Julius Walter thought his senior season was finished. The Hollidaysburg wrestler had lost to Lock Haven's John Harvey, 2-1, in the 154-pound finals of the 1948 District 6-9 Tournament at the Clearfield Armory.
Back then, only district champions advanced to the state tournament, so he did what every wrestler does when his season is over - he gained weight. He gained about 10 pounds, in fact.
But then on the Monday of the 11th state tournament, the 18-year-old got a call from an official telling him Harvey was injured, and he would be the replacement.
"It was nice. I didn't even know he got hurt," said Walter, who was one of 12 to be inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame Saturday before the Class finals at the Altoona Fieldhouse. "Then they call me up Monday morning and tell me to lose weight."
Walter was given a second chance, and boy did he make the most of it.
He opened the state tournament, which was held at the West Side Armory in Kingston with a 2-1 win over District 3 champion John Shilling of Lancaster in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Walter shut out Bedford's District 5 champion Alan Hershberger, 7-0, to reach the state finals.
Walter then beat Erie Tech's Tony Starocci, 5-0, to become Hollidaysburg's first state champion in only the fourth year of the program. "It was my best tournament," he said. "I didn't think it would ever happen. I never thought I would make it past districts once I lost. It felt good. I was surprised I won. I was surprised I got to go."
Sixty-two years later, Walter is 80 years old and retired, but he still looks fit and strong.
Walter has been coming to the Class AAA tournament the last three or four years. On Saturday, he was there with his wife, Joanne, two of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They watched as he walked out to the center of the mat to accept his plaque from hall of fame committee member Mark Dugan.
Twenty-one induction ceremonies had come and gone before Walter was finally inducted with Johnstown's George Azar, John McCray and Ed Zimmerman, State College's Lynn Illingworth and Andy Lentvorsky, Lock Haven's Dave Johnson and Frank Rich, Bellefonte's Ken Moyer and Tom Riglin, Philipsburg's Bob Good and Tyrone's Blair Walk. Walk and Azar presented the placewinners their medals on the medals stand.
Asked before the ceremony what it meant to him to be getting inducted, Walter didn't hold back.
"It's a little late," he said laughing.
Actually, Walter proved back in the day it's never too late.
There's a hitch
The only hitch in the District 6 Tournament being held in one day came at 125, where the third-place bout between Indian Valley's Mason Grove and State College's Josh Kunig and the fifth-place bout between Altoona's Wendell Myers and Philipsburg-Osceola's Cody Buchannan, couldn't be wrestled because a PIAA rule prohibits wrestlers from wrestling in more than five bouts in one day.
Fifth place was left vacant, but Grove and Kunig wrestled off for third Sunday morning at Penn State's Lorenzo Wrestling Complex. Kunig won to advance to the Northwest Regional.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.