It was one of those rare — but frightening — moments on the wrestling mat.
Bald Eagle Area’s Garrett Rigg was locked in a tight battle with DuBois’ Kolby Ho in the 145-pound title match at the PIAA Class 3A Northwest Regional Championships, when the DuBois wrestler got his arm between Rigg’s legs, lifted the BEA senior, turned him feet-up and slammed him head-first into the mat.
“It all seemed like slow motion,” Rigg said. “When he lifted me up, on the way I down I had a couple choice words in my head that I probably shouldn’t say in the Centre Daily Times. There was a lot of emotion, but whenever they said to take my time, I didn’t want to take my time. I just wanted to wrestle.”
Rigg admitted it was a scary moment during the bout’s second period, but he said he didn’t have any trouble shaking off the incident that had drawn gasps from the packed Altoona Fieldhouse crowd — with a response you would expect from a wrestler.
“I don’t want to sit there and show everybody that I’m a wimp,” Rigg said of the moment he was down on the mat. “Or that I could be a coward and take a slam call and win regionals by taking a slam call. It was honestly not hard at all to shake it off and get back out there to wrestling.”
Rigg also has to shake off the 7-4 loss and get back to the mat. He and 10 other Centre County wrestlers are headed to the Giant Center in Hershey for the PIAA Championships, which begin Thursday and run through the championship bouts Saturday.
Eagles coach Ron Guenot also was startled by the slam. He said his first thoughts were about Rigg’s health and safety, but now he has no worries about Rigg’s readiness for PIAAs.
“I don’t have any concerns about how it’s going to affect him,” Guenot said, noting Rigg also has experience in freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling that has more throws like that than in high school matches. “It’s nothing unfamiliar to him.”
Rigg also was mad at himself for getting into a position to allow it to happen, and his back is still a little sore, but he figured by this point in the season some area on his body would be hurting anyway.
“Regionals are in the past,” he said, “states are in the future and that’s what I have to focus on.”
He wasn’t alone in that focus Tuesday night — when he had a little style session with teammates Gage McClenahan and Seth Koleno. The trio got together to dye their hair blonde, having a little fun before getting serious in Hershey. Rigg and McClenahan are hoping to join Koleno as podium finishers this weekend.
Also competing in Class 3A are Philipsburg-Osceola’s Matt Johnson and State College’s Cole Urbas.
Urbas, ranked second in the state at 195 pounds, won a showdown in the regional final with Clearfield’s Luke McGonigal, who was No. 1. Little Lions coach Ryan Cummins knows his junior got a jolt of confidence with the victory.
“Getting that win was big,” Cummins said. “He’s going to take it one match at a time and just worry about one guy at a time, and if he runs into McGonigal in the finals, then we’ll do it all over again. We’ll worry about that when the time comes.”
Urbas finished third at last year’s PIAA meet, and is aiming higher this week.
“He’s worked hard to get to this spot,” Cummins said. “He was disappointed last year. That’s been his goal since Day 1.”
Another half-dozen county athletes are set in Class 2A. Penns Valley’s Baylor Shunk is making a return trip to the Hershey mats, while five more young men will represent St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy. The Wolves are sending Amonn Ohl, Zach Witmer, Jacob Powers, Caleb Dowling and Evan Courts.
“The guys are ready to roll,” Wolves coach Patrick Flynn said. “They are looking forward to the challenge this weekend. It is an honor to get to Hershey through our Southwest Region. There are some fantastic wrestlers in our region.”
They all are eager to start wrestling and chase state medals, the reward for months — and years — of hard work.
“I have not been more excited to wrestle in my entire life,” Rigg said. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for all year. All the dual meets this year, they didn’t mean crap to me. This is the big show — what I’ve been waiting for. I’m excited to go and get a state medal.”
PIAA Wrestling Championships
When: Thursday-Saturday; matches start 9 a.m. each day. Finals for 2A are at 2 p.m., with 3A at 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Giant Center, Hershey
Radio: WBLF 970, 106.3, WPHB 1230 Thursday only
TV: Preliminary through semifinal rounds live online at flowrestling.org (subscription). Finals for 2A and 3A live on PCN.
Opening matches for Centre County wrestlers:
106: Amonn Ohl, SJCA (39-2) first-round bye, vs. Blake Showers, Biglerville (33-2), 2nd round
106: Baylor Shunk, PV (34-6) vs. Blake Wirt, Line Mountain (36-10)
120: Zach Witmer, SJCA (40-2) first-round bye, vs. Josh Tuckey, Biglerville (24-9) or Justin Gessner, Lewisburg (24-10), 2nd round
132: Jacob Powers, SJCA (29-3), first-round bye, vs. Joseph Klock, Muncy (43-5), 2nd round
138: Caleb Dowling, SJCA (34-1), first-round bye, vs. Colton Zimmerman, Trinity (33-3) or Trevor Bingaman, Mifflinburg (35-9), 2nd round
145: Evan Courts, SJCA (18-8) vs. Gabe Miller, Pequea Valley (38-3)
138: Seth Koleno, BEA (34-0) first-round bye, vs. Joseph Pecaitis, Gettysburg (32-3) or Luke Phayre, WC Henderson (29-13), 2nd round
145: Garrett Rigg, BEA (32-4) first-round bye, vs. Ryan Valakh, Pope John Paul II (27-4), 2nd round
152: Gage McClenahan, BEA (32-4) first-round bye, vs. James Liedo, Lower Merion (35-4) or Eddie Hay, Bangor (33-5), 2nd round
152: Matt Johnson, P-O (21-6) vs. Ben D’Arcangelo, Spring Ford (33-14)
195: Cole Urbas, SC (26-1) first-round bye, vs. Joe Shafer, Downingtown West (28-17) or Alex Donahue, Indiana (30-6), 2nd round