Last man standing
HERSHEY – Hayden Hidlay was ready to wrestle Michael Kemerer Friday afternoon.
Problem is, Kemerer was ready to wrestle Hidlay.
Kemerer, who won a decision over the Husky grappler at the prestigious Powerade Christmas Tournament, moved to 2-0 against Hidlay with a 7-4 win in the 138-pound quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships.
Hidlay made it back into the tournament with a 5-2 consolation win over another familiar foe, Joey Allesandro of Hempfield (District 7).
Noah Stewart was not so lucky. The 152-pounder had a tie with Greater Latrobe’s Jake Shaffer until the final seconds of their second-round consolation match when Shaffer managed the only takedown of the bout for a 3-1 victory, ending Stewart’s season.
Hidlay is guaranteed to medal. A pair of consolation rounds today will determine whether he will compete for third, fifth or seventh this evening.
Hidlay, a sophomore, suffered just his third setback of the season against the Franklin Regional junior.
Kemerer was steady in the first period, getting one quick takedown and another before the end of the period against two Hidlay escapes. Mifflin County won the toss and Hidlay took the bottom, and got another point after Kemerer was called for stalling when he rode without advancement.
The two traded takedown and escape again that period to make it 6-4, then Kemerer escaped in the third to end the scoring.
“He’s the real deal. That’s the toughest I’m going to wrestle this year,” Hidlay said. “He’s ranked in the top five in the nation. I wanted to get the win, but it’s not the right time. Maybe next year I’ll get a crack at him again.”
Hidlay had two good opportunities for offensive points, one each in the first and second, with double-leg attempts on Kemerer. Both times he was whistled out of bounds before the move was completed.
His comeback was strong. He took Allesandro to the mat in the first period and kept him there, then added two more on a reversal after he had the choice and started down in the second.
“Once you get down to the consys, first periods are one minute so if you can get a takedown it’s easier to ride him in,” Hidlay said. “I was able to do that, and that set me up for the rest of the match. Probably the key point of the match was when I got the first takedown.”
Allesandro, who lost twice to Hidlay before this meeting, chose neutral to start the third, and scored a takedown to make it a two-point match. But Hidlay got free, and that ended the scoring in the 5-2 decision.
“I had a four-point lead. I knew he was going to go at me hard there. I had to weather the storm in the third period. I just had to regroup, get to neutral, wrestle as hard as I could,” he said.
It was, he said, an act of mental toughness to face two strong opponents in a row, especially with the tournament on the line. Having that, he said, was the difference between this year and last, when he headed home on Friday afternoon.
“Losing in the quarterfinals, that’s a tough draw to get to wrestle (Allesandro). They were two pretty tough matches for me,” Hidlay said. “I had to really clear my head over the last match, start the tournament out at 0-0 again and go for third.”
Hidlay’s morning draw will be senior Cortlandt Schuyler of Manheim Township, the runner-up from the Southcentral region (District 3), who also lost his quarterfinal.
Stewart and Shaffer each had an escape point early in the third after defensive starts, and late in the match the Husky seemed to have the upper hand when he got in position to take a double leg for the winning score. But he never got a hand on the second ankle, and Shaffer came around on him with just three seconds left on the clock for a 3-1 win.
“Shaffer doesn’t give you many openings. That’s how he wrestles,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “We knew coming into it that if we could get one good opening we would have a chance.”
Shaffer had beaten Stewart at the Powerade, so he knew what to expect. Martin said in a scramble like that you have to finish quickly. It’s still valuable experience for the sophomore, Martin said.
“At his age it’s very important to get down here, and I think this will continue to motivate (him),” Martin said. “He’s going to want more.”