MC has six District 6 champions
ALTOONA–Winning wrestling in its purest form is simple but difficult to achieve. It takes just two steps.
Step 1 – put your hands on your opponent and step 2 – treat him poorly. Impose your will on the other guy and get your shots in. If you don’t shoot, it’s tough to win.
Saturday afternoon at the Altoona Fieldhouse, Mifflin County imposed its will on the competition.
The Huskies crowned six champions and advanced 12 through to regionals – both marks matching school records- cruising to the team title at the District 6 Class 3A tournament.
Nic Allison (106), Kyler Everly (138), Ethan Kauffman (145), Anson Wagner (152), Trey Kibe (170), and Blaine Davis (285) captured district titles with Derek Burk (120) and Haydn Crum (220) finishing second. Also advancing to regionals were Hunter Johnson (113), Trey Shoemaker (160), Brycen Hassinger (182) and Jacob Krepps (195) with third-place finishes.
“Today was a good day of wrestling for us. This is a rehearsal for next weekend and ultimately, a rehearsal for states,” Mifflin County wrestling coach Kirby Martin said. “We’re going to enjoy this weekend, but we have to get right back to work because like I said, next week is a higher level of wrestling and we want to keep taking it up a notch.”
Juniata advanced two to regionals with Casey Smith placing fourth at 106 and Cameron Sweigart getting fourth at 120.
“We finally got something going our way here at the end. We have two guys going to regionals and some of our guys won fifth-place matches to end the season with a victory,” Juniata co-coach Adam Barrick said. “They started believing in their moves and executed better. They gave themselves a shot because if the fourth-place guy goes down, they are in regionals.”
Kibe won his third district crown with a dominating 11-3 victory over Lance Urbas of State College. It was the fourth meeting between the two with the Husky junior winning all four.
The returning state champ had a takedown in the first, an escape and takedown in the second and three more takedowns in the third for the victory.
“After the last few matches with him, I was uneasy with how they panned out. I thought they were too close. I was holding back a little,” Kibe said. “Tonight, I was excited and let loose. I got on to my offense and never let up. It feels pretty good to win three, but to win another state title is the main goal.”
Allison won his second title in as many years and displayed to the crowd why you always keep wrestling no matter what.
State College’s talented freshman Hayden Cunningham held a 3-1 lead with 20 seconds left when Allison, blessed by the wrestling gods on this day, hit a headlock for a takedown and two back to beat Cunningham 5-3. All three of Cunningham’s losses this season are to Allison.
“I’ve always had the left-handed headlock, but I haven’t used it in a while. I thought it was worth a shot. Go big or go home. Thank God it worked,” Allison said. “I’m feeling great to repeat. I’m looking to be a four-time district and four-time regional champ. Mifflin County’s never had a four-time regional champ. That’s my goal for my high school career.”
The never-stop philosophy that Martin and his staff preach paid big dividends for Allison.
“It’s something we as a staff always preach. You’re never out of it. You’ve got to wrestle for a full six minutes because anything is possible. Nic wrestled a full six minutes, and it paid off,” Martin said.
At 138, Everly got revenge on an earlier 4-1 loss to Clayton Leidy by beating the State College senior 2-0 in the district finals. A reversal in the second period was the difference in the match. The Husky sophomore rode Leidy out in the third period.
“I knew the match would be close and I had to do the small things right to make the difference in the match and come out the winner,” Everly said. “I keep working on my ride. It’s a big part of wrestling and you have to be good at it to win. I did what I needed to do on top to win. It feels amazing. This is the happiest I’ve been after a tournament.”
Kauffman won his first district title after a second-place finish a year ago. The Husky senior had an eight-point second period on his way to a 10-4 victory over Central Mountain’s Lane Porter. Kauffman blew open a 2-0 lead with two takedowns, two escapes and two nearfall points in the middle period. Most of Kauffman’s takedowns occurred when Porter kept trying to go upper body and throw him.
“It feels pretty good especially after taking second last year and falling short. To come back my senior year and get the title is pretty awesome,” Kauffman said. “I love freestyle and Greco in the offseason. Throws are my game. I guess he didn’t know that. It feels great, but it’s just a stepping stone to where I want to be.”
Wagner injured his foot on Thursday but showed no ill effects with a 5-0 win over Hollidaysburg’s Aaron Sleeth in the finals. After a scoreless first period, the Husky sophomore escaped and scored a takedown for the 3-0 lead after two. Sleeth chose neutral in the third and Wagner picked up a takedown to salt away the title.
“It’s amazing. To go from fourth last year and barely making it to the top is pretty good,” Wagner said. “I knew I had to beat him by skill because he had me on strength. I kept my composure and did what I had to do. I’m pretty confident heading into regionals and hope to make it out and get to states.”
Martin is thrilled with the progress of his sophomores Everly, Wagner and Shoemaker.
“It’s huge. They took their lumps last year. Everly and Wagner finished the season with losing records,” Martin said. “They flipped it and with Everly and Wagner coming out as district champs that’s awesome. I’m so proud of them for how hard they worked to get to that point.”
Davis rounded out the championship parade with a 1-0 victory over Harrison Schoen of State College. The Husky senior scored the only point of the match with a Granby for the escape in the third period.
“I knew if I just bide my time, he would get impatient and try to throw and get in my face. Ultimately, I’m okay with that. I needed one point to win, that’s what I got and I’m content with that,” Davis said. “I feel great. It’s a big step up from the year before and it will be cool to see my name up on the banner in the mat room.”
Burk came up short in his championship match with Lane Aikey of Bellefonte. Aikey had a takedown in the first and an escape in the second for the 3-0 victory. Central Mountain’s Gage Sutliff, up 2-0 in the middle period, reversed Crum to his back for the fall in 3:04 of their 220-pound match.
The six champions equaled the same mark attained in 2016, while the 12 qualifiers matched last year’s total.
“We’re going to keep our foot on the gas pedal. This was a good day, but we have to be ready next week and get ready for states,” Martin said.
Smith was the first Juniata wrestler to punch his ticket to regionals when he defeated Garrett Choates of Bellefonte 13-4 in the blood round. The Indian freshman lost by fall in 59 seconds to Geno Serafini of Central Mountain for fourth.
Sweigart recorded a 15-0 technical fall over Altoona’s Caleb Fasick to earn his trip to regionals. In the fourth place match, the sophomore dropped a 7-3 decision to Eric Weaver of State College.
“I’m pretty excited about that. A freshman and sophomore going to regionals next week. We’re happy with that. We would have liked to have a couple more with them, but two guys are good,” Barrick said. “We have a team of almost all sophomores and freshmen. You can’t ask for more. They came out here and battled. I’m happy.”
Mifflin County had 214 points to win the team title, easily out-pacing Central Mountain and its 182 points. Altoona’s Matt Sarbo won the Outstanding Wrestler Award and Martin won Class 3A Coach of the Year for the fourth time.
“This isn’t anything I can fully take credit for. The kids wrestled hard. My coaches are awesome. They have a lot of fun and keep the kids working hard,” Martin said. “This is just a witness for our program. It’s an honor to be thought this highly by the other district coaches. I’m very humbled by the award.”
The 14 wrestlers still alive compete at the Northwest Regional Tournament beginning Friday at 5 p.m. in Altoona.
District 6 Class 3A Tournament
(1) Mifflin County 214.0, (2) Central Mountain 182.0, (3) Bellefonte 176.5, (4) State College 154.5, (5) Altoona 108.0, (6) Hollidaysburg 75.5, (7) Juniata 53.5, (8) Greater Johnstown 23.0