All four Centre County Class AAA high schools had wrestlers dreaming sweetly Saturday night.
Seven locals earned berths to the PIAA Class AAA Championships on Thursday through Saturday at the Giant Center after top three finishes Saturday at the PIAA Northwest Class AAA Regional Tournament at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
Bellefonte’s Brock Port (145) and Bald Eagle Area’s Josh Fye (285) won championships. Bellefonte’s Chase Gardner (152) and State College’s Adam Stover (113) settled for second-place finishes. Philipsburg-Osceola’s Bryce Bennett (126) and Dakota Weitosh (145) and Bald Eagle Area’s Seth Koleno (132) all placed third.
Port struck gold first, blanking Meadville’s Kyle Luben, 5-0, in the final. He earned that berth with a 16-1 technical fall in 5:51 in the semifinals.
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“For Brock, he has his goals set extremely high. This is something he hasn’t done before, win a regional title. We have the to keep the momentum going for him,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said.
“Just looking from last year to this year, you hate to be critical when you place sixth at states, but his wrestling seems to be at new levels in all three phases.”
Fye closed the night with a tough 3-1 win over Cathedral Prep’s Kawuan DeBoe in the final. Fye pinned his way into the final with a fall in 3:07 in the semifinals.
“It was a long wait to finally get a champ. All night, man. I hope we continue to keep moving forward on those brackets next week. It’s very deserving,” Bald Eagle Area coach Steve Millward said.
Stover was in on repeated shots on Dalton Woodrow of DuBois but just couldn’t crack his defenses as the Beaver freshman won, 3-2. Stover won his own 3-2 decision in the semifinals.
“He was in on a bunch of shots and didn’t finish, couldn’t finish. I know he was worried about the guy diving under if he lifted the leg up too high. It made it tough for him,” State College coach Ryan Cummins said. “That’s all right; he’s got next week.”
Bellefonte’s Chase Gardner had to forfeit to Mifflin County’s Hayden Hidlay in the final after winning by disqualification in the semifinals just 21 seconds into the match. McDowell’s Dazjon Casto had Gardner’s leg in the air and then slammed Gardner to the mat. Casto was called for a slam and Gardner, who lay prone for several minutes, couldn’t continue and was declared the winner.
“He’s going to be evaluated, starting tomorrow. We have to wait and see if he’ll be able to wrestle next week. We’re not sure at this point. If he’s cleared, he’ll be able to participate,” Maney said.
“Any time you see a situation like that it’s difficult to watch. It was definitely scary.”
The Mounties sent a pair of best friends to states after each placed third. Bennett won five straight matches after losing his first-round match Friday night, including three falls and two major decisions, one of those a 9-0 win in the third-place bout over BEA’s Garrett Rigg.
“Bryce is on a mission. He told me when he went to 126, ‘I have the best chance of getting to states there.’ I said, ‘then you do what you have to do.’ Losing the first match in regionals you think, ‘well, it was a good run.’ He walked his way back through. He won five straight. He wrestled his heart out,” Mounties coach Tim McCamley said.
At 145, Weitosh notched 5-0 and 13-0 consolation victories before gutting out a 6-5 tiebreaker win in the third-place bout. He lost in that same match last year.
“Very, very emotional,” a teary-eyed McCamley said. “He’s been there twice. That’s the match he lost last year. We didn’t want that to happen again. It was really important for him. He had to earn it. He went after it.”
McCamley said it’s fitting that those two earned the wins in their final years.
“They’re best friends. One said, ‘I’m not going without the other.’ They practice together, even though there’s a big weight difference. They like to drill together. They’re on a mission. They talk about this all the time,” McCamley said.
Koleno had to go to sudden victory to earn a 3-1 win over Bellefonte’s Aaron Witherite in the third-place bout. Koleno bounced back from a 5-0 semifinal loss with a fall in the consolation semifinals.
“He had some rough times here today. That was his assessment of his matches. He didn’t wrestle his best today. We know that happens. For him to get through here and move on to next week is a big deal. Mission accomplished when you look at it that way,” Millward said.
Each team had at least one wrestler lost in the third-place bout, placing fourth but falling one win short of a trip to states: BEA’s Rigg, P-O’s Matt Johnson (120), Bellefonte’s Shafiq Blake (113), Witherite and Dillon Kephart (182) and State College’s Drew Linnes (285).
Linnes might have made the biggest splash, as he started the tournament with a 5-2 record but went 3-2.
“Drew got some good experience here and he got a ton of matches. He didn’t wrestle much this year so it was good to get him a bunch of matches. We would have liked to get that last one and pushed him through to Hershey,” Cummins said.
The rest of Centre County’s 28-man contingent was eliminated at various points earlier in the day.
Garret Giedroc (106) and Clayton Giedroc (120) from Bald Eagle Area, Lukas McClure (160) from Bellefonte, Ian Klinger (170) from Philipsburg-Osceola and Zach Price (132) from State College all lost their first-round consolation bouts and were eliminated.
P-O’s Nick Patrick (160) won his first-round consolation bout, 9-2, before falling, 13-5, in the second round and being eliminated.
State College lost three in the second round of consolations: Ian Barr (152), Cory Dreibelbis (195) and Pete Haffner (220) were all eliminated.
Bellefonte’s Cole Stewart went 2-1 on the day but was bounced after a tough third-round consolation round loss.
P-O’s Micah Sidorick (220) went 1-1 and was eliminated in the third round of consolations.
State College’s Dalton Barger went 2-1 before bowing out.
Bellefonte’s Max Mondy was blitzed in the semifinal, 15-0, by Mifflin County’s Trey Hartsock. Then, in the consolation semifinals, he was pinned in 19 seconds by Central Mountain’s Isaac Porter and was eliminated.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Levi Hughes also lost in the semifinals, by fall in 5:58 by Cathedral Prep’s Carter Starocci, and then was edged, 3-2, in the consolation semifinals by Central Mountain’s Colton Weaver.
State College’s Cole Urbas started his day with two pins before losing a heartbreaker in the consolation semifinals to Jersey Shore’s Haydn Swartwood, 4-3.