HERSHEY - Altoona's D.J. Hollingshead's goal coming into the PIAA Class AAA Championships was to place in the top three at 152 pounds.
It was a pretty lofty goal, but he's a win away in his next two bouts of reaching that goal, and the junior assured himself of placing at least sixth.
Hollingshead defeated Latrobe's Jake Shaffer, 3-0, in their quarterfinal bout on Friday afternoon at the Giant Center to reach today's 9 a.m. semifinals, where he'll face Cumberland Valley's T.C. Warner, the two-time state runner-up who is ranked third in the nation by Intermat.
Photo for the Mirror by Tami Knopsnyder
Altoona’s D.J. Hollingshead beats Latrobe’s Jake Shaffer to reach the 152-pound semifinals.
"I feel like a lot of the pressure is off," Hollingshead said. "Being in the semis, I automatically know I'm in the top six. Of course I don't want anything less than being a state champion, but at least in the top six. If I beat this next kid, I'm in the finals, and I don't have to worry about that top three finish."
"He deserves it," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "He wrestles all year-round. He works very hard in the room and in the classroom. He's a great kid, and he definitely deserves to be in the semifinals."
Altoona 106-pounder Cole Manley and Philipsburg-Osceola 113-pounder Chris Thompson came up a win shy of making the medal round.
Thompson (30-9) was pinned by Owen J. Roberts' Derek Gulotta in 3:47 in his quarterfinal, and to make matters worse, he tore chest muscles in the first period, and he forfeited his consy bout to Upper Perkiomen's Dustin Steffinino.
P-O coach Tim McCamley said the injury occurred when Gulotta brought Thompson down to the mat for a takedown in the first period. Gulotta pinned Thompson, who sat out last year's postseason after having knee surgery, with a low-leg cradle in 3:47.
"He came down with his arms to his side and all the weight on his chest," McCamley said. "Everything in his upper chest is ripped up pretty good. He can't even take a deep breath. He can't even get his shirt on. He has no strength at all in there."
"It's a tough way to end a career," McCamley added, his voice choking up. "[Injuries are] the story of his life. If he could have wrestled, you know he would have been there. It's a heartbreaker. He was sitting where he wanted to be. Any other injury in the leg or arm, it would be 'Tape me up and [let's] go.' You really can't do anything when everything generates from the chest."
Manley, the undersized freshman star for the Mountain Lions, was beaten by Council Rock South's Riley Palmer, 8-0, in the second round of consolations. Palmer took Manley down to his back for five points in the third period, and Manley wasn't able to hit a big move like he did in his first consy bout Thursday.
"I'll be honest, it's something that he's had problems with in the postseason a little bit," Gilbert said. "It takes him some time to get started, and that's something that we need to work on. It's tough to come back from those types of big moves down here. You've got to be ready to go right from the beginning."
Manley, a District 6 champion, finished his first season at the high school level with a 31-8 record.
"I think it was a great experience for the young man. I think he learned a lot of what it takes to be down here," Gilbert said. "He learned a lot about what the competition is like, and next year, I think you'll see a new and improved kid. I think it was a great season for a freshman."
Hollingshead was taken down in his first bout Thursday, but he was aggressive from the start on Friday, taking Shaffer down in the first period. He rode Shaffer the rest of the period, and he rode him hard in the second with a bar-arm.
"I knew that was going to be the big deciding factor," Hollingshead said of the takedown. "Get it early, stay on top, break his spirit. I came at him from the beginning. Last time, I didn't come at him until the end."
"We were talking about being a little more aggressive out there," Gilbert said. "We got taken down right away yesterday, felt we lacked a little bit of focus when we came out of the chute, but I think he really wanted it. He ended the first two periods in the top position, which is a formula for winning. He rode the kid so well I think he was tired."
Hollingshead escaped to start the third, and Shaffer had to take an injury timeout a little later. When action resumed, Hollingshead was never in danger, and the when the final buzzer sounded, he clapped his hands in celebration.
Now, Hollingshead (36-2) gets a chance at Warner, the Old Dominion recruit who has been frustrated with two state finals losses. Warner (43-2) is very aggressive, and he's a pinner, pinning his first two opponents here to push his season total to 32.
"I think I have a style that contradicts his style," Hollingshead said. "A lot of guys go out there fearing him. I don't care who it is. I'm just going to go out there and do my stuff. I'm going to try and dominate him."
"I don't know if it's a contradiction style," Gilbert said. "I know T.C. Warner works well off of shots. He's real good on top. He's pretty good in every position. We've got to see if we can finish our shots on Warner because he's that good in those positions. If we can't finish our shots, we're going to have a tough time. But if we can, I think it's going to be a real great match to watch."
Notes: Two rounds of consolations will follow the semis today. The medals bouts are at 7 p.m. ... The finals will be carried live by PCN. ... Three-time champs Chance Marsteller of Kennard-Dale and Thomas Haines of Solanco continued to roll. Marsteller had a 19-3 technical fall, and Haines had a 9-1 major decision. ... Franklin Regional leads Parkland by 13 points, 42-29, in the team standings.