HERSHEY - The bad news is that Altoona's T.J. Brandt didn't get a medal in his second trip to the PIAA Class AAA Championships. The good news is that Brandt has two more years to try to get on the medals stand.
Brandt's sophomore season ended with a tough 7-5 overtime loss to Governor Mifflin's Kenny Arentz in the second round of consolations. Brandt's day started with a 9-1 loss to Liberty's Anthony Cabrera in the quarterfinals.
"He's disappointed that he didn't place down here," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "The goal was to come down and place, and we were within one takedown of getting there. It's tough for a young man who works all year to go out like that.
"Hopefully, he takes this opportunity in the offseason to go through those extra workouts and does the things that maybe he doesn't want to do but understands now that maybe he needs to do."
Cabrera (36-3) took Brandt down four times, including twice in the first period, to earn a semifinal berth against New Oxford's Jordan Conaway, an 8-4 winner over W.C. Rustin's Corey McQuiston.
The semifinals are set for 8 a.m. today.
"Cabrera and Jordan Conaway will be a great semifinal tomorrow morning," Gilbert said.
In a wild consolation bout, Brandt trailed 4-1 entering the second period, but he got a takedown at the edge of the mat, keeping his toes in to get it. He put Arentz on his back for two points, but he was called for a full nelson in the process and gave up a point. The bout went into overtime tied, 5-5, and Arentz took him down 27 seconds into the extra period.
"We threw the kid on his back out of bounds, and we ended up getting a takedown out of it," Gilbert said. "We almost had a reversal at the end of the first period. You could almost feel it not going our way. We put him on his back and we ended up with a full nelson. To win and place down here, you have to be good, but you also have to be a little bit lucky."
The last area Class AAA wrestler to be eliminated, Brandt finished the year with a 32-6 record.
"I think his year went really well," Gilbert said. "I think he learned a lot about himself and what he needs to work on. We wrestled him against great competition, and we're going to continue to do so."
Conaway gets support
While Jordan Conaway was reaching the semifinals with his quarterfinal win, his dad, Dave, was in the first row near Mat 5 urging him on and celebrating.
Dave is a Philipsburg-Osceola graduate who wrestled for Dave Caslow and was the junior high coach at Bellwood-Antis from 1980 to 1986 before he became an assistant at New Oxford. He and ultimately became the head coach. His wife, Jackie, is from Tyrone.
"We had some Bellwood kids coming down here to watch him," Dave Conaway said. "We go up over Labor Day weekend and visit with the guys I coached, so that connection is still there. You never know how you're going to affect kids until years down the road. Bellwood was a great place to be. It's just that I eventually wanted to move to a varsity level."
He's also getting support from the P-O contingent. Tim Bainey, a 1976 state runner-up for P-O whom Conaway calls his "best buddy," has been watching the Conaways. Caslow, who Conaway says has been his "second father" since he was 16, sat with him at the Northwest Regional Tournament last week at the Altoona Fieldhouse.