Teams deal with new schedule in District 6 wrestling tourney

Because the number of teams in the District 6 Class AAA Tournament field has dwindled to nine in recent years – and will fall to eight next year when Johnstown drops down to Class AA – it’s become a one-day tournament.

It was a one day event in 2010 because the first day was postponed because of weather. Some wrestling followers have been saying the tournament for some time that it should be one day.

When the question was posed to the local coaches about whether they like the new format, their responses were 2-1 in favor of the old schedule.

“It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not going to make that much of a difference,” Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore said. “There’s pluses to it. The kids only have to weigh in one time as opposed to two times over the course of two days, so I think that will benefit the kids. You might see some better wrestling in the finals Saturday night.”

“I’m a traditionalist. I like a two-day tournament,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Tim McCamley said, “but I understand why they’re doing it. It’s one weigh-in, though, and that could cause problems for some of the kids.”

“I don’t like it, not one bit,” Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. “I think it’s bad for the kids. If you lose a semifinal match, you’re hitting a wrestleback right away. I’d like to see us stay with two days.”

The tournament begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with a short preliminary round at the AAHS Fieldhouse. In fact, because of lack of numbers and scratches, there were no preliminary bouts last season As of right now, there are only five scheduled preliminary bouts.

The quarterfinals are set for 9:30, and the second round of consolations are at 11:30. The semifinals and third round of consys are at noon, and the consy semifinals are set for 2:30. The consy finals are 5:45, and the championship finals will follow at around 7 after the District 6 Hall of Fame ceremony. The top four qualify for the Northwest Regional Tournament next week.

Hollidaysburg’s Damian Huff (113) and Altoona’s D.J. Hollingshead (152) are returning champions and are favorites to be standing atop the medals stand again.

Huff (15-6), who has lofty goals for the postseason, will likely have a semifinal bout against Mifflin County’s Noah Myers. P-O’s third-seeded Chris Thompson, who missed last year’s tournament with a knee injury, and Bellefonte’s second-seeded Luke Leathers are on the other side.

Hollingshead (27-2), a two-time district finalist who breezed to the 132-pound title last year, has made a considerable jump in weight, but not more than Mifflin County’s second-seeded Noah Stewart (28-6), who was the 126-pound champ last year.

“I think he’s taking it one match at a time,” Gilbert said, “but he wants to do really well this year. He believes it’s going to catapult him into people looking at him collegiately. We’ve just got to be sure that he’s ready to go mentally and physically. We definitely expect a lot out of him, and I think he will produce.”

Altoona freshman 106-pounder Cole Manley (23-5) is also a top seed, and he has a bye into the semifinals. P-O’s third-seeded Bryce Bennett (25-4) and Bellefonte’s Aaron Witherite (21-6) are on the other side of Manley, who is a two-time PJW state champ and is used to the pressure of tournaments.

“You don’t know until you get out there,” Gilbert said of possible jitters. “But, he’s wrestled in enough big places and big venues that I don’t believe this will be an issue.”

P-O has a No. 1 seed in Bub Lumadue, who took third last season, and second seeds in sophomore Dakota Weitiosh (132), Caleb Shively (145) and Nick Gray (220). Gray took third last season, while Shively was fourth. Looking to end a dryspell, P-O hasn’t had a district champion since Bo Reifer and Dimitri Sidorick won in 2008.

“I like their chances,” McCamley said of the No. 2 seeds. “Caleb has been wrestling really well lately. Weitoish has been good all year. He’s tough to score on, and he hasn’t wrestled the guy from Mifflin County, and I know how tough he is, but [Weitoish] has wrestled a really tough schedule.”

Hollidaysburg has a No. 2 seed in sophomore Noah Worley (170), who is seeded behind Central Mountain’s returning champ Gavin Caprio (28-5).

“He has a pretty good demeanor out there,” Moore said. “He gets after it, and I would expect him to go out there and compete.”

One day or not, the area teams are ready to start the postseason trail and see how many they can get to regionals.

“I’m interested in seeing how the young kids do,” McCamley said, “and I know the seniors have been ready all year. This has been what they’ve been shooting for, so we’ll see what happens.”

“We’re excited. The kids are excited,” Moore said. “This is what high school wrestling is all about at the end of the year. With the injuries that we’ve had this year, in terms of the dual meet season, we’re glad to get that in the books.”

“The postseason is the reason for the season,” Gilbert said. “That’s why we hit all the big tournaments. We want our kids getting used to wrestling those big matches.”