Altoona's T.J. Brandt went into last season's Northwest Regional Tournament with a 30-1 record at 103. This year, he's been wrestling between 112 and 125 and has a 29-3 record, but those losses were to some pretty good wrestlers.
He dropped a 7-0 decision to New Oxford's Jordan Conaway, a returning Class AAA state third-placer, at the Mountaineer Tournament, an 11-4 decision when he moved up to 125 to face Indian Valley's three-time District 6 champion Kaleb Loht and a 5-0 decision to Line Mountain's returning Class AA state champion Zain Retherford.
Brandt did beat Hempfield's returning Class AAA state runner-up Austin Miller, 4-3, at the New Oxford Tournament and Ligonier Valley's District 6 Class AA runner-up Josh Patrick, 2-0, at the Sheetz Holiday Classic.
There, however, has been arguably more talk about his health and his weight late in the season than anything else. He missed four of the last six dual meets. Some of it was attributed to illness, but he says making weight was a problem.
He says, though, since the postseason has started, he's starting to get a handle on the weight cutting.
"I was getting burned out at the end of the season," he said after winning the 112-pound district title. "But now it's the postseason, and I'm getting back down to my weight and wrestling good."
Brandt didn't have to worry about making weight last season. Even though he was blitzing through the regular season and postseason until he lost to Clearfield's Christian Stone, 4-2, in the Northwest Regional finals, he was one of the smaller 103-pounders.
"I wasn't cutting anything last year," Brandt said. "Now, I'm cutting seven or eight pounds. It's a big difference."
Brandt says he's wrestling better than he did last season, so it will be interesting to see what he'll do from here on out. He will likely meet up with Stone again in the regional finals. Brandt is ranked fourth by PA Power Rankings, while Stone is 11th.
"I just want to go out there and wrestle tough," Brandt said, "and hopefully make it to states."
Consy semis emotional
With the added placewinner for the District 6 Class AAA teams to the Northwest Regional, the consolation semifinals took on more of an importance and took less of the spotlight off the third-place finals.
There was more of an intensity to the consolation semis than in recent years. Win that match and wrestlers were going to regionals.
One of the more intense of those bouts came at 189 between Altoona's Mante Barnes and Hollidaysburg's Matt Milardo. They went into overtime tied 2-2, neither got a takedown in the one-minute OT and both trades escapes in the first two tiebreakers. So, it went to the ultimate tiebreaker, where Barnes escaped 9 seconds into it to win, 4-3.
There were three other OT bouts in the consolation semis. One of them came at 112, where Philipsburg-Osceola's Brian Evans lost to Bald Eagle Area's Jason Sherry, 4-2.
The most intense of those bouts - and had Lewistown fans riled up - came at 125, where Bellefonte's Cody Fisher took Lewistown's Cody Hower down in OT to win, 7-5.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at email@example.com