In a normal year, Marion Center’s Marvin Beatty would be gearing up for what would look like a sure run at earning a medal and PIAA Wrestling Championships.
As everyone knows, this isn’t a normal year, and the road to the state tournament in Hershey is going to be longer and rougher.
With the state tournament being limited to eight wrestlers per weight in each of Class 2A and Class 3A, just earning a spot in Hershey will be much harder. The field was trimmed from 20 to eight to allow the tournament to be completed in one day due to COVID-19 concerns.
Beatty, a senior heavyweight, and three other Marion Center wrestlers and two from Blairsville begin their quest in earnest at District 6 Class 2A championships Saturday at Altoona High School. The top two wrestlers in each class advance to super regional tournaments that have been inserted between regionals and the PIAA championships.
“The bad part about this year, with that super region they’re only taking four to Hershey,” Marion Center coach Chris Stewart said. “So. in the heavyweight class, the top five ranked kids in the state are all in this super region, and they’re only taking four. So he’s going to have to upset somebody to make it to Hershey because he’s No. 5. If he makes it, obviously he’ll medal because there are only going to be in Hershey. That’s going to a tough weight class.”
Beatty (16-1), the defending District 6 champion and a state qualifier last year, is joined by sophomore Cam Stewart (106 pounds, 12-7), junior Gavin Stewart (152, 15-4) and senior Aidan Catau (172, 10-10).
Blairsville sophomores Cole Stuchall (160, 10-5) and Mason Bell (189, 9-8) also advanced.
All six advanced from Tuesday’s District 6 Section 4 tournament, a new addition to the slate that divided teams into four groups, with two wrestlers from each section advancing to districts. Marion Center’s section consisted of Blairsville, Bishop McCort, Forest Hills, Richland, United and Westmont Hilltop.
The six survived and advanced in a season that was delayed by the pandemic and necessitated wrestlers wearing masks during competition. The season began Jan. 4, a month later than usual.
“We did as well as could,” Chris Stewart said. “We had to wear masks for a little while and then we didn’t have to wear masks and now we’re back to wearing masks. It never stays the same, and what you’re told today could change tomorrow. It’s been crazy, right down to dividing District 6 into four sections. It’s just not a fair way to do it.
“There have been shortcomings for all kids from all schools one way or another with the way they drew things up. I suppose they do the best they can and make it as fair as they can for the kids.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think it is. But what can you do? There are certain things out of your control, and if you can’t control it, there’s no sense worrying about it. You just wait until they tell you what you can do, and then you go do it.
“We’re hoping to get a couple through to regionals and see if we can get one or two to states. In a normal year, they’d take 20, and this year they’re taking eight, so they’re cutting 12 kids out. That’s a huge deal when you cut that many kids out.”
Beatty, who needed only a little over two minutes to pin two opponents at the sectional, should have no problem advancing through Saturday’s bracket of eight wrestlers. He opens against Philipsburg-Osceola junior Chase Klinger (1-1). Karter Quick (1202), a sophomore from Central Cambria is at the lower end of the bracket.
Stewart won the 106-pound weight class at sectionals, scoring a 5-1 decision over Forest Hills freshman Isaiah Shilcosky in his only match. He takes on Mount Union sophomore Mason Beatty (7-1) on Saturday.
Gavin Stewart finished second at 152. He scored a fall in his opening match and then dropped a 4-1 decision to Westmont senior Hudson Holbay (7-0) before pinning Forest Hills junior Tye Templeton (10-8) in their true-second match. He opens Saturday against Penns Valley senior Dristen Wolfe (4-1).
Catau also finished second at 172. He won his opening match by fall and lost by 7-4 decision to Westmont senior Hunter Holbay (6-0). He opens Saturday against Glendale junior Suds Dubler (9-1).
Both Blairsville wrestlers finished second. Stuchall opens Saturday against Bellwood-Antis senior Aiden Taylor (10-0), and Bell faces Central Cambria junior Ethan Kubat (13-3).