WEST CHESTER - From the get-go, there was an urgency from both sides of the West Chester Henderson gym.
Downingtown East and Henderson had quite a bit of firepower in each of their rosters, and little of it lined up. This meant there were bonus points for the taking, lots of them.
In a battle that will likely go a long way to decide the Ches-Mont National Division title, both teams won seven bouts apiece, but the Warriors were a hair better and survived, 38-37.
"That's a huge push for the program," Henderson coach Rob Beighley said. "Downingtown East is always tough and always so well-coached, so any time you can come away with a win says something about your program."
Each team had five pins, and bonus points were scored the first nine bouts. At 170 pounds, Downingtown East's Spencer Uggla picked up an 8-4 win over Koh Bauman, for the first decision of the night.
A pin by Matt Romanelli (182 pounds) pulled Downingtown East (1-1 division, 9-7 overall) within 10 points with three to go, setting the scene for the most dramatic bout of the night.
At 195, Cash Artis got out to a quick 5-0 lead after one, but the next four minutes were a rollercoaster for both fans, who were passionate all night. East's Billy Dyer worked on top, cradling Artis for a second, to no avail. Artis finally worked an escape in the third and walked away an 8-2 winner to clinch the bout for the Warriors (2-0, 11-1).
"I was very tired," a relieved Artis said. "It was great for me to get up, 5-0. I pretty much had the match under control and just tried to keep it under control."
Dyer entered the match with a record of 8-8, but of those eight wins, six were pins, making those final four minutes a bit uncomfortable for Beighley.
"It was the land of the lost time," Beighley said. "Four minutes became four hours."
The Cougars got pins from Ray Wileczek (220) and Zach Aceto (285) in the final two bouts, not only creating a one-point dual, but making all those close calls along the way that much more pivotal.
The biggest one happened in the first bout of the night, where East's Ryan Loraw (106) had Carmen Cortese locked in a cradle, but the freshman was somehow able to wriggle free.
"My main goal was to stay off my back," Cortese said. "I was just working his grip and I did not want to get pinned. That was my main objective and I worked myself out of it."
East saved a point two bouts later when Alex Hillestad (120) fought off his back multiple times against Billy Wilson, who eventually won by technical fall.
Henderson's horses did what they needed to do, as Killian Delaney (126) and Sammy McMonagle (132) won by fall. Justin Tran (138) tied a career high for pins in a season with his eighth, and Palmer Delaney (145) gave the Warriors their biggest lead, 29-10, at the midway point. Bobby English (160) bumped up and pinned for Henderson, also.
"I give credit to (Henderson's) coaching and their offseason," East coach Joe Horvath said. "They got their inexperienced guys tougher and more durable. Both teams had their winners, but they got their inexperienced guys to be tough."
Those points left on the mat haunted East, who lost its fourth straight to Henderson.
"It was a gut check," Horvath said. "In those situations where we could've capitalized, some things just didn't happen and that's something we have to prepare for the next time."
The Warriors are now in the driver's seat in the National, with three remaining duals a healthy Henderson team would be favored in. With the District 1 Duals seeding meeting coming, Sunday, this win was timely for Henderson, who looks to be the highest-seeded Ches-Mont team.
"This time of year it's all about us," Beighley said. "They're wrestling for the guy they're practicing with. We can be selfish in the postseason, right now it's doing everything together. They were supporting on the bench and coaching as loud as I was. It was cool to hear."