Hidlay’s strategy brings his second gold medal
HERSHEY — Trent Hidlay has a simple formula for winning: Just do what he did last time, at least until it stops working.
It didn’t stop Saturday.
After mounting his third straight bonus-points victory in the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships’ 170-pound semifinals in the morning, he put away Luke Nichter, 11-5, that night for his second straight gold medal.
“I wanted to come out here and just stick to what got me here,” he said. “That’s what the coaches tell me. There’s no reason to go out there and try hitting stuff you haven’t been doing all year.”
Nichter’s point total included nary an offensive point — that’s become a Hidlay trademark. The Mifflin County senior has not allowed a takedown by an opponent since the 2016 final at 160, which he lost to Kaleb Young of Punxsutawney.
And he still remembers it.
“I remember. I definitely remember,” he said. “It was definitely a heartbreaking night, but looking back it was one of the turning points in my career. I think that’s what’s helped me get to this point where I’m at right now, by losing that tough match to a good senior in Kaleb Young.
“I think I might have sold myself a little short going into that match. After the match I think I could have wrestled better, but those are the learning experiences you need if you want to get to the top.”
The top has become a natural position for Hidlay, except between periods when he chooses the bottom — and usually spends little time there. That was the case Saturday, when he scored two takedowns in the first period, kept Nichter on the mat for a few seconds and then let him up.
His coaches wanted Hidlay to stay in control to end the first, but Nichter finding freedom with five seconds to go was barely a trifle.
“You never want to give up points at the end of the period, but I knew I was going to be able to control the rest of the match and get more scoring opportunities later.” Hidlay said. “In the moment it wasn’t a big deal.”
Hardly. He did take the bottom and was out in five seconds, then followed his takedown-escape-takedown sequence to end the period with a 9-3 lead. A pair of Nichter escapes wrapped around the last takedown of Hidlay’s career made the final.
It was the Mifflin County wrestler’s 82nd straight win, the 154th of his career. His last loss was in the 2016 final — in fact, that’s the last time he surrendered a takedown to another wrestler. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened, or that he wasn’t worried about it.
Any time you’re on this big stage, you definitely get nervous. Anyone who says they’re not is lying,” he said. “That’s what makes this sport so fun — I don’t think there’s any other sport that could give you that much. It’s a one-of-a-kind feeling and it’s great to be able to repeat.
“I felt really good coming out. I knew I could turn the nerves into positive energy. I went out there, scored some points, opened up and got the job done.”
Getting the job done is pretty much part of Hidlay’s mantra. Looking down the list of participants in the parade of champions, there were seven wrestlers he has beaten, most in the past two years.
“That is interesting,” he said. “I think one that really sticks out is I wrestled (Altoona’s) Parker McClellan in the dual meet this year. It’s kind of funny that he’s up at 220.
“That’s just the kind of stuff you get in the regular season, the stuff that helps me to get ready for this tournament — you know, to face the best guys in the state (regardless of weight). I think that’s key to being able to get my body ready for this tournament.”
Hidlay has joined the greats of Mifflin County wrestling, most notably the late Rod Tate, the first county champion, and Joe Heller, who was, until Saturday, the only two-time winner from the county.
“(Those are) some really great guys, guys that I’ve looked up to a lot, and have helped mentor me in my wrestling career,” he said. “It’s hard to talk about wrestlers and who’s the best to ever do it. I’m just I could come out here, do it for Mifflin County and make everyone proud.”
Trent would probably add another name to that, his brother Hayden. Hayden Hidlay started the streak of three straight gold medals and then had to console his younger brother after his finals loss a few bouts later. Trent Hidlay pointed to a chair in the Giant Center’s Zamboni tunnel, recalling Hayden telling him — promising him — that he’d be a two-time champion.
“He gave me a promise and I was held accountable for that,” Trent said. “I got the job done.”
Next year, he and Hayden will be on the same roster again.
“I’m super excited to get to Raleigh and train at NC State,” he said. “It’s going to be weird — you were the top dog and you enter an environment where you’re not the best in the room. I’m ready to get beat up in a few months. I love the learning curve of the sport.”
Mifflin County results
170: Trent Hidlay, MC, maj. dec. Scott Joll, Belle Vernon, 13-5
Fourth consolation round
113: Cole Wilson, Northeastern, dec. Christian Fisher, MC, 3-2
1703: Hidlay dec. Luke Nichter, Chambersburg, 11-5
113: Will Betancourt, Manheim Central, won by default over Fisher