Wrestlers hope to build on season at D6 tourney
By Todd Irwin
Think of the wrestling season as a resume. Wrestlers and coaches are working hard, winning, sweating, bleeding, overcoming injuries and, yes, losing in dual meets and tournaments to build those resumes so they’re good enough and in prime position for the postseason.
Now, that job they’ve gotten is ahead of them.
They start working in the postseason in the District 6 Tournament this weekend. Some have an eye toward bigger and better things. For others, it will be the end of the season and their careers. For all, it’s another chance to build that resume.
“I know it’s cliche, but it’s the reason for the season,” Claysburg-Kimmel coach Dave Marko said. “You try to tell your guys all you did up to this point was to get your name in a bracket. It doesn’t matter where it is. Just put your name in a bracket because once you get to this weekend, all bets are off.
“I’ve seen guys who are 12th seeds and make the district finals, and I’ve seen guys who are No. 1 seeds come in and wonder what happened Friday night.”
The tournament begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Altoona Fieldhouse with the pigtail round. The second round will follow at 11:30 a.m., and the quarterfinals are set for 6 p.m. Three rounds of consolations will be wrestled the first day.
Wrestling resumes at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with the fourth round consolations. The semifinals are slated for noon. The third and fifth-place finals are set for 5:30 p.m., and, after a short District 6 Hall of Fame and coaching recognition ceremony, the championship finals will take place at about 6:45.
Only the top four wrestlers at each weight qualify for the regional tournament.
Unlike in previous years, when there were four or five area district champions returning, there’s only one from the Mirror coverage area back in Moshannon Valley’s James Stodart (24-2). Stodart will be looking to make history this weekend as no Mo Valley wrestler has won two titles since Craig Waite won in 1988 and 1990.
The last Black Knight to win back-to-back titles was Ray Albright in 1984 and 1985.
“If he wrestles like he has been all year, I think he has a good chance to win,” Mo Valley coach Justin Fye said. “He’s been working hard. His offense is getting better. He’s getting better on bottom, and he’s getting better on top. I think if he keeps putting it together every match, I think he has a good chance of winning it.”
Who Stodart will face came into question Wednesday when Tyrone’s second-seeded D.J. Wunder (21-4), who was given medical clearance to wrestle on Tuesday, was declared academicaly ineligible. Penns Valley’s third-seeded Maverick Swartz (26-4) will move into the No. 2 slot.
And if any of Stodart’s teammates, most notably second-seeded returning runner-up Jake Ludwig, join him as a champion, it will be the first time the Black Knights have had multiple champs since having three in 1989. Ludwig (23-3), however, is the third seed, and lost earlier in the season to West Branch’s now banged-up second-seeded Buzzy Maines (29-2). Westmont Hilltop’s Don Shovestull (23-5) is the top seed. Juniata’s Pat Fitzgerald (24-7) is the fourth seed.
“Those top four guys are all pretty even at 220,” Fye said. “We’re comfortable where we’re at, and he’ll just go out and wrestle the best he can.”
The most decorated area wrestler in the tournament is C-K 113-pounder Josh Brown, who is looking for his first district title after two second-place finishes. Should the seeds hold true, the second-seeded Brown (21-5) will get a rematch with Ligonier Valley’s Justin Patrick (27-2), the top seed who beat the Bulldog in overtime, 8-6, in the 106-pound finals last season.
“That’s a deep weight, and there are a lot of good kids there,” Marko said. “We have to make sure we come in healthy and ready to go.”
Cambria Heights 132-pounder Cory Thomas (13-4) is another returning runner-up, but he heads into the tournament as a No. 9 seed, and he could face West Branch’s top-seeded J.P. Hayles (28-5) in the quarterfinals.
“I sort of like to come in as an underdog like Thomas,” Eckenrode said. “His record is kind of messed up just from the year he had. He’s probably going to have to wrestle No. 1, and that’s a hard spot to put No. 1 because Thomas is definitely better than his seed.”
Thomas’ teammate, Aaron Gill, joins Stodart as the only area top seeds. Gill (25-3) has certainly made a name for himself this season, and he’ll be aiming to add to his resume.
“I was really pleased with Gill’s seed,” Eckenrode said. “Gill has so much potential, and he doesn’t use it all. We’ll see what he does with it.”
Tyrone 120-pounder Jason Schopp (22-6) and Huntingdon freshman 106-pounder Collin Glorioso (28-3) – both No. 2 seeds – will also be looking to reach the finals. Ligonier Valley’s Josh Patrick (20-0), a two-time champ, is the top seed at 120, and Forest Hills’ Triston Law (23-3) is the top seed at 106.
“He’s been wrestling really well all year,” Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut said of Glorioso. “He’s been working hard in the practice room, so I like his chances. There’s good kids all over the place, so I’m sure he’ll be tested. I think he’s ready to go.”
Blairsville 152-pounder Andrew Doak (29-1) and 182-pounder Scott Thompson (8-0) are the other returning champions. They will certainly help the Bobcats score team points.
The team race appears to be wide open. West Branch won the District 6 Duals, but the Warriors, who have two top seeds in Hayles and 170-pounder Lucas Kristofits, are better in dual meets than tournaments. They will, however, be a favorite, along with defending champ Mount Union, Huntingdon, Penns Valley and possibly Blairsville.
“Obviously, you want to score as many points as a team that you can,” Mykut said, “but the bottom line is to get as many kids through to regionals and states as possible. So, it turns into an individual game.”