Altoona 106-pound freshman Cole Manley and 152-pound junior D.J. Hollingshead have been the bedrock of the Mountain Lions this season, and that was even more apparent on Saturday night in the District 6 Class AAA Tournament.
Both Manley and Hollingshead captured titles in convincing fashion at the AAHS Fieldhouse. Manley defeated Bellefonte's Aaron Witherite, 8-2, in the finals, and Hollingshead followed later with a 7-2 win over Mifflin County's Noah Stewart in a matchup of returning district champions.
"I'll tell you what, I thought they were very dominant out there," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "They kept on their opponents, and I believe they broke their opponents. I don't believe their opponents really had anything at the end of the match to come back and try to move to beat them. I was real happy with their performance."
Hollidaysburg senior Damian Huff also won his second title, but it was much tougher than he anticipated in a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Philipsburg-Osceola's Chris Thompson at 113 pounds.
P-O had another runner-up in 182-pound senior Bub Lumadue, who dropped a 9-2 decision to Mifflin County sophomore Trey Hartsock, 9-2.
P-O advanced 10 to the Northwest Regional, while Altoona moved four, and Hollidaysburg pushed three through. The top four place at every weight advanced.
The Mounties had five third-placers in Levi Hughes (126), Dakota Weitoish (132), Caleb Shively (145), Nick Patrick (160) and Nick Gray (220) and three fourth-placers in Bryce Bennett (106), Dallas Kephart (152) and Logan Day (285). Mason Pryde (195) placed fifth, but didn't qualify for regionals.
"We didn't have finalists. That's my big gripe for today," P-O coach Tim McCamley said. "We should have had more guys in the finals, and we didn't win in the finals. We've got to win the big one, and we're not doing that right now. I'm happy with the number of qualifiers, but you've got to get those guys in the finals."
P-O finished in fifth place in the team standing 144.5 points. Mifflin County won its second straight team title over Central Mountain, 216-202,
Manley, who reached the finals with a 5-1 win over Central Mountain's Geo Barzona, was tied, 2-2, with Witherite in the second period when he took Witherite down to his back for a four-point move.
Manley had to wait while Witherite used up about half of his 5 allotted minutes of blood time in the second period, but he rode the Red Raider out after action started. He added a takedown in the third period to set the final score.
"I thought it was going to be a tough match," Manley said, "and I had to work hard to win. I was just trying to get points on the board."
Manley was probably the smallest 106-pounder in the weight class, but that hasn't stopped him all year.
"He's definitely undersized out there when you look at him compared to the 106-pounders," Gilbert said, "but he doesn't wrestle like a normal 106-pounder. He's very physical, keeps great position and doesn't give up easy points."
In the a matchup of the top weight gainers in the district, Hollingshead, the 132-pound champ last season, took Stewart, the 126-pound champ in 2013, down in the first period to draw first blood.
Up 2-1 in the second, Hollingshead hit a single-leg shot, changed to a double and score a takedown for 4-1 lead with 12 seconds left in the second. Hollingshead escaped, took Stewart down in the third and gave up a late escape.
"I faced him earlier this season, he it was real close [3-2 win for Hollingshead]," Hollingshead said. "I came out ready to go tonight, and I thought I dominated the match pretty well."
Huff says he's been dealing with the pressure of being a returning champion lately. He found more pressure in the finals against Thompson, who led 4-2 in the third period before Huff rallied to win to become Hollidaysburg's first multi-title winner since Brian Shaw won his third in 2006.
"I've been putting too much pressure on myself, and I knew coming in not to do that," Huff said. "[Winning] was a lot tougher. I've wrestled Chris three times now, two in folkstyle, and I beat him pretty bad in freestyle, but I knew he was solid this year."
Thompson scored a takedown in the first period out of a furious flurry at the edge of the mat and was up 4-2 in the third after Huff released him. Huff took him down to tie the score and released him again. Huff headlocked a shooting Thompson later for a takedown and the lead. Huff was able to ride him the rest of the way. Afterward, Huff hugged coach Mike Moore in celebration.
"It took him a period-and-a-half to get things going," Moore said, "and once he got it going, he looked good. next week, we have to get going at the start of the bout. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. When he was down, I felt comfortable with him on his feet if he opened up and got things rolling."
For Thompson, it's the first time advancing to regionals after missing districts last season with a knee injury.
"He wrestled well," McCamley said. "I hope they see each other again because that's going to be an interesting matchup the way they wrestle. At least we're getting out of the district with Chris. He's been a hard-luck wrestler for two years now, and he broke a bursa sack in his knee tonight. We're keeping a close eye on that, but he'll be out there no matter what."
Lumadue, the top seed, couldn't solve the second-seeded Hartsock's top wrestling, and P-O's drought of no district champs since 2008 continued.
Hollidaysburg had three others advance to regionals in fourth-placers Mark Kociola (126), Dalton Long (132) and Noah Worley (170).
The Tigers also had two sixth-placers in Nathan Hagg (138) and Colton Walls (145).
"I was excited with how we wrestled," Moore said. "I didn't like how we finished off the day with our last round. That was a pretty tough round. We closed the gap a lot on some of the guys that we wrestled during the year."
Altoona had two other qualifiers in fourth-placers in Brinton Simington (160) and Nate Buckrop (195). Four other Mountain Lions finished sixth but didn't qualify in Jarrell Kephart (126), Kyler Bender (132), Michael Doucette (170) and Jacob Turner (220).
"I believe we pretty much followed our seeds for the most part," Gilbert said. "I'm real happy for our four guys that made it. Overall as a team, I believe wrestled tough and we wrestled well."
Notes: Altoona's Bill Reimer was honored with a plaque by the referees. The District 6 Tournament director has been recovering from having part of his left leg amputated following diabetes problems. ... Central Mountain's Doug Buckwalter was voted District 6 Coach of the Year for the ninth time, tying Bald Eagle-Nittany's Biff Walizer for second place all-time that category. ... Mifflin County's Hayden Hidlay (138) edged out Hollingshead for the Outstanding Wrestler award. Eight wrestlers got votes for OW.