HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: State medalists lead all-star team
Following is a look at each member of the All-Gazette team:
BOBBY BELL: Bell, an Indiana freshman at 170, won 24 matches in the regular season before placing sixth at the cutthroat WPIAL Section 1-AAA tournament.
Bell (25-7) won the Harry “Bo” Wood tournament and the West Shamokin Duals and placed third at the Penn Hills Invitational. Two of his seven losses this year came against state placewinners.
JOEL BOWERS: A senior, Bowers won his third straight District 9 title and then placed second for the second straight season at the Northwest Regional tournament.
For the third straight year, Bowers (28-4), who’s amassed 76 wins in the last three seasons, dropped his first two bouts at states.
CARLOS CHAVEZ: Chavez, a 106-pound senior, placed fourth at the District 6 tournament to qualify for the Southwest Regional tournament for the first time.
Chavez (20-9) lost his first two bouts at regionals.
DALTON CLARK: After winning 19 matches in the regular season, Clark (132), a sophomore, wrestled masterfully at the District 6 tournament to place second.
Clark (22-13), a sixth-place finisher at the Southmoreland Holiday Classic, plucked the No. 4 seed at the Southwest Regional tournament, only to drop his first two matches.
PHIL CROOK: Crook, a senior and three-time Southwest Regional tournament qualifier, nabbed the sixth seed at the District 6 tournament but didn’t place.
Crook (22-5) eclipsed the 100-win mark on Jan. 23. He finished with a career record of 110-31.
“Phil’s a very tough kid. It’s just a shame he was plagued with injuries this year because he would have made his fourth regional appearance,” Stewart said.
ANDREW DEITMAN: The United junior won 23 matches in the regular season before falling in the consolation semifinals at the District 6 tournament.
Deitman, who placed third at the Southmoreland Holiday Classic and second at the Richland tournament, finished with a 26-6 record.
DREW DOAK: Doak continued his trend-setting ways at Blairsville and became the fastest wrestler in school history to reach the 100-career win mark roughly a month before becoming the school’s first three-time District 6 champ.
Doak became the first Blairsville wrestler to finish second at the Southwest Regional tournament three straight times. He also became the first Bobcat to grab state medals in each of his first three years of high school.
A junior, Doak fell to eventual state champ, Burrell’s Steve Edwards, 3-2, in a controversial championship bout at regionals.
Doak (36-6) expressed disappointment after collecting his third straight seventh-place medal at states, but still remained excited about the thought of getting back to Hershey as a senior.
“I learned a lot this year, especially about getting better. I learned that you can’t take any matches for granted and you’ve got to try to get at least 1 percent better every day,” Doak said. “I saw a lot of guys go down at states. Hershey’s just a different beast in itself.”
BRENDEN GLOVER: A junior and three-time All-Gazette selection, Glover (182) placed second at the Section 3-AA tournament and third at the WPIAL tournament to become just the second wrestler in school history to advance to regionals.
Glover (33-6) won the Harry “Bo” Wood tournament and claimed the event’s most outstanding wrestler award. A first-place finisher at the West Shamokin Duals, Glover went 2-2 at regionals.
BRANDON HEBERLING: Heberling, a senior, three-time Southwest Regional qualifier and four-time All-Gazette selection, fell just one win shy of making his first trip to Hershey.
Heberling (138) scored his 109th win on Jan. 23 to become Marion Center’s all-time leader in wins, passing forer state champ Cam Plocus, who racked up 108 victories between 1994 and 1998. He finished with 121.
Heberling placed second at the District 6 tournament to earn the No. 4 seed for regionals. With a berth at states on the line, Heberling, wrestling with torn ligaments in his right hand, lost 6-4 in overtime to Jeannette freshman Gio Vonne Sanders in the fifth-place consolation bout at regionals.
WILLIAM HOCKENBERRY: A sophomore, Hockenberry (106) became West Shamokin’s first section champ when he claimed the Section 3-AA crown in February.
Hockenberry, who placed sixth at the WPIAL tournament, also became the first West Shamokin wrestler to compete in the Southwest Regional tournament. He dropped his two bouts at regionals and finished with a mark of 24-11.
STONE KEPPLE: For the second straight season, Kepple, a sophomore, qualified for the WPIAL tournament, where he placed third.
Then, with a trip to states up for grabs, Kepple blanked three-time District 6 runner-up Joe Davis of Cambria Heights to reach the consolation finals at his first Southwest Regional tournament.
Kepple, a fourth-place regional finisher, qualified for states for the first time and concluded the year with 34 wins.
RAY MARSH: A junior 220-pounder, Marsh wrestled just 14 matches in the regular season but still placed second at the District 6 tournament. He lost his first two career Southwest Regional tournament matches to finish the year with a 12-8 record.
SETH McLENDON: A senior transfer student from Penn Cambria who wrestled his first year under United coach Tim Riskus, McLendon (220) suffered an injury at the District 6 tournament but still placed third for the second straight year.
McLendon (32-7) dropped his first bout at the Southwest Regional tournament but battled back to reach the fifth-place consolation match, where a win would have sent him to states. However, McLendon got nipped 2-1 in overtime of his fifth-place consolation match by Yough’s Tom Sever.
