When it comes to the postseason, coaches will try just about anything to gain an edge.
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Go ahead, roll your eyes. That’s what a wrestling room full of Red Raiders did Monday afternoon when Bellefonte coach Mike Maney told them they would be trying yoga.
“We experimented with yoga this week. They found out it’s not as easy as it looks,” Maney said.
“When I suggested it, there were some rolled eyes. We didn’t have school Monday, so we got a morning workout and then tried some yoga in the afternoon. They have a new-found appreciation. The message was staying focused, controlling the task in front of you and eliminating outside distractions.”
‘Downward Dog’ might not be anyone’s definition of a good wrestling stance, but it just might help a wrestler achieve all three goals Maney mentioned.
Bellefonte, Bald Eagle Area, State College and Philipsburg-Osceola will all be looking for whatever edges they can find today at the District 6 Class AAA Wrestling Championships at the Altoona Field House.
From the opening whistle at 10:30 this morning to the final bout around 8:30 this evening, those four Centre County schools, along with Altoona, Hollidaysburg, and team favorites Central Mountain and Mifflin County, will be battling to send four wrestlers at each weight on to the Class AAA Northwest Regional Tournament next weekend in Altoona.
If the seeds hold, and that’s always a dicey proposition, Centre County will send two dozen wrestlers to regionals.
Bellefonte has eight wrestlers seeded among the top four at their respective weights. Aaron Witherite (120), Luke Leathers (126), Brock Port (132) and Trevor Corl (145) are all seeded No. 1. Nate Rosenberger (152) and Dillon Kephart (182) received No. 3 seeds. Chase Gardner (138) and Tim Benford (220) were seeded fourth.
“Looking at the seeds, there aren’t too many surprises. The 4-5 matchups are key when you’re opening in the quarterfinal round. In a couple of those we’ve seen the guy this year and there have been some close matches,” Maney said.
State College has six wrestlers among the top four at their weights. Adam Stover (106), Anthony Myers (126), Dalton Berger (145), William Roeshot (170) and Jack Vandevort (285) are all seeded No. 3. Cory Dreibelbis (195) is a fourth seed.
“I was very happy with how it worked out. When we looked beforehand, I was pretty satisfied with where our guys were. Some do need to work a little bit to move on. I think we’ll do OK. If our guys wrestle up to their potential they should be fine,” Little Lions coach Ryan Cummins said.
Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola have five wrestlers each seeded among the top four.
For the Eagles, that includes Josh Fye (No. 1 at 285), Seth Koleno (second at 126), Cobey Bainey (third at 132), Mitchell Taylor (third at 195) and Garrett Rigg (fourth at 120).
“The seeds are where they are. That stuff’s based on 4-5 months worth of work. They’re capable of wrestling at that level or above. Some of those points were determined back in December. I’m hoping we are a better team now than we were then,” BEA coach Steve Millward said.
For the Mounties, their top seeds include Dakota Weitoish (second at 138), Nick Patrick (second at 160), Micah Sidorick (second at 220), Matt Johnson (third at 113) and Bryce Bennett (third at 120).
“It’s pretty cut and dried where they’re going to be seeded. I’m pleased with where they are,” P-O coach Tim McCamley said. “We always want them to wrestle to their seeds or above.”
While the objective certainly is advancing as many wrestlers as possible to the regional tournament, a nice additional prize is the team championship.
Most observers think that will come down to Central Mountain and Mifflin County.
“I think Central Mountain and Mifflin County will be a race for one or two, unless one of those teams tanks,” Cummins said. “I don’t expect that.”
If there’s a darkhorse in the field, a team that with a few upsets could insert itself into the conversation, it just might be Bellefonte.
“If we wrestle up to our potential, and there’s always upsets, we could be right there in the title hunt,” he said. “It’s OK if people have Mifflin County and Central Mountain as the favorites. That allows us to go out and wrestle and not worry about that.”
Even though the tournament is a now a one-day affair, most coaches don’t think that will have an impact. Wins, as always, will be at a premium. Losses, as usual, have to be quickly forgotten.
McCamley, though, thinks losses in two rounds are potentially more damaging than others.
“The first match is important. If you make it to the semis, you’re in the top 6. You still have to win one more match. If you lose your first match, it’s a tough road back. It makes it difficult with such a small tourney but it’s not impossible,” he said.“There are some tough rounds. It’s difficult to lose a semifinal match. You don’t get a lot of recovery time to come back and you have to wrestle a guy who just won.”
Millward said that unforeseen pitfalls sometimes await wrestlers in the consolation bracket.
“The best route is to stay in the winner’s bracket and move forward. You don’t know what’s going to happen on the opposite side. If a high seed gets beat and drops down, then it’s a real challenge,” he said.
“Anytime you have to rebound from a loss, it’s tough. It could happen in the first round. You need to turn around and wrestle. Sometimes to get refocused it makes it difficult,” he said. “Upsets always happen. You have to be ready for every single match. As the stakes get higher, the better your focus has to be.”
That’s where focus comes into play.
“During the year, in dual meets guys knew hey we’re behind I’m going to try to get a major or a tech for the team. They’re not pushed into that now. They can just worry about themselves. It’s a nice change for them,” Cummins said.
And, even the smallest edge could make the biggest difference.
“The mental part is huge. Getting your rest, dieting right, some younger guys are not accustomed to that,” Maney said. “But all of those little things add up and are critical. It may not catch up to you this week but it will catch up.”