpool, 13-3

172: Mason Higley (T) fall Jordan Lamb, 3:31

189: Sawyer Robinson (T) dec. Alex Hunsinger, 8-5

215: Zachary Fenton (W) fall Tristin Conklin, 4:42

285: Audy Vanderpool (T) fall Michael Newman, 1:52

107: Isaiah Harvey (W) fall Bryghton Yale, 3:40

114: Cole Patrick (W) fall Lillie Maynard, 1:19

121: Anthony Rifenbark (T) fft

127: C.J. Carr (W) fall Hayden Space, 2:45

133: Rylee Sluyter (T) fall Jonathan Earle, 3:52

139: Riley Vanderpool (T) fall Reuben Kinney

145: Chase Geurin (T) dec. Cade McMicken, 6-5

— — 

PHOTO CAPTION: Towanda’s Rylee Sluyter works for the fall on Wyalusing’s Jonathan Earle…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING

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