3 local grapplers stand atop podium
Huskies’ Kibe, Allison; Indians’ Smith win district titles
ALTOONA — For any wrestler, surviving and advancing in the postseason takes a special amount of focus, intensity and ability.
It requires determination, swagger and guts and in a COVID-19 season in which brackets have shrunk down to eight wrestlers per bracket throughout each round of the postseason, there is no room for error.
In a normal year, 12 local wrestlers would have advanced to the Northwest Class 3A Regional next Saturday.
Instead, Mifflin County’s Nic Allison (113) and Trey Kibe (172) defended District 6 Class 3A gold and Kyler Everly (145) finished second as the Huskies advanced three to next week’s Northwest Regional with standout performances in the District 6 Class 3A championships at the Altoona Fieldhouse.
Juniata’s Casey Smith (106) shined as well, picking up a tech fall to win the District 6 title at 106 pounds with a 17-2 victory over Bellefonte’s Garett Choates.
“Our kids really wanted a postseason this wrestling season no matter what it looked like,” Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin said. “I’m really happy for them to be back in this atmosphere. Today was a good day and hopefully we keep building on it and go from there.
“We were hoping for a little bit more of course. Everyone got some good matches in. It’s just a tough year. Overall, it was a good day. I was pleased with how every kid wrestled.”
In one of the most anticipated bouts of the night, top-ranked Trey Kibe and State College’s No. 6 Lance Urbas squared off in the first meeting between the two this season. Kibe won all five matches against Urbas last season and controlled the pace Friday night, dominating in a low-scoring affair.
Kibe picked up a 23-8 tech fall over Aaron Sleeth of Hollidaysburg in 4:07 before defeating Urbas, 4-1, in the 172-pound final.
“I’ve wrestled Urbas many times and we are familiar with each other’s style and most of the time they are good matches,” Kibe said. “With COVID and everything we haven’t gotten in many great matches. I think this is my second or third time going the distance. It felt good to get that match in.”
After a scoreless first period Kibe executed a beautiful reversal and added a takedown after an Urbas escape to carry a 4-1 lead into the third. Kibe kept Urbas stuck on the bottom throughout the entire period, using a mat return and strong work with his hands to claim the victory.
“It was a lot of hand fighting,” Kibe said. “I thought that I was able to do my job and control the match. I’m just excited to take that into next week and hopefully keep things rolling.”
Kibe joined elite company on Friday night with the victory, becoming the fourth wrestler in county history to win four titles joining Ken Whitesel and Hayden and Trent Hidlay. He’s the 27th wrestler in District 6 history to accomplish the feat.
“It feels pretty good. It went fast,” Kibe said. “I’m going to miss being here next year with all the guys but I’m excited to see them get to win district titles hopefully. It feels pretty good and I am proud of that accomplishment.”
No. 4 ranked Nic Allison took a business-like approach into the District 6 championships, pinning State College’s Jacob Campbell in 36 seconds in the semifinals before posting a convincing 6-0 decision over Bellefonte’s Aidan O’Shea in the title match.
A change in Allison’s mindset on the mat and some added muscle has allowed him to become a force to be reckoned with.
“My mentality changed a lot over the summer,” Allison said. “Last year and the year before I felt a little bit more relaxed and didn’t take it as seriously. Now, it’s a lifestyle. This is basically my job and I try to work hard every day so I can to be the best that I can be.”
Allison’s victory over O’Shea gave him his third consecutive District 6 title.
“It means the world to me,” Allison said. “I would love to be a four-time district champ. That was a goal at the beginning of the year and I’m on track to be able to do that. Other than that, I’m just grateful for everything that I have been gifted.”
At 106 pounds, Smith put in a dominant performance, pinning Noah Horne of Hollidaysburg in 42 seconds in the semifinals before dominating Choates in the final.
“First of all, I give all of the glory to God,” Smith said. “None of this would be possible without him. I also want to thank my parents and my brother for pushing me in the mat room and the coaches. I think that we have the best coaches in the state. Everything has been crazy this year with COVID. My whole goal was to get here and to try and get first place and thankfully I was able to accomplish that.”
Smith put up points in bunches, scoring some easy takedowns and converting them into effortless bonus points.
“I know that I need to work my moves in,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to just win by decision, I wanted to use my conditioning to an advantage. My goal was to come here, push the pace and take home the trophy.”
Juniata co-coach Adam Barrick was elated with Smith’s performance, as he became the Indians’ first District 6 medalist in eight years.
“It’s big for the program too because it’s been eight years since we’ve had a district champ,” Barrick said. “It’s important for the school and for them to see the success that the wrestling program can have.”
Mifflin County’s Everly scored a 45-second fall over State College’s Kyle Martin before dropping a hard-fought 7-2 decision to Central Mountain’s Griffin Walizer.
The freshman trio of Blake Aumiller (126), Deakon Schaeffer (132) and Parker Kearns (138) impressed in their debuts at the District 6 championships. Kearns finished third after dropping the true-second match to Taylor Weaver of Central Mountain, while Aumiller picked up a fall over Bellefonte’s Nathan Smith in 4:50 to finish third.
“Hopefully this is a big steppingstone for those younger guys,” Martin said. “It was very important that they got to wrestle here and I’m really happy that they got the chance to experience a little bit of the postseason. In a different year, they would be advancing, so that kind of stings. We were just pleased to be able to have another weekend of wrestling.”
Jaxson Pupo (215) had a stellar performance to advance to the district finals where he met No. 10 Nickolas Miller of Central Mountain and fell, 9-1. Pupo was unable to wrestle for true second after suffering an injury and finished third.
For Juniata, Jonathan Kauffman (215) and Taylor Smith (113) also got on the medal stand as Smith finished in third and Kauffman finished fourth.
“A lot of our guys who lost a match did a great job of wrestling back through the consolations and they were still making some improvements and adjustments,” Juniata co-coach Jarred Dressler said. “With it being such a young group with the guys that we brought here, we’re bringing back all but one of our guys.”
The Huskies group of Allison, Kibe and Everly now set their sights on the Class 3A Northwest Regional along with the Indians’ Smith.
“Wrestlers live for this and we want to take them as deep as we can,” Martin said of his wrestlers. “We will continue to work hard in practice and gauge where we are next week in the brackets. If we can, we will prepare for each kid if we know their strengths and weaknesses.”