Altoona duo shines

HERSHEY – One bit of history concerning the Altoona wrestling program was expected to be made by Altoona 138-pounder T.J. Brandt.

Teammate Austin Rosenberry’s part in another bit of history Friday afternoon at the Giant Center was not expected.

Not only did Brandt earn his first medal in four state appearances with a convincing 9-0 major decision of North Allegheny’s Jesse Rodgers in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA Championships, but the 285-pound Rosenberry also assured himself of at least eighth place with a 6-3 victory over Hempfield’s Joey Goodhart in the second round of consolations.

The last time two Altoona wrestlers have placed in the state tournament was in 1982, when two-time placer Ernie Bonsell and Mark Gensimore placed sixth at 155 and 119, respectively. It’s the third time it’s happened, with the first coming in 1974, when Steve Maurey won the 112-pound title and Dan Harpster took third at 132.

Brandt and Rosenberry earned the 18th and 19th state medals in school history.

“Two state placewinners at this tournament, you can’t ask for a better day.” Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. “I’m ecstatic.”

Brandt (31-3), assured of at least sixth place, came into the tournament with a 2-6 career record at Hershey, but he hasn’t allowed a point yet, outscoring his two opponents by a combined 13-0. In his Friday bout, Brandt broke open a scoreless bout in the second by tilting Rodgers twice for six nearfall points. Rodgers released him in the third, but Brandt took him down with 12 seconds left to get the major.

“He was dominating,” Gilbert said. “To win down here by major decision, especially in the quarterfinals of states, is above and beyond what we expected. He got his tilt series moving in the second period and started scoring some points. Once he got on a roll, he kept on a roll. I was real happy with his performance.”

“It feels great,” Brandt said. “I’m not satisfied right now. I need to win one more match, and I’ll be a little closer to being satisfied. There was 12 seconds left after I took him down, and I was happy. I knew I had it sealed up.”

Brandt has a bigger task at hand in the semifinals, which, along with the third round of consys, are scheduled for 9 a.m. He faces one of the pre-tournament favorites in Central Dauphin’s Tyson Dippery (46-2), who has outscored his opponents 24-0.

“I have a good kid,” Brandt said. “I just have to wrestle tough.”

Goodhart scored the opening takedown, but Rosenberry (28-6) escaped and headlocked Goodhart (36-5) for a takedown. Goodhart’s shoulders were out of bounds, so there no back points given. Rosenberry was leading 4-3 in the third when he fought off a Goodhart takedown attempt. With 15 seconds left, he slipped behind Goodhart for a takedown, and the Altoona coaches and fans began celebrating.

“I feel pretty good,” Rosenberry said. “If it wasn’t for the coaches and my teammates, I wouldn’t have made it here. I just came in not too confident, not expecting anything. I just came here because I made it here. I hit him with the headlock, threw him to his back, got some points and I felt I could pull out a victory after that.”

“He wrestled tough,” Gilbert said. “He went out and was physical, beat on the kid’s head. That’s what you have to do down here. He had a beautiful headlock. Too bad it wasn’t in the center of the mat. We might have gotten a few more back points or gotten a fall out of the deal. He’s very strong. He’s an athletic kid, has great balance, and it worked for him today.”

A third-place finisher in both the District 6 Tournament and the Northwest Regional, Rosenberry wasn’t really expected to place in Hershey.

“A lot of people didn’t expect me to be here,” said Rosenberry, who faces Methacton’s Tracey Green (37-4) in the third round of consys. “I’m here surprising a lot of people, so let’s keep it going.”

“Heavyweight is one of those weight classes where you just never know,” Gilbert said. “We told him ‘You just have to go out and wrestle. Everybody is good. Just continue to wrestle hard.’ He believed in what we talked about, and when you buy in sometimes, things work out for you. I’m real happy with his performance.”