HERSHEY - By the end of his career at Altoona, D.J. Hollingshead will likely own the school win record set by former teammate T.J. Brandt last year.
He also might own a gold medal, which he had his eye on over the course of three days at the PIAA Class AAA Championships. He fell a little short of reaching that goal, but the fourth-place medal that was hanging around his neck Saturday night at the Giant Center felt a lot better than 0-2 record of last season.
"I'm disappointed in fourth. I wanted third so bad," he said, "but I'm still happy to come down here and place in the top four. A disappointing top four, but top four at least."
Hollingshead (37-4) dropped a 5-3 decision to Bethel Park junior Paul Dunn in the third-place bout. The fourth-place finish is the best for an Altoona wrestler since Scott Wible took fourth at 160 in 2000, and it's the fourth time a Mountain Lion has placed fourth.
"He wrestled his heart out down here," Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. "To place fourth in the PIAA Tournament is a great accomplishment. I'm real proud of him."
There were a total off 11 placewinners, including Hollingshead as the only one in Class AAA, and eight of them are underclassmen.
While Gabriel led the Class AA placers with a runner-up finish, Huntingdon freshman Jacob Oliver (145) and Cambria Heights senior Aaron Gill finished fourth. Central Cambria freshman Max Murin (106) and Huntingdon sophomore Collin Glorioso (113) placed fifth, which is his second medal after taking third at 106 last season.
Chestnut Ridge sophomore Aaron Burkett (106), Heights junior Levi Niebauer (160) and Everett junior Devin Reed (285) finished sixth.
Bedford seniors Ryan Easter (132) and Garrett Thomas (138) placed seventh and eight, respectively. Easter is the first Bedford wrestler to place four times at the PIAA Championships, including second last season, and he finished off his career with a takedown of Pen Argyl's Andrew Sutton with 11 seconds left in overtime to win, 3-1.
"I'm glad I just finished it in overtime," Easter said. "I didn't want to wrestle anymore. I'm mentally drained this week. It's a long week. [Seventh] is not want I wanted coming in, but you can't be mad with a state medal."
Hollingshead and Dunn, meanwhile, went through a scoreless first period, bur Dunn reversed in the second, caught Hollingshead in a bar-arm and turned him for three nearfall points and a 5-0 lead.
"He caught me in a chicken wing-and-a-half, and it was tight," Hollingshead said with a chuckle. "I think I hurt something in my shoulder on the side he put the chicken wing in, and I already had a back problem coming into states. There was no point in telling anyone. I didn't need any sympathy. I have a lower back problem I've been getting worked on for about the last three weeks."
"We knew the kid was very good in the top position," Gilbert said. "We ended up getting a little high and getting reversed, and the kid did what he wanted to do out there. We kind of didn't defend it in time, and we got caught in the position he wanted to get us in."
Hollingshead made a comeback in the third, nailing a takedown in the first 20 seconds of the period and riding hard the rest of the way. So hard, in fact, Dunn gave up a stalling point with 9 seconds left. Hollingshead was still trying to turn him when the buzzer sounded.
"I had to go for it then," Hollingshead said. "I was down 5-0, and if I didn't get some big points, I wasn't going to win."
For the second year in a row, an area coach has been named honored for his coaching. Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut was named PIAA Class AA Coach of the Year, which comes a year after Ridge coach Greg Lazor took home the same honor.
"I found out about that about 5 minutes before I got the award," Mykut said. "That's a very humbling honor, and it's not only a credit to our coaches that are currently with me, but also the ones that worked with me in the past. It's a tremendous honor for our program. I think it says a lot about our program."
Mykut's rookie phenom, Oliver (41-5), has impressed everybody with his skill, power and quickness, but he ran into a wrestler with more of those things Saturday in Brookville senior Zach Vroman, who earned an 8-4 win in the third-place bout.
After a scoreless first period, Vroman escaped and caught Oliver in a shot and pancaked him to his back for four points and a 5-0 lead. In the third, Oliver escaped and took Vroman down to climb to within two. Oliver released him, but Vroman countered a shot and notched a takedown. Oliver escaped and was shooting when the final buzzer sounded.
"I did my best," Oliver said. "Stuff happens. I've never wrestled [Vroman] before. He's real strong. I would like to do better, but I know I have a chance next year to win it all."
"The size matchup was a problem for us in that match," Mykut said. "Vroman is a big, physical kid and we just weren't able to handle his head-hands defense on our feet. But I don't care who the kid is, Jake isn't backing down. He went after it, and he just made one mistake, and that was the match. Jake had a great season as a freshman, and to get on the podium at a high weight class like 145 is a great accomplishment for him."
Gill (35-5), who had come all the way back from an opening-round loss, ran into a buzzsaw in Burrell's Allan Beattie, who won, 7-1. Beattie took him down to his back in the first period, rode the entire second and added an escape and takedown in the third.
"That was Beattie's match there," Heights coach Mike Eckenrode said. "Gill wrestled a heck of a tournament. That's awesome for Gill to place fourth, and there's no shame in losing to Beattie. He's a tough competitor."
Murin, who suffered his first two losses on Friday, amassed a 5-2 score on Burkett before tying Burkett's arms up from the top position, forced him to his back and got the fall in 4:32. Murin finished up at 38-2, while Burkett ended up 38-8. Both were semifinalists.
"I wrestled good against Aaron. He's a tough opponent," Murin said. "I think that was the best match I've wrestled down here. I thought I had a good season, but I wish I had a better state tournament, though."
"He wrestled great today. That's the Max that everybody knows," Nikolishen said. "Max recovered very well. We're very happy about that."
Glorioso (40-4), whose two losses were to Bethlehem Catholic champion Luke Karam in the first round and Brookville third-placer Taylor Ortz in the consolation semis, took fifth with a 6-2 win over Burgettstown's regional runner-up Austin McDermitt, 6-2.
"It feels really good that I came out and finished on a high note," Glorioso said.
Notes: Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller (170) and Solanco's Thomas Haines (285) won their fourth state Class AAA titles. Marsteller was voted AAA Outstanding Wrestler, while Kittanning three-time champ Jason Nolf was the the Class AA OW. ... Franklin Regional (AAA) and Bethlehem Catholic (AA) breezed to team titles. ... Cumberland Valley's two-time runner-up T.C. Warner (152) won his first title.