Hartsock, Hidlay lead four to states

ALTOONA – If you are a wrestling team, what do you do for an encore on the heels of winning the District 6 Class AAA team title?

No, the Mifflin County squad didn’t win the Northwest Class AAA regional title, but the question still has a simple and straight forward answer.

You send your nine regional qualifiers to the regional tournament at the Altoona Field House, put together some solid and in some cases outstanding efforts, finish one point out of third place with 90 points and qualify four wrestlers for the PIAA state championships this weekend.

“The regional tournament never fails to have some ups and downs,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “You hope there are more ups than downs and we had some of both today. We lost some matches earlier in the day that we were hoping to win, but we had a very strong finish. It is very exciting to have four kids going to states, including two regional champions. That is a very, very good day.”

Leading the quartet of Husky qualifiers with individual regional titles were Hayden Hidlay (138 pounds) and Trey Hartsock (182), while Noah Stewart came close, but had to settle for silver at 152. Timmy Pearce fought his way back through the consolation brackets to finish third at 195.

In the finals, Hidlay handed previously unbeaten Kaleb Young of Punxsutawney his first defeat of the season by a 4-2 score to win gold. Young slips to 29-1 with the loss, while Hidlay improves to 35-2.

“I have been looking forward to this match for a while,” Hidlay said. “All week I could just think about wrestling because Kaleb is a good opponent and he is a lot different than I am so it was a big challenge for me.

“He is a lot longer than I am and his style is different than mine so I had some trouble getting some takedowns. I couldn’t really push the action on him because his reach is a lot longer than mine. so I had to kind of wait until he made a mistake so that I could go. He could block me off pretty good.”

Young, coming into the tournament unbeaten, gave Hidlay a little extra incentive to get the win.

“I was probably his toughest opponent so far so it was a good challenge for me,” said Hidlay, who will be making his second trip to Hershey. “We are both in 10th grade so we are probably going to meet each other a few times in the years to come.”

A year ago as a freshman in the state tournament, Hidlay wasn’t able to reach his goal so he has some unfinished business in front of him.

“Last year was different and I jumped up a couple weight classes this year,” Hidlay explained. “It has been pretty much fun this year. I could focus more on training and getting better because I didn’t have to worry too much about the weight part of it.

“Next week I have to look at it as going in there to wrestle another tournament even though it is the state tournament so we’ll have to wait to see how things go when we get there.”

Hartsock, only a sophomore like his teammate, also was solid throughout the regional affair.

He opened with a pair of major decisions, a 13-1 effort over Cody Dunn of Warren and an 11-3 verdict over Cory Dreibelbis of State College.

Next in line was highly-touted Tyree Spearman of McDowell, and Hartsock gutted it out to down the Trojan wrestler with a late takedown before taking care of business to post a 3-1 win over Philipsburg-Osceola’s Dennis Lumadue in the finals.

Mifflin County’s other finalist, Noah Stewart at 152, wasn’t as fortunate as Hidlay and Hartsock as he was doubled up by Altoona standout D.J. Hollingshead in a 4-2 loss to finish second.

Earlier in the evening, Pearce became the first Husky qualifier when he used a big five-point move en route to a 10-4 win over Selinsgrove’s Austin Lewis to finish third.

In addition to his four state qualifiers, Martin was also happy with the overall effort of his nine-man regional contingent.

“This group had an outstanding week at districts last week and our effort this weekend was very, very good,” Martin said. “Unfortunately we just didn’t win some of those close matches so we need to just get mentally tougher in those circumstances. These kids are extremely coachable. We go over the game plan right before they go out and they are very good at executing that plan. They are just great kids to coach.”

If Martin was a baker, he would know what to do if the Huskies could put a few wrestlers on the podium at the Giant Center.

“That would be the icing on the cake,” he said. “You want to put kids on the podium because that puts your program on the map. That is the next step and hopefully it will be a good one for us.”