Despite being head and shoulders above the rest of the field at his weight, Altoona junior T.J. Brandt has a simple approach to the District 6 Class AAA Tournament.
"You've got to prepare for every match like the same, no matter who it is," the 126-pounder said. "If you're going out there and wrestling a six-time national champ or a person that's never wrestled before, it really doesn't matter. You have to wrestle tough."
And wrestle tough he did.
Photo for the Mirror by Jon Christoff
Altoona’s T.J. Brandt pins Central Mountain’s Logan Bechdel to win the 126-pound championship Saturday.
Brandt pinned his way through the tournament, decking P-O's Caleb Shively in 3:19 in the semifinals and Central Mountain's Logan Bechdel in 1:30 in the finals Saturday night at the Altoona Fieldhouse to capture his third district title, becoming the first Altoona three-timer since Johnny Orr in 1980. Brandt won at 103 his freshman year and 112 as a sophomore.
In eight career district tournament bouts, Brandt has six pins, a technical fall and a major decision.
"This is what you look forward to every year," Brandt said. "You've got to love it, love the time. It's just what I enjoy doing - just going out there and wrestling."
"If you go out and wrestle hard like he did this evening, good things happen for you," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said, "and they've happened for him the past three years."
Brandt's freshman teammate, D.J. Hollingshead, had to settle for second place at 120, losing to Bellefonte's now three-time district champion Tom Traxler, 4-1.
The other two area finalists, also lost in the finals. Philipsburg-Osceola's Logan Walstrom became a three-time runner-up with a 3-1 loss to Bellefonte's Leo Wortman at 145, and Hollidaysburg's Laret Miller dropped a 5-1 decision to Westmont Hilltop's three-time district champ Ryan Burnheimer at 182.
Including Walstrom, the Mounties advanced eight to the regional tournament. They went 1-for-7 in the third-place finals, with Jeffrey Thompson (160) taking third place. Brian Evans (120), Caleb Shively (126), Andrew Greenawalt (138), Jared Smith (152), Jay Prentice (170) and Nick Gray (220) finished fourth.
"I'm happy with that," P-O coach Tim McCamley said. "I'm not disappointed with the way they wrestled. They wrestled hard. I'm disappointed where some of them finished."
Chris Thompson (106), Bryan Descavish (113) and Dennis Lumadue (182) placed fifth, a win shy of advancing to regionals.
The Mounties finished in fourth place in the team standings with 142 points. Central Mountain won its sixth straight team title by 48 points, 214-166, over Westmont Hilltop. Bellefonte (152.5) finished third.
Altoona will have a five-man contingent returning to the Fieldhouse. Connor Lesniak (152) finished third, earning a 6-4 win over Smith, who was the top-ranked Mirror 152-pounder. Teammates Markief Knode (160) and Austin Rosenberry (285) placed fourth.
"Overall, it was a very good tournament," Gilbert said. "We were hoping to get about five through. Of course, you'd like to get a few more through, but I'm happy with our boys and their performance here at the district tournament."
Altoona's Dan Pennington (138) finished sixth.
Miller will join teammates Matt Barton (285), who finished third, and Damian Huff, who was fourth at a rugged 106.
"That 106-pound weight class was tough," Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore said. "If that weight class wrestled tomorrow, that's probably a totally different outcome. Barton didn't have a real good tournament to start out, but I really liked how he wrestled in his third-place match [against Rosenberry, a 6-2 win]."
Hollidaysburg's Jacob Wolk (160) and Matt Milardo (220) placed sixth.
Brandt (26-3) took Bechdel down, scored two quick back points, hooked up a low-leg cradle and put Bechdel on his back. It's the second straight year Brandt pinned Bechdel in the finals.
Hollingshead pinned his way to the finals, where he ran into some first-period trouble against Traxler, who took him down and cradled him for two points. But Hollingshead (32-3) rode Traxler (33-5) the entire second period, and Traxler rode him until Hollingshead escaped with 5 seconds left. Two of Hollingshead's losses have come to Traxler.
"D.J. Hollingshead wrestled a really good bout against a guy that's a three-time state place-finisher," Gilbert said. "He gave up an early takedown and two back points, and that kind of cost him the match. I believe after that first period, we wrestled a pretty good bout against Tom."
"He's definitely one of the toughest freshmen I have wrestled in a long time," Traxler told the Centre Daily Times. "I underestimate him every time I wrestle just because he's a freshman. He doesn't wrestle like a freshman, though."
Walstrom, who had lost to Central Mountain state champs Andrew Alton and Brian Brill in his two previous district finals, couldn't get anything going against Wortman, whom the P-O senior beat in the ultimate rideout earlier in the year. Wortman had an escape and late second-period takedown, and Walstrom (37-2) escaped in the third.
"It's a very difficult situation for him. I know he's not happy," McCamley said. "He had a good tournament up until that match. He just couldn't get his offense going."
