By John Hartsock
D.J. Hollingshead and Damian Huff have already both gotten their feet wet at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling tournament.
This weekend, they both want to take the full plunge.
Hollingshead, Altoona's standout junior 152-pounder, and Huff, Hollidaysburg's outstanding 113-pound senior, will both be making their second appearances at Class AAA states in this year's tournament, which runs from Thursday through Saturday at Hershey's Giant Center.
Both were 0-2 there in their first appearances - Hollingshead at 132 pounds last season as a junior and Huff at 106 two years ago as a sophomore - but both figure to benefit from the experience.
PIAA Class AAA wrestling tourney
When: Thursday through Saturday
Where: Hershey's Giant Center
Area qualifiers: Altoona's D.J. Hollingshead (152 pounds) and Cole Manley (106), Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff (113), and Philipsburg-Osceola's Scott Thompson (113) and Bub Lumadue (182)
At stake: The top eight finishers in each weight class earn placewinner's medals.
"I'll have the advantage over some other kids who are going there for the first time,'' Huff (21-7 this season) said. "I don't think nerves will get to me. I'm a senior, and I'm all juiced up, and ready to put on the best performance of my life.''
So is Hollingshead, who has won District 6-AAA and Northwest AAA Regional championships at 152 pounds this postseason.
"I've been down there once before, and I know what to do now,'' Hollingshead said of the Hershey experience. "I just want to go down there, and be dominant.''
Hollingshead and Huff will be among a contingent of five area wrestlers at this weekend's Class AAA state tournament.
The other three - who will all be making their first state appearances - are Philipsburg-Osceola seniors Bub Lumadue (182 pounds) and Scott Thompson (113) - along with Altoona freshman C.J. Manley (106).
The top eight finishers in each weight class at states earn placewinner's medals, and both Hollingshead and Huff are candidates for high places on the medals podium.
"As long as he's healthy, I expect him to place,'' Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said of Hollingshead.
Hollingshead has been very healthy all season, moving up from 132 last year to a solid 152 this winter, and thrashing many of his opponents.
"I was definitely hoping to get my first regional title this season,'' said Hollingshead, who recorded his 100th career high school victory en route to his championship in last weekend's Northwest AAA Regional Tournament. "I've wrestled in big tournaments. I know what it takes. I'm prepared.''
So is Huff, according to Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore.
"I think he's certainly one of the top guys in the state, and he absolutely should be on the medals stand this weekend,'' Moore said of Huff, a district champ and regional runner-up this year.
While Huff will be wrapping up his high school career this weekend, Manley is just beginning his career. Being a 30-match winner and state qualifier as a freshman is a very good start to it.
"Being a freshman, I have nothing to lose at states,'' said Manley, a third-place regional finisher and district champ. "I'm going down there for one reason - to go for a medal. If I fall short, I'll just get ready for next year.''
There will be no high school next year for P-O seniors Lumadue and Thompson, who plan to leave everything on the mat this weekend.
"I just want to go out and wrestle hard like every match is going to be my last match,'' said Thompson, who finished second to Huff at districts and third in the region. "You can beat anybody if you put your mind to it.''
Lumadue, who was second at his 182-pound weight classes in both the district and regional meets, thinks that keeping up a good pace will be important.
"If I just keep up the intensity, I think I should be all right,'' he said.