Centre County has its first six wrestlers booked for the PIAA Championships, and two of them picked up some gold medals Saturday.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Zack Witmer and Caleb Dowling finished the PIAA Southwest Regional Class 2A Championships’ long road with victories inside Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Kovalchick Complex.
“I trained really hard this week,” Witmer said. “I was focused on winning a title. I did what I had to do in every match. I’m going to enjoy this for this weekend, but now my focus is shifting on states and getting the state title.”
Dowling added: “After losing last year, I really wanted to go into states as the best seed as possible. Just warming up here, I had in my head the whole time, ‘It’s mine.’”
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The Wolves’ also have Amonn Ohl, Jacob Powers and Evan Courts along with Penns Valley’s Baylor Shunk going to the Giant Center in Hershey for the state championships March 8-10. The all-around performance by St. Joseph’s gave the Wolves 104.5 points, barely missing the team title won by Chestnut Ridge with 106.
Witmer said on Monday this tournament was about revenge after not being able to win a District 6 title as the top seed at 120 pounds. In the semifinals, he took out Westmont Hilltop’s Derrick Christie 6-0. In the finals, Witmer, who seemed to run out of gas in a match earlier in the day, put together a five-point third period. He had two near-fall points, an escape and a takedown to top Derry’s Tyler Cymmerman 9-5.
Dowling left no doubt in his finals match with Marion Center’s Charlie Beatty. The pair squared off one week ago in the District 6 finals with Dowling winning on a 13-2 major decision. Saturday’s match wasn’t even that close.
Dowling raced out to a 13-1 lead after the first period thanks to three sets of near-fall points and two takedowns. An escape and a takedown 31 seconds into the second period secured the 16-1 technical fall.
“Zack did a really good job in the finals there. He controlled his emotions and tempo of the match,” St. Joseph’s coach Pat Flynn said. “Caleb was amazing. He was pumped up. The champs did well.”
Ohl (106 pounds) and Powers (132) each finished third with decision victories.
Ohl began the day with two pins in a combined 3:29 — one in 49 seconds of District 5 champion Kai Burkett of Chestnut Ridge. Ohl then topped Shunk 4-2 to reach the consolation finals, where he got a 12-9 revenge win over Elizabeth Forward’s Ryan Michaels, who had sent Ohl into the consolation bracket Friday.
Powers fell into the consolations with a 6-5 loss to Mount Pleasant’s Alex Miscovich in the semifinals. A 5-2 decision over Freedom Area’s Trent Schultheis and a 4-3 win over Burrell’s Anthony Corrado gave the Wolves’ junior the finish.
“I wish we had eight or 12,” Flynn said about having five state qualifiers. “They guys did good. We are going to take a day or two off. We are going to be prepared to get on top of that podium in Hershey.”
Courts (145 pounds) and Shunk (106) each started the day one win away from the finals. In the end, they ended up wrestling for fifth.
Courts suffered a 4-1 loss to South Side Beaver’s Joe Demor. He then suffered a 3-1 loss to Berlin-Brothersvalley’s Austin Lee in the consolation semifinals.
Courts finished fifth with a 2-1 win over Westmont Hilltop’s Clayton Dorian.
Shunk was pinned by Quaker Valley’s Conner Redinger in 3:31. He then finished fifth after a medical forfeirt win over McGuffey’s Nate Yagle. It was the same spot Shunk finished in last year’s regional tournament. The junior will be the Rams’ lone representative in the Giant Center.
“Last year, he came in here as the hunter,” Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said. “This year he had a mark on him. I think he wrestled a good tournament. The freshman from Quaker Valley is a tough kid. We are proud of him. Shunky gives everything he can all the time, so we’re happy.”
Notes: Penns Valley finished 32nd as a team with 19.5 points. … Penns Valley’s Abraham Allebach (160 pounds) and Carter Felker (170), and St. Joseph’s Keegan Rothrock (152) opened the day with losses, eliminating them from the tournament. Allebach was pinned in sudden victory by Juniata’s Jared Heister. Felker suffered a 6-2 loss to Burrell’s Austin Mele. Rothrock was eliminated by Glendale’s Isaac Krause 10-4. … Penn State commit Gavin Teasdale, of Jefferson-Morgan, won his fourth regional crown with an 11-4 decision over Derry’s Shawn Broadway at 126.