IGNACIO - From the first nail-biting match to the final lung-busting overtime, the rival high school wrestlers tested each other - and the fans.
With the large and lively crowd flexing vocal cords with every takedown and every escape, the Bayfield High School wrestlers pulled out a 41-28 dual victory over Ignacio on Tuesday night at the Ignacio High School gym.
"I feel like this is what high school wrestling should be," Bayfield head coach Herb Stinson said. "We had close matches and a good crowd. The people saw some good wrestling (Tuesday night)."
Ignacio head coach Bob Overturf agreed.
"Close matches ... good wrestling. It was good, hard wrestling right to the end," Overturf said. "Even though we lost the dual, it was good, hard wrestling."
Overturf said the Bobcats had several wrestlers step up to the challenge of the time-honored Pine River rivalry.
"And we had some kids not wrestle to their potential. But that happens," Overturf said.
Still, he said, several of his Class 2A wrestlers put together solid matches against the Class 3A Wolverines.
"Alex Peña ... he really stepped up for us," Overturf said. "He went up from 112 (pounds) to 119, and he wrestled well."
Peña won a 13-4 decision over Bayfield's Garrett Tyrrell in one of the final matches of the night.
Josh Plehinger of Ignacio opened the night's dual matches with a spirited 15-11 win at 130 pounds over Tanner McGhehey, staking Ignacio to a quick 3-0 team lead.
Teammate Will Appenzeller followed with a 4-0 victory over Cody Butero at 135 pounds, giving the home fans a 6-0 lead and more reasons to cheer.
Bayfield started to cut into the lead in the next match, a featured bout between two of the region's top 140-pounders. Taylor Swanemyr of the Wolverines held off a late challenge from Raudel Lucero, with Swanemyer taking a 5-4 decision.
Bayfield took the first lead of the night (8-6) in the next weight class when Austin Thorne (145 pounds) scored a major decision (18-3) over Ethan Pearson of Ignacio.
Bayfield freshman Aaron Velasquez (152 pounds) extended the lead when he pinned Trent Ostendorf 20 seconds into the second period.
Colton Wyatt of Ignacio tightened the dual when he pinned Brenden Harrison of Bayfield midway through the second period of their 160-pound match, cutting Bayfield's lead to 14-12.
Jeff Huffmyer's second-period pin at 171 over Derrick Naranjo, and Markus Eckstein's third-period pin of Abel Velasquez at 189 further extended Bayfield's lead to 26-12.
Chance Wyatt turned the tables for Ignacio with a third-period pin of Coty Towning of Bayfield at 215 pounds.
The Wolverines then added points on back-to-back forfeit wins at heavyweight (Nicolas Syse) and 103 pounds (Sonny Salazar).
Ignacio picked up a forfeit win at 112 pounds (Tyler Wancura) to pull the Bobcats within 38-24.
Ignacio's Peña then tightened the match with his aforementioned victory at 119 pounds.
With Bayfield leading 38-28, the final two wrestlers took to the mat for the night's most exciting contest.
Two of the state's top 125-pounders tangled when Trevor Huntsman of Bayfield dueled Casey Haga of Ignacio.
Haga's early takedown produced a 2-0 lead.
Huntsman's reversal tied the score 2-2.
Haga's escape gave him a 3-2 lead.
Huntsman added a reversal late in the first period to take a 4-3 lead.
Another takedown in the second period pushed Huntsman ahead 6-3 before Haga's reversal cut the lead to 6-5 as the crowd's cheers reached a crescendo.
Huntsman edged ahead 8-5 and then 9-5 entering the third period.
Haga orchestrated a reversal to cut the margin to 9-7.
Then, in the furious closing seconds of regulation, Haga tipped over Huntsman and collected two back points at the buzzer to tie the match 9-9.
In the 1-minute overtime period, the wrestlers battled and battled and battled.
With just 3 seconds on the clock in OT, Huntsman completed a takedown to score an 11-9 victory and complete the 41-28 team victory for Bayfield.
"It's pretty intense. It's pretty cool ... the place was packed," said Huffmyer, Bayfield's 171-pound winner.
"It's nice to win here (Ignacio)," he said. "We had a good week's practice ... tough practices," he said, crediting Stinson and assistant coach Marshall Hahn - the former wrestling coach at Durango - for their preparation of the Wolverines.
"It's a good rivalry, good competition," said Ignacio's Plehinger (130 pounds). "It's not like any other rivalry, because we know all those guys (Wolverines), and they know us. We see each other all the time."
Plehinger said the big - and loud - crowd added to the intensity of the dual.
"It's amazing. It's really fun to have the crowd into it," Plehinger said.
"Our team wrestled really well. This will take us into the weekend," he said as the Bobcats prepared for Saturday's tournament in Shiprock, N.M.
The Bayfield wrestlers head to the Florence Invitational on Saturday.