Two Huskies advance to Hershey

ALTOONA – There was no gold to be found for the Mifflin County wrestling team Saturday night at the Altoona Field House as the 2013 Northwest Class AAA Regional Championship Tournament came to a screeching halt.

Although no Mifflin County wrestler could find his way to the top step of the podium in the award ceremonies, the Huskies will be sending a pair of wrestlers – Hayden Hidlay and Kyle Kahley – to the PIAA state championships in Hershey, beginning Thursday in the Giant Center.

“I thought we actually wrestled better than we were predicted to,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “We had a number of kids with double-digit losses come in here and perform very well. I thought our kids wrestled well and probably better than most people might have expected.”

The Husky matman who came closest to a gold medal was Hidlay, who dropped an 8-3 decision to Jake Gromacki of Erie Prep in the finals.

With the bout tied at 3-all, Hidlay attempted to secure the winning takedown, but Gromacki countered a big move attempt by the Mifflin County freshman for a 5-point move of his own to walk off with the win and the gold medal.

“Gromacki is a returning state placewinner and that was just a great match,” Martin said. “I just think the difference there was just knowing what to do in a certain situation. As good as Hidlay is, it is pressure packed out there and what he needed to do was just drop in on the leg and that would have finished the match. He didn’t need to go for a big move and in hindsight he knows that. Those are the kinds of experiences he needs to be in and it will help him at the state level for years to come.”

Working his way back through the wrestlebacks to earn a trip to the state meet was Kyle Kahley at 220. Kahley fell into the consolation bracket with a loss in the opening Round of 16, but the Husky junior put together four straight wins, including his 3-2 win over General McLane’s Jake Baker in the battle for third.

“He (Kahley) came in fourth in our district and then he came in here, lost his first match and then wrestled all the way back to take third,” Martin said. “To his credit, he thrives on this type of atmosphere and he seems to get better as the tournament progresses and the pressure gets greater. He doesn’t seem to get too nervous and he is out there constantly battling.”

The Huskies had advanced four wrestlers to Saturday’s championship semifinals, a group that included Lucas Besch (132), Brandon Wilson (145) and Joe Knarr (152) along with Hidlay.

However, Besch, Wilson and Knarr weren’t as fortunate as Hidlay, as all three dropped into the consolation brackets with semifinal losses.

Besch was pinned by Clearfield’s Christian Stone, Wilson dropped an 11-4 decision to McDowell’s Cody Nolan and Knarr was dumped 6-2 by General McLane’s Mike Sutton.

After the disappointing semifinal round, the Huskies bounced back to send five wrestlers into the consolation finals for a trip to states, but only one survived.

While Martin was happy for Hidlay and Kahley, his disappointment came when his Husky wrestlers could only come up with one win in five tries in the consi finals to advance to Hershey.

In the battle to advance to the state tournament, Isaac Underhill was pinned by Joel Bowers of Punxsutawney, Besch was also the victim of a fall at the hands of Altoona’s D. J. Hollingshead, Wilson was handled by Brian Estep for a 9-2 loss and Knarr came out on the short end of a 1-0 loss to Central Mountain’s Chad Reese.

“Those third-place matches were bittersweet,” Martin said. “Having five kids one win from going to states and only coming away with one makes it a hard round to swallow. The results of those matches will sit with everyone for a while.”

On the heels of an outstanding District 6 tournament one week earlier, his team’s effort in the regionals left Martin searching for words to describe what had just happened.

“Right now I am not sure, but I think some nerves were involved,” Martin said. “But at this level, I think it is more of being prepared for the speed of the athletes who are wrestling to go to states. The mental toughness, just going through that experience, the fire of a tournament trail like this. Those are many times the things that determine what happens. We were so green coming into this tournament so I am very happy with the overall outcome.”

Two more Mifflin County wrestlers, Noah Stewart and Caleb Rhodes, saw their season come to an end in the tournament.

Stewart posted a pair of shutouts over Anthony Myers of State College (3-0) and Colton Killion of Jersey Shore (6-0) before falling out of contention for a place with a 3-0 loss to state qualifier Keller Watkins of General McLane.

Rhodes won his first match of the day with a 41-second fall over Mike Wofel of St. Marys before dropping out of the tournament with a 9-1 loss to Scot Augustine of McDowell.