Four years ago, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy made a phone call to Pat Flynn asking him to start its wrestling program.
Flynn said he was a little hesitant to take over such a responsibility.
But, in just the third official season for the Wolves, Flynn has already been able to hang a District 6 Class AA gold medal around Jacob Powers’ neck.
“It was awesome,” Flynn said of the moment. “He’s my favorite. I always tell everyone that. I’ve told you he is my linchpin. He took that leap of faith to come to school.”
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Powers claimed the school’s first District 6 Class AA wrestling crown last Saturday in Altoona High School’s Fieldhouse. He topped Penn Cambria’s Chase Proudfit 6-2. Across all sports, it was just the ninth overall district title for the school.
Now, Powers — along with three St. Joseph’s teammates and six Penns Valley wrestlers — will next look to continue their goals of reaching Hershey in the Southwest Regional Tournament on Friday.
Powers is using last season as motivation.
He reached the 113-pound final last season and lost to the Rams’ Darren Yearick but still set a record as St. Joseph’s first regional qualifier. He said he learned from that and moved forward.
“There are little things I look at,” Powers said about improving. “For districts, for example, I got handled by Yearick. My goal is to do better than I did last year. I had to do better against Yearick and I achieved that goal. Last year, I lost in the blood round (of regionals). My goal is to do better than that. Anything less, I’m going to be really disappointed. I know I’ve trained harder than last year and am a better wrestler.”
Another difference for Powers from last year to this season is the addition of training partners.
He had just two last year compared to the five he had this year. Three of those other five wrestlers will be joining Powers at this weekend’s regional tournament.
Caleb Dowling, Evan Courts and Ethan Kauffman also advanced making four Wolves set for the event. Powers felt those training partners helped improve and push him to a district title this season.
“We are hoping to get more kids next year,” Powers said. “Being able to wrestle with Caleb, who got second and will definitely place highly in the region and maybe even at state, having the other teammates versus like last year. That’s probably what made a big difference for me was having the good kids in the room that want to wrestle and want to get better.”
On Friday, the nine other wrestlers joining Powers will compete against District 5, 6 and 7 wrestlers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Kovalchick Complex in Indiana. If they finish in the top six of their weight class, they punch a ticket to Hershey and the PIAA tournament.
For the Wolves, they will have four shots to create history for the young program in getting their first state qualifier. Some might be surprised at the success of the program — but not Flynn.
“All of these guys this year are self-motivated,” he said. “These guys’ goals are to get as high as they can on that state podium. In my opinion, we are the best prepared. I’ve put these guys through a college workout.”
Southwest Regional Tournament
When: Friday, 3 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m., 5:45 p.m.; Doors open 45 minutes before start
Where: Kovalchick Complex, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana
Pricing: Friday and Saturday morning sessions — Adults $6, Students $3; Saturday night session — Adults $8, Students $4; All day Saturday pass — Adults $14, Students $7; All session pass — Adults $20, Students $10; Parking — $5