DOWNINGTOWN - It was a year ago to the day that Downingtown West's Mitch Byers in almost the exact same position.
Much like last season's Christmas Eve Eve dual meet against Methacton - one that the Whippets lost in the final bout - West's big names came through where needed. What West needed that night, as well as Saturday morning against Boyertown, was someone, anyone, to step up and win a tight match.
So, after an early lead evaporated while the battle-tested Bears won every close match, Byers avenged a 3-2 loss last year and came through, winning West's only decision to get the Whippets past Boyertown, 32-29, in a non-league battle of two of District 1's top teams.
"Words can't describe it," said Byers, who won 3-2 at 132 pounds. "It's the coolest experience ever."
Byers' win gave the Whippets (3-0) a 27-24 lead with two bouts to go, setting up Nick Lilley (138 pounds), a returning state qualifier, to clinch the meet with a second-period technical fall.
West also got pins from Gavin Hale (152), Chase Mielnik (170), Max Hale (182) and Doug Zapf (126) and won the contest despite losing eight of the 14 weights.
"We knew (Boyertown) was a good team and we never counted them out from the beginning," West coach Brad Breese said. "Most of their team graduated last year but their tradition is so deep and they still know how to wrestle up there, so this was a good win. Whether they're supposed to be good or not, they're always good. I wanted to test our team to see what we were made of. We didn't win the way we wanted to, but we got the job done."
West started the day with a 58-6 win over Chichester, while Boyertown (6-2) rolled over an under-manned West Chester Rustin, 52-18.
Against Rustin, Boyertown senior Elijah Jones (220) won his 100th career match, becoming the 32nd in program history to do so.
"It gives me a good sense of pride because 100 wins is a real milestone," Jones said. "I was happy to achieve that and happy that our team got the win that match, as well."
Elijah won against West as well, putting him one victory shy of tying his older brother, and Boyertown head coach, Dave Jones' mark of 102. "It's really exciting to see him progressing through the years," Dave Jones said. "He has big goals for himself and he's wrestling really tough right now. I'm proud of him."
Elijah Jones had one of six decisions against the Whippets, though Jesse Cook holding him to no bonus points proved to be pivotal.
Though West walked away the winner, both squads got exactly what they signed up for when the dual was scheduled.
"We're trying to keep our eyes forward and on the postseason and this is the kind of match that will have those implications," Dave Jones said.
West will move forward knowing they can compete with the big boys, and Byers, who just earned a spot back in the lineup after losing wrestle offs, is Breese's newest poster boy for winning as a team.
"(Byers) drills well in practice and he does the right things," Breese said. "For him to be the hero and for his team to be cheering for him, that's great. The team needed someone unlikely to get the job done and not leave it for anyone else."
Rustin (2-1) was majorly shorthanded, as returning state qualifiers Dan Labus and Collin Hurley were still out with health issues, and Josh Viarengo (113) and Tyler Kaliner (145) were away.
Against Boyertown, the Golden Knights got major decisions from Ethan Harkins (170), Charlie Baldesari (120) and Alex Pratzner (138) and a pin from Gabe Lourido (126).
In a much tighter contest against Chichester, Rustin got pins from Andrew Rice (182), Owen Walsh (220) and Lourido (126) and accepted a forfeit in the final bout to earn a 36-34 victory.
"I think our kids competed but I don't think we wrestled all that smart," Rustin coach Brad Harkins said. "It's something to work on moving forward."
Chichester left without a win, but the Eagles got a lot out of the competition. Early on against West, it was the Whippet winners walking back to their bench with their heads down, as the Eagles pushing them for six minutes.
Freshman Chase Wartnaby moved to 10-0 on the season with a pair of pins. Two costly forfeits proved fatal against Rustin, but Chichester coach Jim Beletti liked what he saw.
"This is why we're here," Beletti said. "We came to get some good competition. There's some stuff we can build from with to get better for the postseason. Wrestling Downingtown West and Rustin helps our guys put perspective to where they're at with their toughness and as a wrestler. We wanted to see our guys wrestle tough and I thought we could've won one, but they battled and I'm happy with that showing."