Three of the 10 Centre County wrestlers competing in the Southwest Regional Wrestling Tournament knew what to expect.
Penns Valley’s Jared Hurd and Darren Yearick, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Jacob Powers all reached the tournament last year.
This year Hurd and Yearick brought four other teammates along, while Powers had three teammates join the ride.
After wrestling was finished on Friday inside Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Kovalchick Complex, those three — along with the Wolves’ Caleb Dowling — punched their tickets to Hershey and the PIAA tournament. The quartet of wrestlers reached the semifinals of their individual weight classes with Yearick and Powers having the possibility of wrestling for a regional title against one another.
For Hurd and Yearick, they are making a habit of trips to the Giant Center in Hershey as they were both there last year.
“It’s pretty cool,” Yearick said. “Not too many people from Penns Valley have done it. It’s cool to be able to be one of the people that have done it.”
For Powers and Dowling, this is a historic trip as they are the first St. Joseph’s wrestlers to reach Chocolate Town.
“It’s really nice to see Jake being the first one too because when we decided we were going to come to St. Joe’s, we knew — Jake being the oldest — he was going to have to be the one to lead the way,” Dowling said. “He took the biggest risk by coming to school, so he definitely deserves being the first one. It’s nice seeing both of us make it because, as years have gone by, we’ve just worked together all the time.”
Added Powers: “It’s awesome to be the first one. I know I’m only one of many. We have so many good kids coming up through. Caleb is only a freshman. We’re such a young team. We have many more years to go.”
Yearick and Powers cruised to the 120-pound semifinals.
Yearick pinned his opening opponent in 59 seconds. He then used a dominating 9-0 major decision over North Star’s Keaton Furry, who was the District 5 champion.
Powers opened the day with a 9-2 victory over Gary Loeffler from South Fayette. In the quarterfinals, Powers took care of District 6 foe Conne Polacek of Westmont Hilltop 6-0.
Hurd and Dowling had to gut out quarterfinal wins to reach the 145- and 132-pound semifinals, respectively.
After opening the day with an 11-2 major decision, Dowling used a late score to reach the semifinals.
Trailing 1-0, the freshman hit a reversal with about 25 seconds to go in the match. His opponent needed injury time with 15 seconds to go. Dowling said he started talking to himself.
“When he took injury time, honestly, I was thinking in my head, ‘Don’t blow it,’” he said. “I was trying to think of something relaxing. The whole time I was thinking in my head relaxing stuff. I knew if I gave it my all he wasn’t getting out. I was just so confident in myself.”
Dowling came out of that injury time with a solid 15-second rideout and the 2-1 win. Dowling’s win remind St. Joseph’s coach Pat Flynn about something that happened earlier in the week.
“I emailed the team something about courage on Monday,” he said. “It just described what courage was. That was courage. I’m proud of him. That’s a senior he just beat that’s ranked fourth or fifth in the state.”
Hurd was in the same situation as Dowling. He trailed 1-0 late in the second period. He was able to get a takedown and opened the third period with a 2-1 lead.
Hurd started in the bottom position. He collected a reversal with 25 seconds to go for the 4-1 win.
“Jared is Jared,” Rams coach Joel Brinker said. “Jared is going to grind out wins. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but he puts up more points than the other guy. He’s happy with it and we’re happy with it.”
Penns Valley has three others alive in the consolation brackets. Baylor Shunk (106), Andrew Sharer (152) and Abraham Allebach (160) remain in the hunt. They each need just two wins on Saturday to punch their tickets.
The Wolves also have their other two wrestlers in Ethan Kauffman (106) and Evan Courts (138) alive. Flynn was very happy with how the first day ended up but knows there is still work to be done.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “These guys are above their years in some ways on the mat. It’s nice that they’ve (Powers and Dowling) qualified for states, but I expect them to be in the finals. I expect Evan and Ethan to come back for third. That’s what we work for. Pressure is on. These guys just got to keep winning.”