Claysburg-Kimmel's Ty Dively, by most standards, has had a pretty good four-year career. He has 135 wins, is competing with teammate James Dodson for the school record in wins, is the school's career record holder for pins with 79 and is a three-time state qualifier.
But one thing that has eluded him in all those years has been a District 6 Class AA title. Dively has finished second all three years.
With the District 6 Tournament this weekend, Dively has been getting some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about being a runner-up.
"I've heard about it the last week or two," Dively said laughing. "A couple of my teammates have said 'Hey, you're going to be a four-time runner-up.' I just want to go out and win and not be a four-time runner-up."
Dively hasn't lost to slouches in those finals.
The first two were by major decision and technical fall, respectively, to Westmont Hilltop's Tanner Hough, who was a three-time state placewinner and a Class AAA state runner-up last season. Last year's came to Central Cambria's unbeaten Ben Rager in a 9-8 thriller in the 125-pound title bout.
"The first two years, Tanner Hough was at my weight, and he was a pretty good wrestler," Dively said. "Last year, I got tired in the third period and he came back and beat me."
What are his chances of winning this time? With a 29-0 record, he'll likely be the top seed at 138 pounds when the pairings are released tonight. His closest bouts within the district have been with Penn Cambria's Nick Szala, 4-2 in the Sheetz Holiday Tournament finals and 1-0 in the Thomas Subaru Tournament finals.
Dively and Szala are first and second, respectively, in the Mirror rankings. Dively is the only wrestler to beat Szala this season, and they've wrestled their share of bouts against each other over the years.
"We have the same style of wrestling, and we know what each other does," Dively said. "It's so hard to get a takedown and turn each other."
The first time they wrestled this year wasn't too long after Dively came back from rehabbing his left knee. Screws were placed under the kneecap on July 6, right after he wrestled in the Disney Duals. It was his second knee surgery since 2007, and it took about eight weeks to rehab.
"It was bothering me a lot, but I put the surgery on hold just so I could go to Disney," Dively said. "Coming into this year, it was really different because I just got off crutches. It took awhile to get movement in the knee. The first tournament, I was out of shape and getting used to it again. After I wrestled Szala the first time, I went outside and threw up."
"I really wasn't sure to expect this year from him," C-K coach Dave Marko said. "He wrestled really well at the end of last year, but the knee injury and having surgery threw a monkey wrench into this offseason plans. He had to fight through an awful lot. He's worked around it well. He knows his limitations."
There were some pretty high expectations for Dively when he got to the high school level as a freshman. He won a state title at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships in 2006, but he didn't get a chance to repeat the next year because of the first knee surgery.
"He, along with Ryan McIntyre, Thad Benton and Derek Tipton had the best balance that I've seen," Marko said, "and that helps him out. He puts his back dangerously close to the mat when he rides, and that comes with confidence and repetition. He's the best scorer from the top position that I've had. He has strong hips. What is uncanny about him is he's every bit as lethal without [throwing in] legs.
"He's as talented of a kid as I've coached. He could do anything in the sport he wants to do."
As a freshman, Dively went 28-11 with 14 pins wrestling between 112 and 125, and he finished third at 112 at the Southwest Regional Tournament to qualify for Hershey, where he went 1-2.
"I didn't think I'd make it out of districts at the beginning of the year, but I got better throughout the year," Dively said. "I beat a couple kids at districts that beat me during the year. The high school experience is a lot different than junior high. The kids are a lot stronger in high school. I got better on top and bottom. In the beginning, I was a little nervous and there were people expecting a lot from me."
He went 34-8 with 22 pins as a sophomore, and he finished fourth at the regional tournament. Dively has reached the semifinals of the regionals three times, and every time he lost to Shady Side Academy's Geoff Alexander. Alexander was also a thorn in his side at states, losing to him in the consolations as a sophomore and again in the third-place bout, 6-0, last season.
Dively led the area in wins last season with a 44-5 record to go with his 25 pins, and after placing third at regionals, he reached the state semis with ease, pinning his first two opponents. But, he was beaten by Towanda's eventual runner-up Cody Wheeler, 10-1, in the semis.
"It felt pretty good getting to the semis knowing that the worst I could do is sixth place," Dively said. "I lost to [Wheeler] earlier in the season, and I tried to throw him and I got caught on my back. The fact that I lost to him earlier made me think I have to get him out of his style of wrestling. It didn't work."
After all the years of focusing on wrestling and cutting weight, Dively says he doesn't know if he wants to continue his career in college. The pressure, skill level and intensity amps up even more in college, and the serious nature doesn't seem to fit Dively.
Marko says he's a little bit of a "jokester," and he likes to tease his teammates and coaches.
"I'll be checking everyone's weight, and he'll grin and say he's 10 pounds over," Marko said. "Whether he realizes or not, I think he really enjoys it."
"Practice is sometimes so serious, and I try to make them laugh," Dively said.
Will he be laughing at the end of the district tournament? Possibly. One thing is for sure, though. Dively can't wait for it to start.
"I want to go and win and get it over with," he said. "I wish it was a little bit sooner and I wouldn't have to wait."