GENEVA — Juan Rodriguez looked up at the clock and saw there was one minute remaining in the third period of the 160-pound match with Jefferson’s Clay Smock.
The match was tied at 2-2, and Rodriguez was in the bottom position. The Geneva junior proceeded to get the reversal and the two points that gave him the lead with little time remaining.
At that point, Rodriguez wasn’t looking to gain any more points, instead trying to hold out on top or even let Smock escape for a one-point play if he found himself in a bad spot. Still, Smock managed to get on Rodriguez’s back while the Geneva wrestler had control of his arm and head to maintain his lead.
Rodriguez reacted then on what he called instinct, putting Smock on his back on the mat. He completed the move to pin Smock with 8.8 seconds remaining.
“I was just trying to ride as long as I could,” Rodriguez said. “If anything, I was going to let him get the one by letting him up if I felt like I was going to put myself in a bad position, but overall, I felt like I had control of him. At the end there when he kind of jumped over, I wasn’t really looking to put him on his back — I just kind of bumped my hips up just so I could get out it.
“It ended up working out for me by him going right to his back. It was fortunate.”
It was a match that turned the tide for the Eagles in their dual meet against the Falcons at Geneva High School on Thursday, as it gave Geneva the lead for good in a 48-36 non-conference win.
Geneva coach Chris Stamper admitted after the meet that the Eagles (12-4) expected that to be the closest match, and that’s exactly how it turned out. Following a scoreless first period, Smock took a lead in the second period before Rodriguez managed to tie it back up toward the end of the second, setting up the late-match action.
“Smock’s a great wrestler, and we knew that match was going to be really close,” Stamper said. “Juan didn’t give up — he kept the pressure on, kept working for it, and he just got himself in the right position with enough time to finish him off.
“It was a tough match, it was a good match. It was an important match, too.”
After Rodriguez gave the Eagles a 30-24 lead, Kody Brown followed it up with a pin of Jefferson’s Mason Swiney at the 1:53.2 in the 170-pound bout, and Jacob Huelskamp wrestled up a weight class at 195 pounds to pin Billy Beckwith in the first period.
Travis Cross also moved up a weight class because Geneva was without Tim Stamper at 220 pounds, but he fell to Jefferson’s Austin Norris, getting pinned as well. With a forfeit at 182, the Eagles had a 42-36 heading into the heavyweight match, and John Gildersleeve delivered for them with a 35-second pin of David Specht to seal the team win.
Considering the shuffling in the lineup and the late forfeit, Rodriguez explained how important it was for him to get the win in his match to help spark the rest of his teammates.
“We have a lot of good wrestlers after me — we got Kody, Jake, Travis,” Rodriguez said. “But Timmy was out, which I knew we were going to give up six points, so in my mind, I knew getting those six points was very important for us to win this meet.”
Outside of the 160-pound bout, speedy pins proved to be the theme of the meet that last no longer than 45 minutes. Every match either ended with a pin or a forfeit, and only four of the 11 contested matches advanced to at least the second period.
With both sides picking up their fair share of pins, Stamper said he was quite glad the Eagles managed to record one more than the Falcons (six to 5).
“Things were coming fast on both sides, so they’ve got to be careful to not even get close to that position because as soon as you were close, it was over,” Stamper said. “It was important to get (pins) and not have them gotten against us.”
Although the match didn’t end in Jefferson’s favor, coach Tom Avsec took some positives out of it, using it as a learning experience for a young squad that has only one senior on it.
The Falcons (12-6) also got the continued dominance of 126-pound wrestler Joshua Baitt, who improved to 26-2 this season and has recorded a number of pins already this season. Avsec said he expects Baitt and a couple other of his wrestlers to make a postseason run when the tournament starts next month.
“We’re still young — nine freshmen, sophomores, we’ve only got one senior,” Avsec said. “To me, this is more of an experience year. We’ve got guys that should get to districts. Joshua might make it to state.
“This time of year, you want to stay healthy — you don’t want to have skin problems and things like that.”
As for Geneva, the win gave the Eagles a 3-0 record against Ashtabula County teams this season, beating Edgewood last week and Pymatuning Valley at the Riverside Rumble earlier this season.
Although Geneva hadn’t faced off with all the teams in the county, Stamper described that it’s important to his team to be unbeaten against count opposition.
“That’s one of the things every team strive for — to be able to beat the other county teams for bragging rights,” Stamper said. “The old NEC (Northeastern Conference) everybody looks at — everyone still strives for that.”