KYLE NOTHNAGEL: A sophomore and first-time All-Gazette selection, Nothnagel (285) placed third at the Section 1-AAA tournament to qualify for the WPIAL Southwest Regional for the first time.
Nothnagel won the West Shamokin Duals and placed second at the Penn Hills Invitational. He finished with a 19-6 record.
TYLER OLIVER: Oliver made significant progression in his junior year, winning his first District 6 title and placing second at the Southwest Regional tournament, where he finished sixth as a sophomore.
Oliver (33-6) then won two of his last three matches at states, including a 3-1 win over Panther Valley’s Richard Nase in the seventh-place consolation bout.
Oliver explained how he’s refined his wrestling game in just four years in the sport.
“I found out that hard work definitely pays off,” Oliver said. “I’ve been working with (former United standout) Jesse Garshnick. He’s helped me year-round since the beginning, and that’s how I got here.”
NICK PECZE: The Blairsville junior Pecze (170) placed fourth at the District 6 tournament to notch his first trip to the Southwest Regional tournament.
Pecze, a fifth-place finisher in the Richland tournament, dropped his first two career matches at regionals and finished with a mark of 24-14.
“All Nick had to do was believe in himself and I knew he was going to regionals,” D.J. Doak said. “He probably could have made it to states if he would have wrestled with that same type of confidence.”
MICKY PHILLIPPI: Following his superb freshman campaign in which he won the 113-pound state title, Phillippi had to battle through adversity at Hershey this year to claim a bronze medal.
After getting upset 3-1 by Bethlehem Catholic’s Joey Gould in the quarterfinals, Phillippi (42-5) reeled off four straight spirited wins, including a 3-2 win over Gould in the third-place consolation bout.
“The tournament started out a little rough but in the end we saw what kind of kid Micky really is,” Derry coach Mike Weinell said. “He faced adversity and he overcame it. Sometimes getting third is a lot harder than getting second, and Micky proved that.”
Phillippi became just the fourth wrestler in Derry history to win back-to-back WPIAL titles. He also claimed his first Southwest Regional tournament crown.
Of his other four losses, which all came against state medalists, Phillippi suffered two to Latrobe’s Luke Pletcher, one to Parkland’s Ethan Lizak and another to Erie Cathedral Prep’s Jake Gromacki.
Pletcher and Lizak are two-time state champs, and Gromacki is a four-time state medalist. In addition, Pletcher is the top-ranked 120-pounder in the country, and Lizak is ranked sixth.
ISAAC STEWART: Undoubtedly the area’s most improved wrestler, Stewart (145) bumped up two weight classes from the 2012-13 season to place second at the District 6 tournament as a No. 6 seed.
Stewart earned hard-fought wins in his first two matches at the Southwest Regional tournament to reach the semifinals, where he lost to three-time state champ Jason Nolf, of Kittanning.
Stewart (29-7) then dropped back-to-back bouts in the consolation bracket to finish one win shy of punching his first ticket to states.
“It was definitely disappointing to see both Isaac and Brandon come up one win shy of making it to states,” Marion Center coach Chris Stewart said. “But they pushed each other so hard all year and they each made big improvements, so those guys have every reason to be proud about how they wrestled.”
SCOTT THOMPSON: Thompson, a junior, saw another stellar year come to an end with back-to-back losses on Day 2 of the state tournament.
Minutes after Doak became the first wrestler in school history to win a third straight District 6 title, Thompson (36-4) became the Bobcats’ second ever three-time district champ, snatching the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler award in the process.
Two weeks later, Thompson lost to a wrestler he’d beaten in five of six previous matches, Valley’s Terrell Fields, to place second for the second consecutive year at the Southwest Regional tournament.
Thompson then reached the quarterfinal round at states for the third straight year, where he gave eventual state champ Stephen Loiseau, of Lancaster Catholic, all he could handle en route to a 4-3 loss.
“I think Scott and Drew got ahead of themselves a little bit this year,” D.J. Doak said. “We put the cart before the horse, and all we were concerned about, including me, was winning state titles. Next year we’ve got to take it one day at a time and one match at a time, and if we get to Saturday, then we can worry about gold medals.”
COLE WANO: A sophomore and first-year varsity starter, Wano turned it on in the postseason and placed third at the Section 2-AA tournament.
Wano won three of four matches in the consolation bracket at the WPIAL tournament and placed fifth to earn a trip to the Southwest Regional tournament, where he lost each of his two matches to finish with a 20-11 mark.
KALEB YOUNG: Like Phillippi, Young, the younger brother of former Punxsutawney stalwart Kody Young, made his second straight trip to states in his sophomore campaign.
Young (33-3) won his second straight District 9 tournament before placing second in the Northwest Regional tournament, which he won as a freshman.
A loser of just six career bouts, Young won his first match at states and then dropped a 5-3 decision in overtime in the quarterfinals to Cumberland Valley’s Patrick Duggan, who placed third.
Young regained his footing and won three of four matches in the consolation bracket to nab a fifth-place medal.