Manley savors national title

Altoona’s Cole Manley wasn’t satisfied with the way his high school season ended at the PIAA Class 3A Championships, finishing fifth at 132 following an ultimate tiebreaker loss in the semifinals and a tiebreaker setback in the consolation semifinals.

That drove him last Saturday as he captured a national title at 126 pounds at Flo Nationals at IUP’s Ed Frey Arena at the Kovalchick Convention Center & Athletic Complex.

Manley, representing Young Guns, defeated New Jersey’s Trace Kinner, 3-1, in the finals.

“It was a lot of fun. I liked it,” Manley said. “I wasn’t surprised because I know I’m good, but it was really good because I didn’t have the best finish (at states) in my mind. To win something like that felt really good to me.”

Chestnut Ridge’s Justin McCoy, who captured a Class 2A state title, finished fifth at 145 at Flo Nationals. McCoy took third at the NHSCA Junior Nationals on March 26 in Virginia Beach. Teammate Jared McGill came up a win shy of earning a medal at 160 at Flo Nationals, but was third at 170 at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals

Central’s Braeden Swab (132) and Brock Biddle (152), Moshannon Valley’s Alex Richner (132), Glendale’s Isaac Krause (152) and Portage’s Cole Sossong also wrestled at Flo Nationals but didn’t medal. Biddle placed seventh at NHSCA Nationals.

All title winners at Flo Nationals are given belts similar to those won by boxing and WWE champions.

“It’s pretty cool,” Manley said of his belt. “Ever since I was younger, I always wanted to win a belt, like at Super 32 or Flo, and I did.”

Manley wrestled the entire high school season for Altoona at 132, but with a five-pound weight allowance for Flo Nationals, he made the decision to drop a couple pounds and go at 126.

“I didn’t have to cut weight at all this year,” Manley said. “I weighed about 133 normally, and I thought it was only fitting that I went at 131 rather than 137. I’d rather lose two pounds and have a really legitimate chance at winning rather than giving up weight again. It was the only opportunity I had all year at being one of the bigger guys.”

Manley, the No. 2 seed at his weight, went 6-0 with two technical falls, a major decision and three decisions.

In the finals, Manley scored a takedown late in the second period, countering a shot by Kinner and behind him for two points. Kinner reached the finals by pinning Northampton’s KJ Fenstermacher in 3:56 in the semifinals. Fenstermacher beat Manley, 2-1, in a controversial tiebreaker loss in the consolation semis at states.

“I thought I wrestled pretty good,” Manley said. “I think I’m getting better at keeping positioning and not giving up points. It’s not necessarily stalling. I don’t like to stall, but I think I’m getting better at being smarter when to do shoot, what shot I shoot and how to defend.”

Manley had only wrestled at Flo Nationals one other time, going 1-2 as a freshman.

“I was looking forward to it a lot,” Manley said. “If you place in the top eight at Flo Nationals, they consider you an All-American at Altoona, and All-Americans get their picture on our Wall of Fame. And another reason I went was to finish my high school career off on a good not.”

Before Manley heads to Virginia Tech in August to begin the next step in his wrestling career, he’ll hit the freestyle tournament trail and maybe get another title.

“We’ll see where that takes me,” he said.

Molinaro to coach for Hokies

Manley will be joined at Virginia Tech by Frank Molinaro, who has joined the Hokies as an assistant coach for new head coach Tony Robie.

Molinaro was an NCAA champion for Penn State in 2012 and Olympian at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Molinaro served as an assistant coach for Penn State’s Cael Sanderson this past season.

Bedford’s Williams passes away

The area wrestling community lost another former wrestler this past week in Bedford’s Chance Williams.

The circumstances of his death were unclear as of Friday, but the 20-year-old had been sought by police in a drug sweep in Bedford County according to an Altoona Mirror report.

Williams went 23-12 as a senior at Bedford in 2014, finished third at 182 at the District 5 Tournament and came up a win shy of qualifying for the state tournament by placing sixth at the Southwest Regional, dropping a 3-2 decision West Greene’s Dalton Wildman in the fifth-place bout.

Williams’ death comes on the heels of the deaths of former three-time North Star state champ Nick Roberts and Chestnut Ridge’s 2008 state champ Gary Pfahler. The cause of Roberts’ death was later determined to be an accidental Fentanyl overdose.