4 from Blair are set to go
By Todd Irwin
They have gone to the extra workouts, experienced the highs and lows of the wrestling season and have made it to the PIAA Class 3A Championships.
The four area wrestlers, including two from Altoona and two from Hollidaysburg, are few in numbers, but they all have their focus set on making on the medals stands at the end of the tournament.
Altoona is represented by returning state seventh-placer Matt Sarbo (126) and returning state qualifier Nate Simmers (285). Hollidaysburg is being represented by returning state eighth-placer Mason McCready (182) and Gus Dellinger (220).
“We are very much looking forward to competing at the state tournament,” Hollidaysburg coach Christian Harr said. “This is the culmination of all the hard work they put into their year and wrestling careers. We are expecting big things from both of them. This is the best part of the year. All the hard work is done and the most prepared and toughest competitors rise to the top.”
The tournament begins for the Class 3A wrestlers at 4 p.m. today at the Giant Center in Hershey with a short preliminary round, followed by the first round. The first round of consolations will follow at 8:15.
Sarbo, who earned his medal at 106 last season, was beaten by Liberty’s eventual third-placer Tai-Reese Flemming, in the preliminary round in 2018. He breezed to two consolation wins before losing to Bethlehem Catholic’s eventual fourth-placer Matt Mayer, 9-8, in the fourth round of consolations.
Sarbo (35-3), a two-time Northwest Regional champion, will get the winner of West Chester East’s Southeast third-placer Corey Celenza (36-6) and Garden Spot’s Southcentral fourth-placer Josh Groff (31-12).
“I’m sure he’s looking forward to it,” Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. “He’s trained all year for it. Last year in the first round, he wasn’t ready. Maybe the bright lights got to him maybe a little bit. He placed seventh, but he wasn’t happy or satisfied with that. I’m sure Matt is ready to go.”
McCready lost his preliminary bout via ultimate tiebreaker to Cedar Cliff’s eventual fifth-placer Donovon Ball, but he responded with three straight consolation wins to reach the medal round. Butler’s Christian Sequete beat him, 8-3, in the fourth round of consolations en route to a fourth-place finish.
McCready (29-5), a Northwest Regional runner-up, opens with West Scranton’s Northeast Regional third-placer Jeremy Seymour (36-3).
“I’m just going to take it one match at a time down there,” McCready said. “Last year, I wasn’t even supposed to place down there, and I ended up taking eighth. I know being on both ends anything can happen.”
“Mason has his own expectations, and he expects to win,” Harr said. “As a coach, we have the same goals as our athletes. I believe he has the tools to be at the top of the podium. He is ready and prepared for this opportunity to compete. It’s what he has been looking forward to all year.”
Dellinger (27-7), who stormed back in the consolations to finish third at the regional tournament, opens his first state tournament with Norwin’s Southwest Regional champion Ryan Weinzen (32-4).
“Gus is well prepared,” Harr said. “He is a high caliber athlete who has competed in some big moments throughout his athletic career. He placed twice in junior high states and has been involved with US National Rugby.
“This being his first trip, I think he will rise to the occasion and reach his goals of placing. He enjoys the competitiveness of the sport, and this is the competition these two have fought to seek all year, the best of the best.”
Simmers (22-3), who went 0-2 in last year’s state tournament, starts this year’s tournament with what appears to be a very tough draw in Bensalem’s Southeast Regional third-placer John Klewin (38-1).
Simmers is coming off of a surprising 1-0 loss to Cathedral Prep’s returning state runner-up Kawaun DeBoe in the regional finals.
“It should give him a boost of confidence that he can compete with anybody down there,” Gilbert said. “I know his ultimate goal is to get a medal around his neck. He’s wrestled the (Central York’s Michael) Wolfgram kid, who’s in the bottom of that weight class. I think he’s ready to go.”
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Simmers said. “I feel like it’s going to be a great way to end my senior year. I’m just looking for a medal. I think if I wrestle my best, stay focused and stay hungry like I’ve been, I think it’s very possible. It’s my last chance to wrestle, and I just want to have fun.”
Whatever the local area wrestlers do, they have already reached the point where most high school wrestlers can only dream of. They’ll be among the elite of the nation’s top wrestlers.
“This is the toughest tournament in the country,” Harr said. “There is a reason Pennsylvania is always measured against the rest of the United States every year. This tournament showcases some of the best kids in the country year after year.”
“There are a lot of great wrestlers down there,” Gilbert said. “Pennsylvania is the best wrestling state in the country.”