ALTOONA — A precocious freshman and a gentle giant will lead five Centre County wrestlers into the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships on Thursday in the Giant Center in Hershey.
A contingent of 23 wrestlers was whittled down to just those five through two days of the PIAA Class AAA Northwest Regional Tournament.
Bald Eagle Area’s freshman 126-pounder Seth Koleno and junior 285-pounder Josh Fye both won championships Saturday night at the Altoona Field House. Bellefonte sophomore 132-pounder Brock Port and senior 145-pounder Trevor Corl, along with State College junior 195-pounder Cory Dreibelbis, all lost in the finals but earned berths to states.
Mifflin County, with four champions and 140.5 points, won the team championship. General McLane was second with 136.5, followed by third-place Central Mountain with 127.
Koleno turned a close match into a win and a berth in the finals when he clamped Shikellamy’s Nick Gittens in a cradle for a five-point move and a 9-4 semifinal win. Then, in the final against Williamsport’s Roshaun Cooley, a second-period escape and a third-period rideout were enough for a 1-0 win and the championship.
“It feels amazing. I came up here just expecting to make it to states, hoping to go. Winning it is just amazing,” Koleno said.
The freshman had to endure a scary moment in the second period when he suffered a cut above his eye that required five stitches to close after the match was over.
“I shot in on Cooley’s leg and his knee hit my eye and it just started bleeding. I was flipping out. I was hoping it would be all right. It pumped my confidence up a lot. I went out there pumped up and ready to wrestle,” he said.
Eagles coach Steve Millward said Koleno’s upbringing shaped his calm demeanor.
“I just think the way the kid was growing up, those things are just part of the sport. He’s been around it. He loves it. Whatever comes his way he’ll deal with it. He doesn’t really get too worked up about anything. I don’t believe he sees himself out of any match at any time. He wrestles like a seasoned vet,” he said.
Now, his goal for states has shifted.
“My goal is to place. Go in the tournament, win a couple matches and hope to place,” he said. “I work hard and I always find the best wrestler in the room and wrestle him.”
Fye led Titusville’s Jason Oakes 2-0 with Oakes riding with legs in during their semifinal bout. Fye shook him off for a reversal and immediately ran a deep half Nelson and got the pin in 3:23 to earn a trip to the finals for the second straight year.
Unlike last year, Fye closed the deal. He scored two takedowns on Meadville’s Ben Bish. On the second, he caught Bish leaning, ran another wicked half Nelson and decked him in 1:33.
“The coaches have been telling me to keep pressure on kids. I weigh more than most kids. I just need to keep going out there and using my size against them. Nothing’s going to stop me,” Fye said. “Last year I came close. I just didn’t get it. This year I wanted it more.”
Millward was glad to hear Fye took his words to heart.
“I’m glad to hear that he has put his trust in what we think he’s capable of doing and he believes in not only what we tell him but he believes he’s capable of doing the things that we tell him. It’s things we remind him of every week. He put things together this weekend. That last match, I couldn’t say he wrestled a better match all season than that one right there,” he said.“The two that are moving on, I don’t know, they just go out and get things done. It doesn’t seem like they put out a lot of effort when they’re out there wrestling but they put a lot of effort into their preparation to get into this tournament. I’m extremely excited to see what the rest of their season is going to turn into.”
Port couldn’t find much offense, but a second-period reversal made all the difference in a 2-0 win over Clearfield’s Noah Cline in the semifinals. In the final, his match with D.J. Fehlman of Warren was tied 1-1 going into overtime. It was there that Fehlman took Port down to his back for a four-point move and 5-1 win.
“He has to get his offense going more in a match. He was kind of timid in the first period. When you make it a close match, you allow flukey things like that to happen,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said.
Corl used a takedown and two back points hold up for his 4-1 semifinal win over General McLane’s Owen Watkins. He met Mifflin County’s Hayden Hidlay in the finals for the second week in a row. Much like last week, Hidlay controlleld the pace from the start, scoring on two takedowns and then turning and pinning Corl in 1:54.
“Hidlay’s one of the best, not just in the state, but in the country. He’s obviously a tough kid and certainly a guy that I think he (Corl) can compete with,” Maney said.“Again, the last two weeks he’s let him control the tempo from the first whistle on. You can’t do that against a great kid. You’ve got to get your offense going and control the pace of the match if you want to have a chance.”
Cory Dreibelbis was enjoying a comfortable lead before getting turned and having to fight off his back until the buzzer in a 12-11 semifinal win over Clearfield’s Travis Ogden. In the final against Mifflin County’s Trey Hartsock, he was unable to generate any offense in a 9-0 loss.
“Hartsock’s really tough. I don’t know if Cory wrestled his best match, but Hartsock certainly earned that. I don’t know if Cory was just satisfied with getting to states, but Hartsock is tough and certainly earned it,” State College coach Ryan Cummins said.
Philipsburg-Osceola 138-pounder Dakota Weitosh fell one frustrating win and one heartbreaking point short of a trip to Hershey. He fell, 1-0, to McDowell’s Noah Burkhardt in the third-place match.
“He couldn’t solve the distance. The kid didn’t want to mix it up on their feet. If you noticed, there wasn’t a tie-up in the match. As soon as they came into contact, he backed out. It frustrated Dakota,” Mounties coach Tim McCamley said. “We’ve been here before. We’re tired of that. It’s good that we’re a step closer but that’s no consolation. It doesn’t console Dakota at all, or some of these guys. Yeah, we all got a little bit closer to Hershey, but that’s not the goal.”
Centre County lost five wrestlers in the morning’s first session, the second round of consolations, reducing the contingent to 16 remaining. BEA’s Garrett Rigg (120), Bellefonte’s Nate Rosenberger (152), P-O’s Matt Johnson (113) and State College’s Dalton Barger (145) and Pete Haffner (220) all lost their first matches of the day and were eliminated.
The second round of consolations claimed five more county wrestlers, reducing the total alive to 11. BEA’s Mitchell Taylor (195), Bellefonte’s Luke Leathers (126) and Chase Gardner (138), P-O’s Nick Patrick (160) and State College’s William Roeshot (170) all won their second-round consolation bout, only to fall in the third round of wrestlebacks.
The county lost another five wrestlers in the consolation semifinals, reducing the total to six. State College’s Adam Stover (106) and Bellefonte’s Aaron Witherite (120) both lost in the semifinals and then were eliminated in their next bout.
For State College’s Anthony Myers (126), Bellefonte’s Dillon Kephart (182) and the Little Lions’ Jack Vandevort (285), their runs through the consolation bracket were ended in the consolation semifinals.
The PIAA Class AAA Championships are scheduled for the Giant Center in Hershey from Thursday through Saturday.