Miller's big win came in the semifinals when he knocked off CM's second-seeded Blaze Buckwalter, 7-1. In the finals, however, he couldn't get anything going against Burnheimer, who had takedowns in the first and third period.
"I think I had a pretty good tournament," Miller said. "I beat Buckwalter in the semis, and I've never beaten him in my career. To beat him here my senior year felt good. [Burnheimer] is really good on his feet, and I was trying to open him up, and I just couldn't open him up at all.
"I'm really looking forward to regionals. I wasn't even supposed to be in the finals here, so I want to go out at regionals next weekend, show them what I'm made of and try to make it to the finals there."
"I thought he wrestled [Burnheimer] okay," Moore said. "I thought he made a couple mistakes that need to be corrected."
Tournament notes: Central Mountain coach Doug Buckwalter was voted District 6 Coach of the Year for the eighth time ... Bellefonte 195-pounder Nick Shawley was voted the Outstanding Wrestler by the media. ... Brill pinned Mifflin County's Brandon Michael in 30 seconds in the 160-pound finals.
CLASS AAA TOURNAMENT
KEY, TEAM STANDINGS
1. CM-Central Mountain 214; 2. WH-Westmont Hilltop 166; 3. B-Bellefonte 152.5; 4. PO-Philipsburg-Osceola 142; 5. BEA-Bald Eagle Area 136.5; 6. MC-Mifflin County 129.5; 7. A-Altoona 90; 8. SC-State College 71; 9. H-Hollidaysburg 63; 10. J-Johnstown 47.5.
106-Giedroc, BEA, dec. Kauffman, SC, 8-7; Blackburn, WH, dec. Huff, H, 3-2; 113-Corl, B, pinned Descavish, PO, 4:21; Bottorf, CM, pinned Sills, SC, 1:08; 120-Traxler, B, pinned Evans, PO, 3:32; Hollingshead, A, pinned Hanley, CM, 4:35; 126-Brandt, A, pinned Shively, PO, 3:19; Bechdel, CM, dec. Besch, MC, 3-0; 132-Harris, J, dec. Fisher, B, 3-2; Walsh, WH, dec. Caprio, CM, 7-3; 138-Helsel, WH, dec. Dillon, BEA, 4-2; Miller, CM, dec. Greenawalt, PO, 7-4; 145-Walstrom, PO, pinned Leeth, J, 4:55; Wortman, B, dec. Knarr, MC, 4-3.
152-Patton, WH, dec. Smith, PO, 4-1; Gavlock, CM, pinned Lesniak, A, 1:57; 160-Brill, CM, pinned Knode, A, 1:49; Michael, MC, dec. J. Thompson, PO, 9-7; 170-Taylor, BEA, tech. fall Lowber, MC, 16-0, 5:34; Powers, CM, pinned Prentice, PO, 4:12; 182-Burnheimer, WH, maj. dec. Grieb, BEA, 11-1; Miller, H, dec. Buckwalter, CM, 7-1; 195-Shawley, B, pinned Kowalewski, WH, 5:49; Varner, BEA, pinned Haffner, SC, 3:05; 220-Searer, MC, maj. dec. Milardo, H, 11-3; Sharkey, BEA, dec. Shovestull, WH, 1-0; 285-Duplin, WH, pinned Kahley, MC, 2:33; Poorman, B, pinned Barton, H, 1:33.
106-C. Thompson, PO, pinned Querry, A, 2:13; Underhill, MC, maj. dec. Rosenberger, B, 8-0; 113-Zipf, WH, maj. dec. Folk, MC, 10-1; Noll, BEA, pinned Kociola, H, 2:00; 120-Horner, SC, pinned Mical, WH, 2:49; Pearce, MC, dec. Stine, BEA, 7-5; 126-Musser, B, pinned Millward, SC, 2:23; McCaslin, BEA, pinned Mills, WH, 1:53; 132-Holden, SC, dec. Millard, PO, 5-3; Bender, MC, dec. Price, A, 2-1; 138-Bair, MC, dec. Smith, J, 4-3; Pennington, A, dec. Haun, SC, 7-5; 145-Garrison, WH, dec. Luciano, A, 7-3; Reese, CM, pinned Walls, H, :41.
152-Baney, BEA, pinned Owens, SC, 1:17; Hess, MC, pinned Cable, B, :35; 160-Phillips, B, pinned Cramer, WH, 1:28; Wolk, H, dec. Coakley, BEA, 5-2; 170-Martinez, SC, dec. Bilofsky, H, 7-0; Barron, WH, dec. Buckrop, A, 3-1; 182-Lumadue, PO, pinned Alvarez, SC, 2:40; Peachey, MC, pinned Cain, B, :45; 195-Simon, J, dec. Barnes, A, 5-3; Stacey, CM, dec. Anstine, PO, 6-3; 220-Porter, CM, dec. Butcher, J, 2-1; Gray, PO, dec. Sinclair, 4-3 OT TB3; 285-Rosenberry, A, dec. Mitchell, J, 3-2 OT TB3; Stover, CM, pinned Dombroski, PO, 1:24.
