He's been at weight classes at the Northwest Regional Class AAA Tournament that have been loaded with favorites to win the weight, and now Altoona's D.J. Hollingshead is the favorite.
Hollingshead didn't get out of the regional his freshman year at 120, which included Bradshear's eventual state champion Godwin Nyama, District 6 champ Tom Traxler and Clearfield veteran star Christian Stone. His only loss at regionals last year was to McDowell's returning runner-up Nick Gibson, 8-3.
With the tournament beginning today, Hollingshead appears to be the guy to beat at 152. Oh, it won't be easy. General McLane's Mike Sutton, the defending regional champ at the weight who took second in District 10 to McDowell's Ryan Dailey, is in Hollingshead's bracket, and Mifflin County's Noah Stewart, whom Hollingshead beat to win his second District 6 title, is in the other bracket with Dailey.
In making the regional picks, it looks like Hollingshead should win the title in a rematch with Stewart. He was dominant in the district finals, and he'll be looking to continue that momentum this week.
Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff should also make the finals after finishing third as a sophomore and fourth last season at 106, falling a win short of making the state tournament. The top half at 113 appears to be Huff's, while the bottom half belongs to General McLane's returning 106-pound champion Jon Wheeling.
Huff, feeling pressure to win his second title, showed how much he wanted to win districts by rallying against Philipsburg-Osceola's Chris Thompson in the third period in the finals. Maybe as an underdog Huff won't feel as much pressure, but I'm picking Wheeling over Huff in the finals.
Altoona freshman 106-pounder Cole Manley is coming off a convincing win in the district finals, and he could very well make the regionals finals, but the pick here is the District 10 finalists, McDowell's Charlie Lenox and Strong Vincent's Carmine Ciotti to wrestle in a rematch. Manley will get his shot at Ciotti in the second round, so if he beats him, he has a good shot at making the finals.
Thompson and P-O teammates Bub Lumadue and Nick Gray have chances to make the finals, but we'll have to see if they can. In Gray's case, Mifflin County's Kyle Kahley, who beat him in the ultimate tiebreaker at districts, and Shiekellamy's Dwayne Pepper is in his bracket. If Gray solve Kahley from the neutral position, he could make the finals.
The pick here, though, is Central Mountain's Cameron Porter over Kahley.
As far as the team title is concerned, it should come down to McDowell, District 6 champion Mifflin County and Central Mountain, with the edge going to McDowell.
Here's the rest of the picks:
106 POUNDS: Finalists: Charlie Lenox, McDowell vs. Carmine Ciotti, Strong Vincent. Champion: Lenox. Comment: Altoona's Cole Manley will have to get by Ciotti, who lost to returning state qualifier Lenox in OT in district finals.
113 POUNDS: Finalists: Damian Huff, Hollidaysburg vs. Joe Wheeling, General McLane. Champion: Wheeling. Comment: P-O's Chris Thompson, whose knee held up at districts, could give Wheeling a tough semifinal bout.
120 POUNDS: Finalists: Brock Port, Bellefonte vs. Jake Gromacki, Cathedral Prep. Champion: Gromacki. Comment: Port gets a big challenge from Williamsport's unbeaten Cooley before he tangles with returning regional champ Gromacki.
126 POUNDS: Finalists: D.J. Fehlman, Warren vs. Shae Bloom, DuBois. Champion: Fehlman. Comment: Both are returning runners-up, and Bloom was at 106 last year, but I'm giving the edge to Fehlman.
132 POUNDS: Finalists: Joel Bowers, Punxsutawney vs. Trevor Corl, Bellefonte. Champion: Corl. Comment: Corl finished second at 120 last year, while Bowers was third at the weight.
138 POUNDS: Finalists: Kaleb Young, Punxsutawney vs. Hayden Hidlay, Mifflin County. Champion: Young. Comment: The flip of the coin came up heads. Seriously, how are these guys only sophomores?
145 POUNDS: Finalists: Alex Hargenrader, Oil City vs. Deane Twitchell, General McLane. Champion: Twitchell. Comment: P-O's Caleb Shively could provide an upset on Twitchell's side if he's on his game.
152 POUNDS: Finalists: Noah Stewart, Mifflin County vs. D.J. Hollingshead, Altoona. Champion: Hollingshead. Comment: Both guys are going to go through District 10 foes, including General McLane's returning regional champ Mike Sutton on Hollingshead's side.
160 POUNDS: Finalists: Ehrin Lee, Titusville vs. Chad Reese, Central Mountain. Champion: Lee. Comment: Mifflin County's Wilson is still recovering from an injury, but he could provide surprise.
170 POUNDS: Finalists: Gavin Caprio, Central Mountain vs. Trent Zdarko, Oil City. Champion: Caprio. Comment: There's a few guys on Zdarko's side who could slip through the bracket into the finals.
182 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyree Spearman, McDowell vs. Mike Hughes, Cathedral Prep. Champion: Spearman. Comment: P-O's Bub Lumadue could face Hughes in semifinals.
195 POUNDS: Finalists: Tom Sleigh, DuBois vs. Chris Laird, General McLane. Champion: Sleigh. Comment: Top-ranked Sleigh warms up for next weekend's state tournament, where he finished third last year.
220 POUNDS: Finalists: Cameron Porter, Central Mountain vs. Kyle Kahley, Mifflin County. Champion: Porter. Comment: If P-O's Nick Gray can win his first one against Shik's Pepper and then avenge loss to Kahley, he'll make the finals.
285 POUNDS: Finalists: Scot Augustine, McDowell vs. Jake Verchick, Clearfield. Champion: Augustine. Comment: Verchick is a smaller athletic heavyweight who could give people problems this weekend.
TEAM CHAMPION: McDowell. Comment: Mifflin County and Central Mountain will certainly push McDowell for the title.
LAST WEEK'S DISTRICT 5 RECORD: 24 out of 30 correct situations. LAST WEEK'S DISTRICT 6 AAA RECORD: 21 out of 30 correct situations. OVERALL RECORD: 60 out of 90 correct situations.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.