PRINCETON - West Chester Henderson coach Rob Beighley and Council Rock South coach Brad Silimperi had been planning to pit their teams in a dual meet for over a year.
As two of the top five or so schools in District 1, making it happen on a bigger or more unique stage only made sense.
Thursday, The Golden Hawks and Warriors faced off at Dillon Gym on the campus of Princeton University, and after the dust settled, the wait, and travel, was well worth it.
Council Rock South won eight of 14 bouts to come back and take the non-league dual, 39-27, over Henderson.
"Coach Rob and I go way back and we talked last year about trying to get together and trying to do something fun and special," Silimperi said. "Two good teams competing, that's what it's all about. Kudos to them, they battled and there's a good chance we'll see them again."
Henderson (4-1) led 27-12 with five to go, thanks to pins from Max Jackman (113 pounds), Billy Wilson (120) and Bobby English (152). Sammy McMonagle (132) and Palmer Delaney (145) added decisions, and Koh Bauman (160) came up with another in the clutch.
After fighting off his back early and trading leads with two-time state qualifier, Cole Flanagan, Bauman negated a late takedown with a reversal as time expired for a 14-13 win.
"This beginning of the season I haven't had the most confidence," said Bauman, who was 3-5 coming in. "This helps, and hopefully it'll keep going and going."
Bauman's thrilling comeback was a payback of sorts for something the Hawks (3-0) benefitted from earlier in the night.
It happened in the feature match at 126, four bouts in. After an uneventful first three matches that ended in pins, in a foreign gym that was a little too quiet, returning state medalists, Killian Delaney of Henderson and Kyle Waterman of South got things energized.
Delaney jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first with a takedown, and rode him out. He pushed the margin to four in the second with a reversal before surrendering a late escape. In the third, everything went wrong for the senior Warrior, as his gas tank ran out. Waterman took advantage scoring two takedowns, the last one at the buzzer, to walk away victorious, 6-5.
"The highlight was two of the top kids in the state battling it out to the last second," Silimperi said. "That's one of the reasons we did this. Both got tested and got better because of it."
The 15-point lead the Warriors enjoyed was short-lived. South won by fall in four of the final five bouts to pull away.
Regardless of the outcome, the trek was worth it for a Warriors team that has higher hopes than December wins.
"The hope is we gather poise," Beighley said. "We hope to be at district duals and go deep, and when we get in another good match, we've been here and we know what it's like. The last couple years we've been getting good, but we're learning who we are and that we can go with the good teams."
Henderson will compete in the Ches-Mont Championships at Rustin, Saturday, looking to build off a strong effort.
"This was exciting," Beighley said. "It's a great venue, at Princeton, and we thought we were in a position to showcase what we have against the always-dominant Council Rock South. We took them to the end. A couple matches didn't go our way, but that's wrestling. I was pleased with the effort and the kids had a great experience and had a great match."