Aksenov pin lifts Dragons.

By: Mitch Rupert | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | December 15, 2017


LEWISBURG — Jim Snyder pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. He unfolded it a couple times and pointed to a blue No. 3 scrawled under Milton's name next to 220 pounds.

Prior to the match, Snyder wrote that number there thinking the 220-pound bout was one the rival Black Panthers could likely win.

It turned out Snyder was wrong, and he was wrong in a big way. But he was wrong in a way which made the veteran coach smile after recording his 296th career victory.

Roman Aksenov's fall for Lewisburg at 220 pounds shifted the momentum of Thursday's dual entirely and helped the Green Dragons post a 40-36 win over Milton. Lewisburg overcame an eight-point deficit after Milton ran off four consecutive wins through the middleweights by scoring consecutive falls from Andrew Shedleski, Dakotah Snyder, Aksenov and Lance Klinefelter through the upper weights.

"(Milton's) Brent Mitch works as hard as anybody, and I know that kid. We were giving them the three (at 220 pounds)," Snyder said. "But that was a big turnaround after what happened down below, and thank goodness. We needed it. That went from being, ‘Oh boy, we're in trouble,' to now we can win it."

Both Snyder and Josh Anspach thought the dual had turned on its head when the Black Panthers' Josh Rodriguez put together an unbelievable win at 160 pounds. After trailing 11-5 midway through the second period, Rodriguez ran off six takedowns in the final 2 minutes, 41 seconds of the bout to pull out a 17-16 win.

That victory for Rodriguez was sandwiched between falls for Noah Stamm, Jason Valladares and Colton Aikey and handed Milton a 24-16 lead as it turned into the strength of Lewisburg's lineup.

"I thought 160 was really going to be the turning point of the night with that going our way," Anspach said. "Overall the effort was there to win the match. There was just a couple small things, like not getting pinned and only giving up three or four which would have made a difference in the match."

Anspach was expecting bouts at 220 and 285 pounds could also go Milton's way. But at 220 pounds, Aksenov made one big move, tripping Mitch to his back late in the first period to get a surprising fall.

That's a win which couldn't have happened last year for Aksenov who was wrestling at heavyweight. But when Snyder mentioned there was going to be an opening for this season at 220 pounds, Aksenov made the decision to drop the weight to earn the starting spot at 220.

It required Aksenov to completely change his lifestyle. He lived on water and salads and promised there were no cheat days mixed in. Thursday night he weighed in at 216 pounds, down more than 50 pounds from where he weighed in last year as a sophomore. The kid who was running a 15-minute mile in middle school, now runs a seven-minute mile and could be a key contributor for the Green Dragons.

"Coach said we needed a 220 and nobody was going to step up. So I raised my hand," Aksenov said. "Everyone laughed at me, but I said I can do it and that was it."

"It's not as much of the huggie bear style for him anymore. He's quicker on his feet," Snyder said, "You don't have to be super quick at 220, it's still a slower pace, but he's in great shape and he's going to give you six minutes."

Aksenov's win at 220 pounds canceled out the win at 160 for Milton which turned the match on its head. But the Green Dragons, holding a 34-24 lead, still needed another win at 285 to seal the win. Snyder knew with a young wrestler at 106 and having a forfeit at 113 — the final two bouts of the night — he needed one more win to feel comfortable.

Senior Lance Klinefelter provided some heart-stopping moments as he and Milton heavyweight Nevin Rauch each exposed their back a couple times as they rolled through positions. But Klinefelter was able to get a half-nelson deep in the third period of a 5-5 bout to score the fall and seal the victory.

"I thought we were going to win both (220 and 285)," Anspach said. "Heavyweight I wasn't sure because Nevin has been sick all week. That was my main concern, was how healthy he would be. I asked him if he was ready to wrestle and he said he wanted to compete. He went out there and have his 100 percent effort, and I can't ask for anything more than that."

"You kind of expect (Klinefelter to win), but at camp when they wrestled, it was the same way," Snyder said. "You can kind of guage from that. And if (Rauch) hits you with that roll, which he did, you can be in trouble."