There were points to be had and points to be saved Thursday night in a pivotal Southeast Conference wrestling dual at Oak Creek, and the Knights came up with just enough of them in a 33-32 thriller over archrival Franklin.
Oak Creek trailed 32-27, after Franklin's Alec Neumann reversed Josiah Wolf and pinned him in 3:56 at 132 pounds.
But then the Knights' Sean LaBodda reversed the Sabers' Noah Larson and picked up critical near-fall points in the last 30 seconds to pull out a 5-3 decision at 138 and Oak Creek earned the team win when 145-pounder Nate Mlodzik outlasted Franklin's Louden Brown, 10-5, in the final bout at 145.
"This is huge for us," said Oak Creek coach Matt Sommerville. "Every year we circle it on our calendar. They're our crosstown rivals and the fans, the kids really come out to support us. Last year, they hammered us pretty good, so this is big."
The win keeps the Knights unbeaten in Southeast duals and builds on the energy they created when they won the Marquette Invitational last Saturday. The Knights have nine freshmen or sophomores in their starting line-up.
Meanwhile, it was another tough dual meet loss for the Sabers and coach Chad Phillippi couldn't help but be a little frustrated by it.
"They got the pins tonight and we didn't," he said. "We were in good position going into those final three matches. We thought we'd win all three, but give them credit. They were the better team tonight."
LaBodda and Mlodzik's victories were part of a four-win in five match closing effort for the Knights.
Franklin senior state qualifier Xianou Xiong gave the Sabers their largest lead of the night at 26-19 with a 20-8 major decision over the Knights' Mitch Landgraf at 113 just prior to that run.
Sommerville couldn't praise Landgraf enough, as Landgraf weighed in at just 91 pounds but managed to stay off his back and avoid the pin.
"There were points we saved all night," said Sommerville. "For him (Landgraf) to give up only four (a major decision) was huge."
Following that, the Knights got on the move. Andrew McIntosh turned in a 14-1 major decision at 120 to make it 26-23 and then Isaiah Robinson gave Oak Creek a 27-26 advantage with a 9-0 major at 126.
The 132 pound match was a wild one, as the Knights' Wolf took an early advantage on the Sabers' Neumann and had him in trouble for most of the first two periods, before Neumann pulled out a great reversal and earned the pin that put Franklin back in the lead at 32-27.
"That's why we put Neumann in there, he's a pinner," said Phillippi.
Sommerville felt bad for Wolf, as Wolf is coming back from leg surgery and hasn't wrestled much in the last few years.
"It was just inexperience," said Sommerville.
That set up the drama of the final two matches. LaBodda trailed the always-tough Larson 3-0 going into the third period but earned a roll-through in the final 30 seconds picking up the critical reversal and near-fall points.
"Sean knew he was in for a tough match, but he worked hard for that win," said Sommerville.
In the final bout at 145, Mlodzik took the early lead on Brown and never trailed.
Other wins for Oak Creek included Ben Hakes at 160 (pin 1:15), Emilio Paez at 170 (6-5 decision), Jake Regazzi at 195 (14-4 major decision), and Matt Berlin at 106 (pin 1:31).
Also picking up victories for Franklin were Joe Finerty at 152 (pin 1:37), Marcus Grimm at 182 (pin 4:21), Gavin Devine at 220 (10-1 major decision), Brian Lacina at 285 (pin 3:21).
"Kids up and down the line just did the job," said Sommerville. "It was awesome and was really fun to watch. These kids are really starting to get it."
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