Although no area wrestler garnered a PIAA gold medal for the first time since the 2007-08 season, a large clan of District 6 and WPIAL grapplers saw their hard work pay handsome dividends in the postseason.
Seven area wrestlers qualified for the state tournament, and four earned medals, including Blairsville’s Drew Doak, who became just the second wrestler in school history to claim a third medal, and Derry’s Micky Phillippi, a returning state champ who placed third.
Doak (152 pounds) and Phillippi (120) spearhead a group of 21 area grapplers who were named to the 2013-14 All-Gazette Wrestling Team.
Punxsutawney’s Kaleb Young (138) placed fifth in his second straight PIAA tournament appearance, and United’s Tyler Oliver (195) took seventh in his first trip to states.
Blairsville’s Scott Thompson (182) and Punxsutawney’s Joel Bowers (132) each punched tickets to the state tournament for the third time, and Derry’s Stone Kepple (126) made his first trip to Hershey.
In addition, Blairsville’s D.J. Doak and Marion Center’s Chris Stewart were named co-All-Gazette Coaches of the Year. Doak won the award for the second straight year.
While D.J. Doak and Stewart agreed that their teams made strides this year, both second-year coaches admitted that several of their peers were deserving candidates for the award.
“Our conference was very competitive this year, all the way around. We all beat each other,” said Doak, who last year wisely added former Blairsville standouts and Division I wrestlers Matt Doak and Bobby Gates to his staff. “United, Ligonier Valley (and) Marion Center … you could have given it to any of those coaches this year. They all did a heck of a job and they were all much improved teams.”
“We had a winning season for the first time in five years, and that’s because we had a lot of kids who stepped up and did a great job,” Stewart added. “But that’s not to say that teams like Blairsville, United and Ligonier Valley didn’t make the same types of improvements. I think all those coaches did equally impressive jobs with their teams and they all deserve some recognition.”