Bald Eagle Area junior 126-pounder Garrett Rigg said he doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to count the sleepless nights he’s experienced since last year’s PIAA Class 3A Northwest Regional Tournament.
“Especially last night. I was up until 12:30 last night,” Rigg said. “I went to bed around 9. I just could not sleep. It was driving me nuts.”
The ‘it’ he was referring to was his 9-0 loss in the third-place bout, the loss that kept him home the next week instead of in the Giant Center in Hershey at the PIAA Class 3A Championships.
Rigg remedied those sleepless nights Saturday at the Altoona Fieldhouse, scoring a takedown in the sudden victory period to earn the 126-pound championship with a 6-4 win.
He will be joined in Hershey on Thursday by seven other Centre County wrestlers: teammates Seth Koleno (champion at 138) and Gage McClenahan (runner-up at 145), Bellefonte’s Cole Stewart (third at 106) and Brock Port (champion at 145), and State College’s Cole Urbas (champion at 182), Pete Haffner (champion at 220) and Ian Barr (third at 160).
Two county wrestlers were dealt the same cruel fate that Rigg experienced a year ago — losing in the third-place bout, a win short of a berth in states. Bellefonte’s Chase Gardner (152) and State College’s Drew Linnes (285) each came up a win short.
“That’s what my motivation was this weekend,” Rigg said. “Last year there was so much disappointment. I didn’t know what to think. The day after regionals last year it was time to start working. My goal this year was to make it to states and get a medal around my neck.”
Rigg was locked in a nip-and-tuck match with Mifflin County’s Noah Myers when the Eagle junior scored a go-ahead takedown midway through the third period.
“I was ahead and I wanted to hold him down. He ended up getting out, but I wasn’t stressing. I knew I could take him down,” Rigg said. “He was starting to stay away from me, getting out of tie-ups. I knew if I could get him to overtime, I was winning that match.”
Rigg wasn’t the only county wrestler carrying baggage with him from last year’s regional tournament. Urbas lost in the consolation semifinals as a freshman.
“That was so much motivation,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about in the offseason, working hard to get here, working hard to get on the podium. It’s surreal.”
In a contrast of styles, the 6-foot-3-inch Urbas was paired with a short, squat Jake Paulson of McDowell. He used his length and leverage to his advantage in a 6-3 win.
Urbas has never been to the PIAA Wrestling Championships — but it has been on his mind.
“Every second when I’m sleeping,” he said through a wide smile. “It’s in my dreams.”
For Port, who earned a 1-0 win over Bald Eagle Area’s McClenahan in the final, heading to Hershey is a recurring theme. This will be his fourth trip.
“This year I’m going higher on the podium. I’m more prepared, I managed my weight better and I prepared better,” Port said. “It was just a very defensive match on both parts. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. It’s tough. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Koleno capped his steady march to the title with a 9-3 win over Hollidaysburg’s Nathan Swartz. A takedown in the first period, a single into a near cradle, gave the Eagle junior a cushion. For Haffner, it was the second straight week he was in a final. This time, though, the memory of last week paired with the knowledge he had already punched his ticket to Hershey was the difference.
“This feels awesome, especially after last weekend,” he said. “It was a letdown in the finals. It was great to get back out there and win it.
“Last week I was wrestling a little tense. This week I knew I was going to Hershey and I could just wrestle relaxed.”
For Stewart and Barr, there was tension until the final whistle blew in their third-place bouts.
Stewart posted a 3-0 win over General McLane’s Andrew Brest. Barr, as is his style, produced oohs and aahs with a couple headlocks in his 8-5 win over Carson Hanna of DuBois.
The rest of Centre County’s 25-man contingent bowed out at varying points earlier in the day.
Bald Eagle Area’s Garrett Giedroc (106) and Aleck Nyman (113), Philipsburg-Osceola’s Levi Hughes (138) and Micah Sidorick (220) and State College’s Jacob Pammer (120) were all eliminated in the consolation semifinals.
Bellefonte’s Ryan Smith (120), Keegan Rothrock (132) and Sean Irvin (285), Philipsburg-Osceola’s Josh Hubler (182) and State College’s Adam Stover (126) were eliminated in the third round of consolations.
BEA’s Clayton Giedroc (132) and Dylan Bisel (170), Bellefonte’s Alex Coppolo (113) and Mason Cooper (170) and State College’s Clayton Leidy (106) were eliminated in the second round of consolations.
Bellefonte 170-pounder Mason Cooper lost his first-round consolation bout and was eliminated.