Bellefonte’s Brock Port and Chase Gardner, State College’s Adam Stover and Bald Eagle Area’s Seth Koleno know the payoff of productive performances on Friday and Saturday is a sweet reward.
Place in the top three at the PIAA Class 3A Northwest Regional at the Altoona Fieldhouse and you earn a trip to the PIAA Class 3A Championships in Hershey. They know; they did it last year.
For the other 21 Centre County regional qualifiers, when the whistle blows to start action at 5:30 p.m. Friday, they can only wonder what it takes, what it feels like.
“The biggest thing we try to get through to the kids is enjoy the moment, soak it all in, have fun,” Bald Eagle Area coach Ron Guenot said. “You only get one chance this year. You have to want it, have the drive to make it to states.”
That’s good advice for all 25 Centre County wrestlers:
▪ Bald Eagle qualified sophomore Garrett Giedroc (106 pounds), senior Aleck Nyman (113), junior Garrett Rigg (126), senior Clayton Giedroc (132), junior Koleno (138), freshman Gage McLenahan (145) and sophomore Dylan Bisel (170).
▪ Bellefonte’s eight-man contingent includes sophomore Cole Stewart (106), freshman Alex Coppolo (113), sophomore Ryan Smith (120), freshman Keegan Rothrock (132), senior Port (145), senior Gardner (152), senior Mason Cooper (170) and senior Sean Irvin (285).
▪ Philipsburg-Osceola’s three-man crew includes senior Levi Hughes (138), junior Josh Hubler (182) and senior Micah Sidorick (220).
▪ State College’s seven qualifiers are freshman Clayton Leidy (106) senior Jacob Pammer (120), senior Stover (126), junior Ian Barr (160), sophomore Cole Urbas (182), senior Pete Haffner (220) and senior Drew Linnes (285).
Port has navigated the regional brackets three times to earn trips to states. He didn’t place his first time, as a freshman in 2014. But in 2015 he took sixth, and then seventh in 2016.
“He’s certainly matured,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “There are things you learn as you go through a career, managing your weight throughout the week, getting a good warmup, wrestling smart matches. He keeps himself pretty even-keeled. He’s one you don’t have to worry about.”
Koleno twice finished within the top-three at regionals to advance to states. He didn’t place at states as a freshman in 2015, but came back in 2016 and placed seventh.
“It’s definitely nice having Seth in the room, and Josh Fye (as a coach),” Guenot said. “They were there last year. They can talk to the guys about that.”
Neither Gardner nor Stover placed last year, so they’ll be motivated to navigate the regional field so they can get back and try it again.
For Port and Urbas, as district champs they earned first-round byes. While some might see that as an advantage, Little Lions coach Ryan Cummins wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know if it’s really an advantage or not,” he said. “I never liked having first-round byes. I liked getting the first match out of the way. You always feel better your second match, no matter what.”
All four coaches — from Bellefonte, State College, Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola — said that they and their athletes almost can’t avoid seeing the brackets and potential opponents. How much each person concentrates on that varies.
“I look at it. Just because I like to see where they sit,” Cummins said. “I’m a take-it-one-match-at-a-time-coach. I think that’s the best approach. I will look at some film of their guys on their side of the bracket.”
Added Philipsburg-Osceola coach Brad Pataky: “I think it’s important to take a look and analyze a little bit, scout a little bit. But I don’t let my kids read brackets. Kids (they are focused on) could miss weight or scratch for some reason.”
PIAA Class AAA Northwest Regional
When: Friday, First session, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, Second session, 10 a.m.; Third session, 6:15 p.m.
Where: Atloona High School’s Fieldhouse
Radio: 970 WBLF-AM, 1260 WPHB-AM, 106.3 WBLF-FM
What’s at stake: Top 3 finishers in each weight class advance to PIAA Championships