Six from area set for states
They’ve put in the time, lost the weight, kept it off, trained hard, suffered some losses and earned some big wins.
Now, six area Class 3A wrestlers will be rewarded for their efforts with a chance to wrestle in the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Altoona Northwest Regional champion Matt Sarbo (106), runner-up Parker McClellan (220), and third-placer Nate Simmers (285) will step on the mat today, as will Hollidaysburg regional third-placers Nathan Swartz (138) and Mason McCready (182) and Philipsburg-Osceola third-placer Matt Johnson (152).
“I think our guys are really looking forward to it,” Gilbert said. “I think all three of our wrestlers who are competing have put a lot of time into the sport, and I think they live for this weekend and these moments.”
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Hollidaysburg coach Christian Harr said. “We’re definitely excited about the opportunity at hand.”
The tournament begins for the Class 3A wrestlers at 4 p.m. at the Giant Center with a short preliminary round, followed by the first round. The first round of consolations will follow at 8:15.
Sarbo (30-5) is riding a wave of momentum into the Giant Center, having won a regional title by pinning General McLane’s Andrew Brest, ranked third by PA Power Wrestling, in the finals. He faces either Liberty’s Tal-Reese Flemming or W.C. Henderson’s Sam McMonagle in the first round.
“Matt Sarbo has wrestled in big tournaments before,” Gilbert said. “106 is always one of those weight classes where there are a lot of young and up-and-coming stars, and we’re just hoping Matt is one of those guys. But every match is tough down there, and we’re hoping he can compete and comes out victorious. I think he’s looking forward to it.”
Swartz (29-7) is a returning qualifier, and, along with McCready, is looking to become the first Hollidaysburg medalist since Brian Shaw in 2006. He opens with Canon-McMillan’s Tim Hritsko (39-13)
“I think (the experience) is going to be a key factor in what he does down there this weekend,” Harr said. “He’s been wrestling high-caliber kids in-season and out of season, so I feel like he has plenty of experience in those big match situations.
“With the draw that he has, yeah he is going to run into those better kids, but we feel it’s better that he’s going to meet those kids early on than later on down the line. That’s how we’ve been approaching it all week. Get rid of them early and then take care of business.”
Altoona’s Parker McClellan (27-5) is also a returning state qualifier. The two-time regional runner-up faces Hatboro-Horsham’s Nick Chapman (35-2) in the first round. McClellan is coming off of a frustrating 9-3 loss to Selinsgrove freshman Nate Schon in the Northwest finals.
“I think experience always helps when you get to the state tournament,” Gilbert said. “He’s done a lot of offseason wrestling, wrestled some very good kids in the offseason, through Young Guns and David Taylor camps, so we’re thinking he shouldn’t be shell-shocked by the competition by any means.
“We’re just hoping that he can get his offense going down there. If he gets it going, I think he’s going to be tough to beat. He noticed a few things that he could work on this week, and he’s worked on them very hard. I think he’s going to respond well. I think he’s going to come back a little more hungry, and I think he’s looking to place.”
Johnson, who has shown no ill-effects of the broken hand he suffered during the season, opens up with Spring-Ford’s Ben D’Arcangelo (33-14) in the preliminary round.
“I’m pretty excited for it,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to train hard and get ready for it. I’m hoping to get a medal around my neck.”
McCready (27-6) opens with Cedar Cliff’s Donovon Ball (37-6) in the first round, with a chance to likely wrestle Pennridge’s returning state runner-up Josh Stillings (27-1) in the quarterfinals.
“I think Mason has a fairly decent draw,” Harr said. “I know that he has a pretty tough first matchup, but it’s somebody that he can compete with. I think he obviously will get past his first match, and then the tale has yet to be told as to who is going to be there. I like his chances to win a few matches and hopefully get to the placing bouts.”
Simmers gets Lower Dauphin’s Kyler Wuestner (30-6) in the first round. If he wins that one, the Altoona junior will likely wrestle Kiski Area’s returning state runner-up Isaac Reid (19-0) in the quarterfinals.
“At the heavyweight class, you just don’t know who you’re going to get down there,” Gilbert said. “Nate is a very athletic and young heavyweight. He’s wrestled some very good kids also around that weight, and we expect good things out of Nate. Hopefully he can get a few wins and place also.”