Huff, Barton good bets to win regional

Hollidaysburg hasn’t had that many Northwest Regional Class AAA Tournament champions in its wrestling history, but the Golden Tigers could make some history this weekend.

The last Hollidaysburg wrestler to win a title was Brian Shaw, who claimed titles in 2005 and 2006 at 171 pounds. And the Tigers haven’t had two of their guys win in the same year since Larry Pleshko and Dan Fetzer won at 126 and 138, respectively, in 1976.

But as I scanned 106 and 285 in making my regional picks, it looks like Damian Huff and Matt Barton have good shots to win if they continue to wrestle as well as they did in the District 6 Tournament. They’ll face big challenges even before they get to the finals, but it says here they should win.

Huff, who placed third last year, will get his first stiff test in the semifinals against DuBois freshman Shae Bloom. Huff dropped an overtime tiebreaker decision to Bloom in the dual meet, but it was Huff’s first bout down to the weight, and he’s had time to get used to 106, so I’m giving the edge to the Tiger.

Once he’s past Bloom, Huff will likely face General McLane’s once-beaten Joe Wheeling in the finals. Wheeling was stopped in last year’s consolation semis in overtime by Bald Eagle Area’s Travis Giedroc, whom Huff beat in OT to reach the state tournament.

Barton’s first test will come in his first bout as he’ll likely face McDowell’s Scot Augustine, who beat the Golden Tiger, 1-0, in the consolation finals last season. If Barton wrestles like he did against Bellefonte’s Garrett Poorman in the district finals, I think’ll find a way to avenge last year’s loss.

Barton then would probably get Central Tech’s Andrew Welton, the returning 220-pound runner-up, in the semifinals. A win there probably sets him up for a rematch with Poorman. I’m not counting out Altoona’s Austin Rosenberry in Poorman’s bracket. Rosenberry took Barton to the tiebreaker in the semifinals last week before falling.

It will be a tough road for Barton, but I think he can do it.

I also think Altoona’s T.J. Brandt can repeat as a regional champion. The best shot at stopping Brandt’s search and destroy mission through the postseason appears to be McDowell’s Shawn Spearman, who has seven losses, but a few of those were injury defaults during a tournament. Brandt’s injured ankle didn’t seem to affect him as he won his fourth district title, so I’m picking him again.

His practice partner, D.J. Hollingshead, should reach the 132-pound finals, but there he’ll likely find Clearfield’s Christian Stone, who beat him, 6-2, in the consolation semifinals of the rugged 120-pound class last year. Hollingshead is capable of winning, but I’m giving the edge to the more experienced Stone.

Three others area wrestlers – Altoona’s Markief Knode (160) and Mante Barnes (195) and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Nick Gray (220) – have outside shots at making the finals, but, they have better shots at making Hershey in the consolations.

The team race will be fierce, with General McLane, McDowell, DuBois and Mifflin County battling it out, but McLane will likely pull out a team title.

Should be an interesting regional, and the Altoona Fieldhouse should be filled after a lackluster district tournament. By the way, thanks from press row to the Altoona School District for the wireless internet, which will be in use for the third week in a row.

I’ll be in Johnstown for the Southwest Regional, but I’ll be following the results at the Fieldhouse. Here’s the rest of my picks:

106 POUNDS: Finalists: Damian Huff, Hollidaysburg vs. Joe Wheeling, General McLane. Champion: Huff. Comment: Bellefonte’s Leathers, BEA’s Bainey and Williamsport’s Cooley could stop Wheeling on his march.

113 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Gromacki, Cathedral Prep vs. Hayden Hidlay, Mifflin County. Champion: Hidlay. Comment: I lost count of how many people told me during districts I totally screwed up in not picking Hidlay to win. Better late than never right?

120 POUNDS: Finalists: Joel Bowers, Punxsutawney vs. Trevor Corl, Bellefonte. Champion: Bowers. Comment: Mifflin County’s Underhill could pull off upset of Bowers in quarterfinals.

126 POUNDS: Finalists: D.J. Fehlman, Warren vs. Kaleb Young, Punxsutawney. Champion: Fehlman. Comment: Tough first-round matchup between Young and Central Mountain’s Hanley.

132 POUNDS: Finalists: D.J. Hollingshead, Altoona vs. Christian Stone, Clearfield. Champion: Stone. Comment: If this is right, McDowell’s Gibson is going to hate Altoona wrestlers.

138 POUNDS: Finalists: T.J. Brandt, Altoona vs. Shawn Spearman, McDowell. Champion: Brandt. Comment: Look out for the City League’s Disilvio on Spearman’s side. He was a regional runner-up last year.

145 POUNDS: Finalists: Cody Nolan, McDowell vs. Nolan Barger, Clearfield. Champion: Barger. Comment: McDowell’s Nolan will face key battle in semis against Mifflin County’s Wilson.

152 POUNDS: Finalists: Mike Sutton, General McLane vs. Dan Krysiak, Cathedral Prep. Champion: Sutton. Comment: I was tempted to pick Central Mountain’s Reese to make it out of Krysiak’s side.

160 POUNDS: Finalists: Ehrin Lee, Titusville vs. Tyree Spearman, McDowell. Champion: Spearman. Comment: Lee beat Central Mountain’s Caprio earlier in the season. They’ll meet in quarters.

170 POUNDS: Finalists: Nick Shawley, Bellefonte vs. Tom Sleigh, DuBois. Champion: Shawley. Comment: Sleigh has two first-round matchup with Central Mountain’s Stacey. P-O’s Prentice could get winner.

182 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Taylor, Bald Eagle Area vs. Blaze Buckwalter, Central Mountain. Champion: Taylor. Comment: Buckwalter beat District 10 champ Laird this season.

195 POUNDS: Finalists: Landon Hanna, DuBois vs. Aaron Varner, Bald Eagle Area. Champion: Hanna. Comment: Hanna beat Bellefonte’s Shawley in last year’s 195-pound finals.

220 POUNDS: Finalists: Nathan Sharkey, Bald Eagle Area vs. Cameron Porter, Central Mountain. Champion: Sharkey. Comment: P-O’s Gray and Porter could wrestle in semifinals.

285 POUNDS: Finalists: Garrett Poorman, Bellefonte vs. Matt Barton, Hollidaysburg. Champion: Barton. Comment: Wonder what Barton’s celebration will be like if he wins this week. Look out Mike Moore.

TEAM CHAMPION: General McLane. Comment: Team title looks like it’s up for grabs between McLane, McDowell, DuBois and Mifflin County. Giving the edge to McLane.

LAST WEEK’S DISTRICT 6 AAA RECORD: 23 out of 30 correct situations. LAST WEEK’S DISTRICT 5 RECORD: 19 out of 30 correct situations. OVERALL RECORD: 59 out of 90 correct situations.

Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.