Seth Nowak found himself on the spot Dec. 11 as his Whitnall wrestling team took on rival Greenfield in a Woodland Conference dual.
Nowak, a sophomore who had been on junior varsity in the early part of this season, was chosen to compete at 120 pounds when regular starter Ethan Latus was out with illness.
As luck would have it, the 120 match was the final one of the evening, and when Nowak took the mat, the Falcons were holding a slim 33-30 advantage.
Greenfield could have tied the dual with a decision or won it outright with a major decision, technical fall or pin.
Nowak, though, rose to the challenge, bolting to a 7-1 first-period lead and going up 9-2 before pinning Jason Alvarado in 2 minutes, 52 seconds.
That gave Whitnall a 39-30 decision and evened the Falcons' Woodland record at 1-1. Greenfield also went to 1-1 in conference duals.
"For Seth, it was, 'Oh, by the way, you're starting tonight,'" Whitnall co-head coach John Quinlan said. "Then it was, 'Oh, by the way, the outcome of the entire match is on your shoulders.'"
Nowak came through
Quinlan was happy that Nowak was able to come through in the clutch.
"We harp on these kids to practice hard and be ready because you never know when you'll have to step up," the coach said. "Seth works hard in practice and he was ready when we called on him."
The Falcons won the first five matches, with Joe Price (126 pounds) topping Nicholas Pollack 7-0, Dylan Kellner (132) dropping Dylan Kumbera 9-2, Blake Leslie (138) tipping Tre'vaughn Craig 10-9, Peter Moore (145) pinning Kyle Christensen in 1 minute, 40 seconds; and Nick Monty (152) downing Turner Panich 9-4.
At that time, Whitnall led 18-0, but the Hustlin' Hawks started a comeback. Tom Friedbacher (160) pinned Jon Homontowski in 3:29, then Tyler Dorfner (170) won by forfeit and Nathaniel Grund (182) pinned Tyler Rabideaux in 3:12. That tied the dual at 18-18.
Whitnall won the next two to go ahead 27-18 as Michael Langenohl (195) topped Matt Braatz 5-4 and Ethan Harycki (220) pinned Mohammed Jaber in 1:36.
Greenfield rallied again as Anthony Rychlowski (heavyweight) pinned Ryan Keierleber in 26 seconds and Cory Walloch (106) dropped Matthew Patterson in 1:15. The Hawks assumed a 30-27 lead with two matches left.
Whitnall's Anthony Senthavisouk (113) then pinned Jason Schilling in 26 seconds to put Whitnall up 33-30 and set up Nowak's heroics.
Quinlan said the dual victory could have come more easily.
"We really thought we would win about nine matches (which they did), but we sort of dinked away a lot of team points," the coach said. "If we'd scored some pins in the early matches, it doesn't come down to a last-match nailbiter.
"Give Greenfield credit. (The Hawks) wrestled hard to avoid the pins. Coach (Chris) Otto and coach (Kevin) Murphy did a nice job."
Greenfield coach Otto said, "We wrestled a competitive match with a very good team. We had every opportunity to win but could not win the close matches.
"I like the way our kids have competed, and some of them just need to get more experience on the varsity mat."
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