For 18 years, from 1989 to 2006, the District 6 Class AAA wrestling championship team trophy was anchored in Centre County. Philipsburg-Osceola (one title), State College (four) and Bald Eagle Area (13) passed it back and forth.
In 2007, however, the trophy was uprooted and transported east to Mill Hall in Clinton County, the prized possession of Central Mountain for six consecutive years.
The burning question when the 2013 tournament starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Altoona Field House is: Will the trophy stay in Clinton County, or will it return to its home for those 18 years between 1989 and 2006 — Centre County?
Or, will 2013 dual meet champion Mifflin County steal away with it?
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While two Centre County schools — Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte — figure to play a large part in what could be a wide-open team race, the other two — Philipsburg-Osceola and State College — have to look elsewhere for motivation.
“I like to think we are (a favorite). We have good kids who can do well,” Bald Eagle Area coach Steve Millward said.
The Eagles have four No. 1 seeds — senior 113-pounder Travis Giedroc, senior 182-pounder Jake Taylor, senior 195-pounder Aaron Varner and senior 220-pounder Nathan Sharkey.
“The other ones that aren’t favorites, we hope they can contribute and we can get the most out of them,” Millward said. “If we can win some matches from the guys who are not favorites, it would go a long way (toward winning the team title). We want some guys to wrestle above where they’re seeded.”
Bellefonte has the next most No. 1 seeds — three — in sophomore 120-pounder Trevor Corl, senior 170-pounder Nick Shawley and senior 285-pounder Garrett Poorman. That could help the Raiders assert themselves as one of the favorites.
“We hope so. We’ve talked about it this week,” Red Raider head coach Mike Maney said. “It’s an individual tournament. They need to go out and worry about taking care of business.
“The team race will take care of itself. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to focus on the match at hand. If we have the opportunity to get bonus points, we need to get them. But, the name of the game is move on.”
At the start of the season, Philipsburg-Osceola figured to be near the top of any District 6 competition. The Mounties sent 10 wrestlers to the regional tournament last year and eight returned. However, in a cruel twist of fate, P-O lost five starters to injury this year.
“We were going to be in the hunt in the team race. With those guys out, it’s not one of our goals now,” Mounties coach Tim McCamley said. “We emphasize that there are positive things. They really deserve a shot.
“We still have some really good kids. We have a couple who are going in banged up. We have them focusing on themselves now. That’s the way I want them. We told them that the team things are over.”
Much like McCamley, State College coach Chad Dubin has been stressing individual accolades. After a challenging dual meet season, a Little Lion team that only features three seniors out of 14 weights is looking for new life.
“We tell the guys that they have to have selective amnesia,” Dubin said. “They need to forget about things that haven’t gone well. They need to focus on the training we’ve done and believe in that.
“We’ve been preaching that to them for week and a half, that they are prepared and they should believe it.”
Besides watching their teams contending for the team race, Centre County fans will have plenty to cheer about in the 14 individual battles for gold at each weight.
For BEA, Taylor is going for his third championship; Giedroc, who won as a sophomore and was runner-up last year, is going for his second. Varner and Sharkey are looking to take one more step up the ladder after finishing as runners-up a year ago.
Corl and Shawley are gunning for back-to-back titles for the Red Raiders. Poorman will try to improve on his runner-up finish of a year ago.
Philipsburg-Osceola was shut out of No. 1 seeds, but has three No. 2s — senior 126-pounder Brian Evans, junior 138-pounder Caleb Shively and senior 170-pounder John Prentice.
State College’s best hopes rest on a No. 2 seed and a pair of No. 3s — junior 145-pounder Derek Horner, junior 120-pounder Daniel Sills and junior 132-pounder Mike Kauffman.
As for the team race, perhaps Maney said it best, when he tried to sum up what could be a four-team battle.
“It definitely makes for an exciting tournament,” he said. “For the last couple years, we were walking in with Central Mountain the heavy favorite. We knew we needed to pull some upsets to have a chance. This year it’s wide open. We need our No. 1’s to wrestle to their seeds and our guys down below to pull some upsets.”