Sometimes when a wrestler wins a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling title, he can't raise his level at the high school level. Sometimes he can't live up to the high expectations.
Altoona's K.J. Walters seems to be living up to those expectations.
Walters captured a PJW title at 167 pounds after going 24-9 as a freshman on the high school team. The title was the first for an Altoona wrestler since Shane Irwin (no relation) won the 120-pound title in the 11-12 age group in 1990.
Walters has qualified for the Northwest Regional Tournament the last three years, but the first two were with fourth-place finishes at 171 and 189, respectively. Walters put it all together over the weekend and won a district title at 189 with a 9-0 win over Hollidaysburg's Jacob Walls.
He says he likes wrestling just as much as he likes playing baseball, but if he continues to improve, wrestling might take a slight lead.
"When it comes to college, I want to go play baseball," Walters said, "but right now, wrestling keeps me in shape. I like the intensity [of wrestling] and the feeling you have when you get your hand raised at the end of the match."
Walters is now 26-2 and has won 18 bouts in a row since dropping a 5-1 decision to Portage's Joe Shook in the finals of the Zeigler Chevrolet Tournament. His other loss was a 5-2 setback to Grove City's Nick Miller at the Sheetz Holiday Classic.
"K.J. Walters progressively got better as the year went on," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "He was a very good wrestler coming in, but he continued to work. You can see he's gotten a little bit stronger. He's a little more physical and a lot more tougher out there.
"I could see him winning the district championship [at the beginning of the season], and he did a great job in doing so. It's all a testament to his work ethic. I'm real happy with his performance."
"Now that I'm a junior, I'm here to win, not to lose," Walters said. "You just have to work hard and hopefully everything works out."
With the rest of this postseason and next year to go before his high school career is done, you have to wonder just how good he'll get.
"Hopefully, I can get a little better as the years go on," Walters said. "Hopefully, next year will be a better year."
Class AAA future
I wonder how many years there are before the District 6 Class AAA tournament that we know is no more.
Philipsburg-Osceola and Bald Eagle Area have been class AA teams wrestling at AAA for many years, and I understand Lewistown is also doing that now.
If re-districting comes soon, District 6 Class AAA teams might have to combine with District 9 or District 4. District 9 has only six teams, and District 4 has only four.
Wrestling veterans around here remember that there used to be 18 Class AAA teams within the district, and in recent years that number has decreased to 10.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.