Irwin: Season filled with standout performances

Looking back on the 2013-14 season, it was quite a year – from Huntingdon winning its first District 6 Class AA Tournament title by 75.5 points to its coach, Jon Mykut, being named PIAA Class AA Coach of the Year to 11 area wrestlers capturing medals at the state tournament.

While area wrestlers came up short of winning a state title, there were other highlights to the season. Here’s some of them:

Postseason performance of the year: While it would be easy to pick all 11 medalists, the highest-placing guys – Bedford’s runner-up Jonathan Gabriel (113), Altoona’s Class AAA fourth-placer D.J. Hollingshead (152), Huntingdon’s fourth-placer Jacob Oliver (145) and Cambria Heights’ fourth-placer Aaron Gill (285)- get the nod here.

Gabriel won his second District 5 title and put last year’s disappoint Southwest Regional behind him by placing fourth. Then he went on a roll at states before losing to Bethlehem Catholic’s returning runner-up Luke Karam, 5-0.

Hollingshead won his second District 6 title, captured his first Northwest Regional crown, made the semifinals at states before losing to Cumberland Valley’s T.C. Warner and placed for the first time.

Oliver is a freshman, but he has the skills of an experienced wrestler. He won a district title, took fourth at regionals, avenged his first regular season loss with a win in the first round of states and made the third-place finals.

Gill won a district title after finishing second last year, took fourth at regionals, lost his first bout at states and rolled through the consolations, including a first-round win over Chestnut Ridge’s Austin Buttry.

Best individual rivalry: That would be a tie between Central Cambria’s Max Murin and Penn Cambria’s Nolan Link and Chestnut Ridge’s Trent Crouse and Berlin Brothersvalley’s Braden Fochtman.

Crouse lost his first bout to Fochtman in the first dual meet, but the Ridge junior won the next three, including two in overtime (the last win being for the district title). Murin wrestled Link four times, including in the district and regional 106-pound finals, and they were all very close.

Bout of the year: The Murin-Link rivalry brings us to the bout of the year, which came in the regional final. It appeared the scoreless bout was headed to overtime, but Murin scored a reversal just before the buzzer to win, 2-0. The Penn Cambria side questioned whether the reversal came before or after the buzzer, but the call stood.

Dual meet of the year: Pick either of the matches between Chestnut Ridge and Berlin and you couldn’t go wrong. Ridge won the first one against the new District 5 power, 39-25, and took the second one, 36-20, to win its second straight District 5 Duals title.

Bad luck wrestler of the year: That would be a tie between Central’s Kale Burket and Tyrone’s Jason Schopp. Burket underwent knee surgery after taking sixth at regionals last year, and his junior season ended early when he had to have surgery on the same knee.

Schopp won his first District 6 title, beating Marion Center’s Brandon Heberling, but he didn’t get a chance to continue his postseason because he came down with mononucleosis just days before the regional tournament.

Dapper Dan today

The 40th annual Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, which pits a Pennsylvania team against a United States all-star team, is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. today. The USA team includes two Penn State recruits in three-time Texas state champ Bo Nickal at 170 and three-time California state champ Nick Nevills at 285.

The 285-pound between Nevills and Solanco four-time state champ Thomas Haines has drama written all over it. Haines committed to Penn State, but coach Cael Sanderson pulled his offer and offered to Nevills. Both are reportedly looking forward to the bout.

Kittanning three-time champ Jason Nolf is a Penn State recruit, and his 145-pound bout with four-time Oregon champ Tyler Berger will end the meet.

Congrats to Strittmatters

Congratulations to former Cambria Heights stars Jody and John Strittmatter on being inducted into the Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Cleveland.

Jody Strittmatter was inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

Catching up

It was good to talk with former Tyrone coach and athletic director Tony Yaniello at states. Yaniello is the head coach at Shippensburg High School, and his assistant is former Central and Hollidaysburg star Eric Frick.

Yaniello led Shippensburg to a 13-5 record in the rugged District 3, including a win over Boiling Springs, Off The Mat’s second-ranked Class AA team. Since states, he was named the Chambersburg Public Opinion’s Coach of the Year.

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