HERSHEY - Just shy of half the Class AAA bracket at 113 pounds wore a medal home from last year's PIAA wrestling championships.
It was, by all accounts, the toughest test any wrestler would face in this year's event. Mifflin County's Hayden Hidlay can confirm that.
Hidlay, who caught a break on the opening day of the tournament when he was able to advance on a forfeit, was not so fortunate Friday. The Huskies freshman was taken down three times in a 7-3 quarterfinal loss to Norristown's Zack Fuentes.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County 113-pounder Hayden Hidlay, left, turns into Zack Fuentes of Norristown during Friday’s PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals in Hershey.
And then he drew a rematch with Dom Forys of North Allegheny, one of the few to beat Hidlay this season - they met in the state team tournament on the same Giant Center floor; the outcome of that one was a 5-1 decision for Forys.
Six minutes of wrestling later, it again was Forys who came out on top, this time by a 7-2 margin - and the wrestling season was over in Mifflin County. Hidlay, normally a rock emotionally, finally began to show something - like anyone else would whose expectations were suddenly upended.
"This is what he's worked so hard for - to come down here and place, not to come down here and not place at all," Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. "I think what you're seeing is tremendous frustration in the outcome."
Forys, along with Parkland's Ethan Lizak and Northwest final winner Jake Gromacki of Cathedral Prep - all previous winners in matches against Hidlay - all started on the opposite side of the bracket in Hershey. Forys lost his opener Thursday; when Hidlay dropped down from the quarterfinals, he was cross-bracketed into that bout.
The bracket is so strong that two of the five region champs ended up in the consolations - and one of them will be able to finish no better than seventh.
"Forys was third last year and he's a junior. The weight class as a whole is a mature weight class," Martin said. "The Patriot-News picked it as the toughest weight class in triple-A. In spite of that, we still thought we'd come down here and do very well."
Hidlay seemed less aggressive than in past outings, although Martin attributed most of that to the quality of the opposition. The Mifflin County grappler scored on a reversal, against Forys, and three escapes against Fuentes. He was taken down a total of five times across the two matches.
"I think there were some nerves in our first match," Martin said. "I don't think he was cautious - I think what you were seeing is strength and experience being a very key factor."