Freshman tops on mats

LEWISTOWN – Hayden Hidlay missed a bit of the 2012-13 wrestling season when an injury took him out of the lineup.

There may be no bigger piece of evidence as to how big a part he was of Mifflin County’s success this year than the results of two dual meets – one with him, one without, both against Central Mountain.

The difference? When he’s in the lineup, the Huskies win the District 6 Class AAA team title – and then go on to a successful individual postseason.

His reward came Thursday, when the Rod Tate Award was presented for the 35th time to Mifflin County’s top wrestler – and it ended up in his hands.

“Looking back at the other people who have won this award like Matt Bonson, Matt Snyder and even back to Ken Whitsel – people I’ve looked up to throughout my whole wrestling career – it’s good to be put into that category of wrestlers,” Hidlay said.

Hidlay was one of three freshman starters on a squad that had only four seniors starting across 14 weight classes. He compiled a 28-7 record, including 17-3 in dual meet action. He pinned 15 of the 28 wrestlers he beat.

In the year of the youngster at Mifflin County, he was joined by two more underclassmen at the awards ceremony. Sophomore Isaac Underhill was the second runner-up; another frosh, Noah Stewart, was just behind Hidlay in the voting.

“All three, whenever we wrestle it’s competitive,” Hidlay said. “It’s not like we’re killing each other for this award, but it’s a good competition in the mat room every day. We’re in there working hard and it’s going to be fun for the next three years.”

The road got rough for the prodigious grappler when he reached the state championships – twice. He saw a pair of returning medalists – one a defending champ – in the dual meet event, then ran into a similarly strong brick wall in the bracket that was arguably the toughest in state wrestling this year earlier this month.

“I’ve gotten a taste of PIAA states and I want it really bad. I just want next year to be here already,” he said. “I’m going to have to work hard in the offseason but it’s going to be worth it.”

Coming off the floor, Hidlay was congratulated by two-time Tate winner Rob Ruby, who is the only wrestling award winner also to have won the Ufema Award for the county’s top football player. That’s coincidentally appropriate – Hidlay’s father, Mark, is the only county athlete to have won both the Ufema and the Rothrock/Webber award for basketball. But he doesn’t have one of these.

“He’s gotten some awards in his day, but he hasn’t gotten any wrestling awards,” Hayden Hidlay said. “It’s something special.”

The Rod Tate Award is given out annually by Merf Radio to Mifflin County’s top wrestler. The award is voted on by local sports media, including The Sentinel. The award is named after the late Rod Tate, the first state champion wrestler from Mifflin County.