HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: Eight advance to D-6 semifinals
ALTOONA — Unlike two-time defending district champions and Blairsville juniors Drew Doak and Scott Thompson, or even returning runner-up and United junior Tyler Oliver, the remaining Heritage Conference wrestlers who advanced to the semifinal round each overcame trying hurdles on Day 1 of the District 6 Class AA championships.
Along with Doak (152 pounds), Thompson (182) and Oliver (195), who each breezed past quarterfinal-round foes, Ligonier Valley’s Carlos Chavez (106), Dalton Clark (132) and Raymond Marsh (220) and Marion Center’s Brandon Heberling (138) and Isaac Stewart (145) each won quarterfinal-round bouts Friday at Altoona Field House.
In addition, the following Heritage Conference wrestlers moved on in the consolation bracket: Blairsville’s Tyler Lenhardt (160), Nick Pecze (170), Jake Smith (220) and Brandon Cunkelman (285), Ligonier Valley’s Max Caldwell (126), Daniel Croyle (138), Dereck Croyle (160), Nathan Trottier (170) and Joe Shafron (285), Marion Center’s Tyler Zapach (106), Erik Hicks (113), David Wiles (120), Challen Cornetto (126), Phil Crook (160) and Charlie Brewer (182), Northern Cambria’s Shae Wright (106), Jordan Johns (182), Joey Frontino (195) and Joshua Smith (220), and United’s Caleb Walls (106), Seth McLendon (220) and Andrew Deitman (285).
The semifinals will begin at noon today and the finals will start at 6:45 p.m.
The top four wrestlers in each weight division qualify for the PIAA Southwest Regional Tournament, which will begin March 1 in Johnstown.
Ligonier Valley sits in fourth place in the team standings with 73-1/2 points behind third-place West Branch (83), second-place Mount Union 89 and first-place Huntingdon (118-1/2). Marion Center is in ninth with 57-1/2.
The sixth-seeded Stewart (27-3) pulled off the most significant upset of the day for area wrestlers when he avenged a loss from earlier this season and blanked third-seeded West Branch senior Parker Bumbarger, 5-0, in the quarterfinals.
Bumbarger outlasted Stewart, 4-2, to serve the Marion Center junior his last setback Jan. 11.
“He beat me earlier this year by two points and I wasn’t losing to him again,” said Stewart, who will face second-seeded Richland senior Nick Naglic in the semifinals. “I was a little nervous, but once I got out there I was all right. Then I got that first takedown and I felt more in the driver’s seat.”
Heberling (30-2), a senior and Marion Center’s all-time leader in wins, manhandled and then flattened 12th-seeded St. Joseph sophomore Austin Emel in just 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
Emel upset and pinned fifth-seeded Juniata Valley senior Caleb Wagner in the second round.
Heberling qualified for the Southwest Regional tournament in his freshman and sophomore campaigns but placed fifth last year and failed to make the cut. He’ll square off with top-seeded Huntingdon senior Nathan Russell in the semifinals.
“I really disappointed myself last year, not getting as far I did the previous two seasons,” said Heberling, who earlier this season passed former state champ Cam Plocus for the school’s all-time wins record. “I just wanted to step up and really make my senior year worth it.
“The first match I went out a little unprepared, but I went and practiced with the 45-pounder (Stewart) in the wrestling room, and then I went out and dominated.”
Top-seeded two-time defending 152-pound champ Doak (30-3) enjoyed a first-round bye before spending just 5:53 on the mat in the two bouts he wrestled.
Doak pinned Mount Union sophomore Sam Estep in 2:47 in Round 2. He then scored a 17-2 technical fall win in 3:06 over eighth-seeded Glendale junior Justin Hommer in the quarterfinals.
Doak will lock horns with fifth-seeded Juniata senior Jared Benner in the semifinals.
After getting a first-round bye, Thompson (32-1), the top seed and two-time defending 182-pound champ, needed just 2:09 to steamroll his second round and quarterfinal-round opponents.
Thompson pinned Tyrone senior Darren Reese in 13 seconds in Round 2 before decking eighth-seeded Central senior Jared Ponder in just 1:56 in the quarterfinals.
Thompson will tangle with fourth-seeded Moshannon Valley senior Kent Stewart in the semifinals.
“It’s a grueling tournament and it’s the first step in getting to the state tournament, and I thought the guys wrestled really well,” Blairsville coach D.J. Doak said. “Scotty and Drew were both looking sharp. They’re on a mission. I don’t know if I’d want to wrestle either one of them right now, honestly.”
The third-seeded Oliver (26-3), who lost in the finals last year at 195, looked impressive in pinning each of his first two opponents in the first period.
Oliver first decked Westmont Hilltop junior Jake Buck in 1:53 in Round 2. Oliver then flattened sixth-seeded West Branch sophomore Vincent McDowell in 1:49 in the quarterfinals.
Oliver will take on second-seeded Mount Union senior Phillip Kyle in the semifinals.
“They all wrestled solid today,” United coach Tim Riskus said. “Actually, this is some of the best wrestling they’ve done. A couple mistakes just really set us back. We had a couple guys winning matches by five or six points, but then they made the wrong move and ended up getting turned.”
Chavez (20-5), a fifth-seeded senior, beat fourth-seeded Moshannon Valley sophomore Dylan Hamilton, 9-5, in the quarterfinals.
Chavez will face top-seeded and unbeaten Central Cambria freshman Max Murin in the semifinals.
The third-seeded Clark (22-10) nearly pinned sixth-seeded Moshannon Valley senior Bryce Bloom on several occasions en route to an 11-2 major decision in the quarterfinals.
Clark will wrestle second-seeded Penn Cambria sophomore Zach Stevens in the semifinals.
Marsh (11-5), a sixth-seeded junior, upset third-seeded United senior Seth McLendon, 4-3, in the quarterfinals.
McLendon injured his ankle early in his bout against Marsh, who built an early 3-1 lead and then held off a late push from a hobbled McLendon.
Marsh will take on second-seeded Penn Cambria senior Jonathan Wilkinson in the semifinals.