MERCER — It came down to the final two weights of the match and the Redbank Valley Bulldogs wrestling team’s big boys delivered in a season-opening 42-28 win at Mercer last Friday night.

The Bulldogs were back in action Wednesday at DuBois before continuing a rugged dual meet schedule Thursday at Franklin and then next Tuesday at home against Brockway.

The Mustangs gave up forfeit wins to the Bulldogs at 106, 113 and 120 pounds while neither team sent a wrestler out at 160. The teams split their bouts on the mat, 4-4, but the Bulldogs had pins in all of them including the final two bouts of the night.

Aidan Gardner decked Michael Stabile in second period at 215 to clinch the match mathematically and then Kobe Bonanno cleaned things up at heavyweight with a second-period pin of Tristan Barr.

Both Gardner and Bonanno are state-ranked according to the latest Class 2A state rankings. Gardner is No. 23 while Bonanno is No. 13.

The Mercer forfeit led a fast start on the scoreboard for the Bulldogs, who led 30-0 after Daniel Evans, Cole Bish and Ridge Cook picked up forfeit wins in the first three lightweights. The Bulldogs’ Duncan Blake made his freshman debut a pinning one as he pinned Nathan Schepp in the first period at 126.

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Trenten Rupp made it 30-0 with his second-period fall against Avry Ryhal at 132.

Mercer’s best wrestler, No. 20-ranked Carson Filer at 138, got the Mustangs on the board when he majored the Bulldogs’ Dalton Bish, 12-4. The win started a five-bout winning stretch for Mercer which got a pin from Harrison Murray against the Bulldogs’ Gavin Kerchinski at 145, Michael Berger’s pin of Baylee Anthony at 152 and Mason Hesslegesser’s pin of Noah Anderson at 170.

The Mustangs then got to within 30-28 after taking a forfeit win at 189 to set up the final two bout-clinching pins for the Bulldogs.

In the latest state rankings, the Bulldogs’ Cole Bish was No. 7 at 106 in addition to Gardner and Bonanno. In the Northwest Region rankings (Districts 9 and 10), it’s Bish No. 4 at 106, Cook No. 5 at 113, Gardner No. 6 at 215 and Bonanno No. 5 at heavyweight.

District 9 has seven other Class 2A wrestlers ranked in the top 11 in the state — Brookville’s Cayden Walter No. 5 at 113 and Owen Reinsel No. 4 at 120, Port Allegany’s Braedon Johnson No. 9 at 138, Johnsonburg’s Aiden Zimmerman No. 8 at 160 and Cole Casilio No. 9 at 172, Brockway’s Noah Bash No. 11 at Brockway and Brookville’s Nathan Taylor No. 13 at heavyweight.

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