While no Centre County school had a say in the team race at the Class AAA Northwest Regional Tournament, it had plenty of impact on the finals inside the Altoona Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
The county placed five wrestlers in the finals, but had to settle for just two champions — Bald Eagle Area’s 182-pounder Jake Taylor and 220-pounder Nate Sharkey.
Three others — Bellefonte 120-pounder Trevor Corl, Bellefonte 170-pounder Nick Shawley and BEA 195-pounder Aaron Varner — all lost in the finals.
Those five, plus Philipsburg-Osceola 170-pounder John Prentice, who took third, gave Centre County six wrestlers who will be making the trip to the PIAA Championships on Thursday in Hershey.
Bald Eagle Area just missed on sending a fourth, as Travis Giedroc lost in the third-place bout at 113 pounds and had to settle for a fourth-place finish.
“I was hoping for something a little different at 195, but I’m thrilled for Jake and Nate,” BEA coach Steve Millward said. “We had a solid Bald Eagle regional tournament. Maybe not what we’re used to in the past, but we have three solid kids who are going to Hershey. I wouldn’t count Aaron or Jake or Nate out of anything once we get there.”
Taylor posted a pair of major decisions, a 15-5 victory in the semifinals, and then a 13-5 win over a familiar foe, Central Mountain’s Blaze Buckwalter, in the finals.
“I think he just doesn’t change what he does. He just goes out and does what he wants to do, stays in good position and makes stuff happen for him. It’s not like he’s going out to see what happens, he’s going out to dictate what’s going to happen,” Millward said of Taylor, who remained unbeaten.
Sharkey scored a fall in the semifinals and then put together a dominating 3-0 win over Rod Christian of Westinghouse in the finals.
“He’s been wrestling well the last couple of weeks, which is what we want to do. Nate’s just being solid and he’s being selfish with giving points. He may not score a lot of points but he’s just being tough in every position,” Millward said.
Corl got off to a slow start and gained momentum as the match wore on, but just fell short in a 6-4 finals loss to McDowell’s Paul Deitz. Deitz scored a takedown in the first, added an escape and takedown in the second. Corl escaped to go into the third trailing 5-1. Corl escaped to start the third and then hit a slick takedown with 37 seconds left to cut the Deitz’s lead to 5-4. Corl cut him loose but couldn’t quite score a tying takedown as time ran out.
“He put together a nice tournament in a really tough weight class. He did a nice job throughout the whole tournament,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “In the finals I think maybe he gave the kid too much respect. Once he started believing in himself he was able to control the match, but unfortunately the kid had a little bit too much of a lead to come back from.”
Shawley picked up his 100th career win with a 3-0 win in the semifinals, but then ran into DuBois’ undefeated Tom Sleigh in the final. Shawley locked up Sleigh in a near cradle and nearly had him pinned in the opening seconds of the match. Sleigh, though, scored 12 unanswered points to win 12-5.
“I give him credit. He went out and set the tone kind of early. Sometimes you get the call and sometimes you don’t,” Maney said.
Varner scored a fall to get into the final where he met an old nemesis, Landon Hanna of DuBois. Off the whistle, Hanna stepped into Varner, tripped him to his back and pinned him in 17 seconds.
“Aaron just doesn’t seem like he’s ever in trouble. When you’re wrestling someone like the kid from DuBois, and he’s wrestled him in the past, and he’s had some bad luck with getting in poor position, you just don’t get away from the kid. I think that was a case of making a mistake and it cost him,” Millward said.
Prentice had to negotiate a long, hard road to earn his trip to Hershey. Knocked into the consolation bracket after a quarterfinal loss, he woke Saturday morning knowing that he needed to win four bouts to qualify for states. He did just that.
The Mountie senior recorded four decisions, each closer than the one before. He started with a pair of majors, 8-0 and 11-2. Next came a 6-3 decision to put him in the third-place match against Central Mountain’s Devin Stacey.
The Wildcat earned an escape with eight seconds left in the second period. Prentice went down to start the third and escape early in the period. With around a minute to go he shot in on a takedown.
“It was a bad shot, but a good finish. I think he wore him out,” McCamley said.
Prentice worked and worked and finally converted and scored the decisive points in a 3-2 win.
“I took a bad shot against Shawley in the district finals and he’s so long I got spread out. I couldn’t come up; I had to go straight across,” Prentice said.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I had to take it one match at a time, don’t look ahead.”
And, the match on a mat in front of the vocal P-O contingent didn’t hurt.
“That was huge. All of them screaming? They’re the best fans,” Prentice said.
The third-place finish and trip to states were well earned, his coach said.
“Nobody outconditions Jay; it never happens. You’re in the match the whole time. He wrestled extremely smart today and he deserves it. Nobody deserves it more than he does,” McCamley said. “Four matches, that’s a tough day. That’s a tough way to earn your trip. He wrestled extremely well today.”
Giedroc fell one win short of earning a trip to Hershey. He posted a rollicking 16-12 win and an 8-3 decision before dropping a 6-2 decision to General McLane’s Hunter Hendricks in the third-place bout.
Bellefonte’s other two semifinalists, 113-pounder Aaron Witherite and 285-pounder Garrett Poorman, couldn’t recover from semifinal losses, losing again in the consolation bracket and getting bounced.
Philipsburg’s Dennis Lumadue pulled off a couple of thrilling wins before bowing out, 5-0, a win short of the third-place bout.
It was a rough first round for a host of Centre County wrestlers. Three Little Lions (Kyle Catral, 106, Anthony Myers ,126 and Derek Horner, 145), a Red Raider (Luke Leathers, 106), three Mounties (Bryan Descavish, 120, Caleb Shively, 138 and Nick Gray, 220) and an Eagle (Joseph Powers, 138) lost their first matches and were eliminated. State College’s Alexander Stover scored a fall before bowing out with a 4-2 loss.
McDowell amassed 151.5 points and crowned three champions to take the team title. General McLane was second with 144 points and two champions. DuBois claimed two champions and 110 points to place third. Mifflin County was fourth with 89 points and Clearfield placed fifth with 82.5.
Bald Eagle Area was sixth with 80, Bellefonte was 10th with 48, Philipsburg-Osceola 12th with 2,9 and State College 29th with seven.