106-Huff, H, dec. C. Thompson, PO, 5-4; Kauffman, SC, dec. Underhill, MC, 7-0; 113-Zipf, WH, dec. Descavish, PO, 3-2; Sills, SC, maj. dec. Noll, BEA, 14-1; 120-Hanley, CM, dec. Horner, SC, 1-0; Evans, PO, dec. Pearce, MC, 9-3; 126-Besch, MC, dec. Musser, B, 7-1; Shively, PO, dec. McCaslin, BEA, 8-2; 132-Caprio, CM, dec. Holden, SC, 3-2; Fisher, B, maj. dec. Bender, MC, 8-0; 138-Dillon, BEA, maj. dec. Bair, MC, 11-0; Greenawalt, PO, pinned Pennington, A, 1:23; 145-Leeth, J, dec. Garrison, WH, 6-0; Knarr, MC, dec. Reese, CM, 7-5 OT.
152-Lesniak, A, dec. Baney, BEA, 5-4; Smith, PO, pinned Hess, MC, :53; 160-Knode, A, dec. Phillips, B, 4-0; J. Thompson, PO, pinned Wolk, H, 2:05; 170-Prentice, PO, dec. Martinez, SC, 6-2; Lowber, MC, dec. Barron, WH, 8-2; 182-Buckwalter, CM, pinned Lumadue, PO, 1:33; Grieb, BEA, pinned Peachey, MC, 2:50; 195-Simon, J, dec. Kowalewski, WH, 7-6; Haffner, SC, pinned Stacey, CM, 3:58; 220-Porter, CM, dec. Shovestull, WH, 10-3; Gray, PO, dec, Milardo, H, 4-1; 285-Rosenberry, A, dec. Kahley, MC, 3-2 OT TB3; Barton, H, pinned Stover, CM, 2:46.
106-C. Thompson, PO, dec. Underhill, MC, 4-1; 113-Descavish, PO, maj. dec. Noll, BEA, 8-0; 120-Horner, SC, dec. Pearce, MC, 5-1; 126-McCaslin, BEA, dec. Musser, B, 5-0; 132-Holden, SC, dec. Bender, MC, 5-2 OT; 138-Bair, MC, tech. fall Pennington, A, 19-4, 4:26; 145-Reese, CM, pinned Garrison, WH, 1:45.
152-Hess, MC, pinned Baney, BEA, 1:46; 160-Phillips, B, won by injury default over Wolk, H; 170- Martinez, SC, won by injury default over Barron, WH; 182-Lumadue, PO, dec. Peachey, MC, 5-4; 195-Kowalewski, WH, dec. Stacey, CM, 2-1; 220-Shovestull, WH, pinned Milardo, H, 3:31; 285-Stover, CM, dec. Kahley, MC, 1-0.
106-Kauffman, SC, dec. Huff, H, 4-2; 113-Sills, SC, pinned Zipf, WH, 2:36; 120-Hanley, CM, pinned Evans, PO, 1:50; 126-Besch, MC, dec. Shively, PO, 4-0; 132-Fisher, B, dec. Caprio, CM, 6-0; 138-Dillon, BEA, dec. Greenawalt, PO, 2-1; 145-Leeth, J, dec. Knarr, MC, 6-1.
152-Lesniak, A, dec, Smith, PO, 6-4; 160-J. Thompson, PO, dec. Knode, A, 4-2 OT; 170-Lowber, MC, dec. Prentice, PO, 6-2; 182-Grieb, BEA, dec. Buckwalter, CM, 3-1; 195-Simon, J, dec. Haffner, SC, 6-4; 220-Porter, CM, dec. Gray, PO, 7-1; 285--Barton, H, dec. Rosenberry, A, 6-2.
106-Blackburn, WH, dec. Giedroc, BEA, 6-1 OT; 113-Corl, B, dec. Bottorf, CM, 7-2; 120-Traxler, B, dec. Hollingshead, A, 4-1; 126-Brandt, A, pinned Bechdel, CM, 1:30; 132-Harris, J, dec. Walsh, WH, 5-2; 138-Miller, CM, dec. Helsel, WH, 3-0; 145-Wortman, B, dec. Walstrom, PO, 3-1.
152-Gavlock, CM, maj. dec. Patton, WH, 14-0; 160-Brill, CM, pinned Michael, MC, :30; 170-Taylor, BEA, dec. Powers, CM, 5-1; 182-Burnheimer, WH, dec. Miller, H, 5-1; 195-Shawley, B, dec. Varner, BEA, 6-2; 220-Searer, MC, dec. Sharkey, BEA, 3-0; 285-Duplin, WH, dec. Poorman, B, 2-1.
Outstanding Wrestler: Nick Shawley, Bellefonte. Coach of the Year: Doug Buckwalter, Central Mountain.