Lions, Tigers combine for 12 at regionals

By Todd Irwin

For the Mirror

For a few of the 15 area wrestlers, this weekend’s Northwest Regional Class 3A Tournament at the AAHS Fieldhouse will serve as a launching pad for next week’s PIAA Championships.

For others, they’ll have to be on top of their game to grab one of the three spots at their weight classes to qualify for states.

Whatever their situation is, the seven wrestlers from Altoona, five from Hollidaysburg and three from Philipsburg-Osceola are aiming for the bullseye on the regional target this week.

“I think our guys are ready to go,” Gilbert said. “We’ve wrestled a lot of the top dogs in the region. Cole Manley is probably one of the top dogs, and I know he’s chomping at the bit to get there. But our other guys are too. So, we’re pretty excited.”

“I’m looking real forward to it,” Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore said. “We got pretty good draws going in. We certainly should have four guys in the semifinals.”

The tournament, which includes the top four from District 6, District 10, and the combined District 4-9 and the top two from District 8, begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Fieldhouse, and a second round will follow at about 8:15.

The tournament resumes at 10 Saturday morning. The semifinals are at 12:30, and the finals and consolation finals are set for 6:15 p.m.

Manley (17-0), who last weekend became only the second Altoona wrestler to win four District 6 titles, will aim for his third regional title this weekend. McDowell’s returning regional runner-up Leno Ciotti (24-7) and DuBois’ Kolby Ho (32-2) are in the other bracket.

“He’s looked good all week-long in practice,” Gilbert said. “He’s wrestled Ciotti before. The Ho boy from DuBois is at the bottom, and Cole major decisioned him. We’re just kind of hoping he can replicate that match if he gets Ho in the finals. He’s going to just have to take it one match at a time, and he’s going to have to take care of business before he gets there.”

Manley’s teammate, 170-pounder Brinton Simington (28-5), is the only other area returning champion, winning a title at 182 last season. But he could have to contend with Clearfield’s 29-1 Luke McGonigal, a two-time state qualifier who beat Simington this season, in the other bracket.

“It was a decent match, and I think we learned a lot from it,” Gilbert said of the earlier bout. “We’ll see where we go from there. I think we’ve got to have a different gameplan this time, attack different areas. We’re hoping that gameplan works out. We know Luke is a good wrestler.”

With Manley and Simington in contention for titles, as well as teammates Hunter Hileman at 120 and Parker McClellan at 195, both of whom won district titles, the Mountain Lions could be in the thick of things in the team race.

Altoona finished second by three points to Central Mountain last week, but everybody is probably chasing Cathedral Prep, which had eight District 10 champions and 13 regional qualifiers.

“It will be tough to beat Erie Prep,” Gilbert said. “They definitely have a very good team. DuBois has a very good team this year also. But, I think we can definitely make some noise. If things go our way and some other District 6 teams help us out, we could definitely be in the hunt. If the kids wrestle like they did (at districts), we could be there again.”

Gilbert likes the draws that Hileman and McClellan have gotten. DuBois’ returning champ Dalton Woodrow is on the opposite side of Hileman, and General McLane’s returning runner-up Ethan Laird (32-1) is on the other side of McClellan.

“Hunter Hileman is in a good position,” Gilbert said. “He has one loss in the weight class to Woodrow, and that was a very close bout in the dual meet. I think he’s ready to go. He’s paid the price and sacrificed. I think he has as good of an opportunity as anybody.

“Parker McClellan has been wrestling great all year. Laird took it to him last time the last time they wrestled at the Clearfield Duals. I can see Parker getting to the finals, and then we’ll take our shot against Laird.”

Hollidaysburg has two returning placewinners in runner-up Dalton Long (145) and district champion Hunter Gill (285). Add district champ Nathan Swartz (132) to the mix, and the Golden Tigers could have a nice size group at states.

“Nathan is putting together a tremendous year so far,” Moore said. These next two weeks are important that he keeps that course. I certainly expect big things from him. He should be in the finals, and I imagine it will be a rematch with (Bald Eagle Area’s Seth) Koleno. He’s going to have to be prepared to wrestle.”

“Hunter avenged two losses from the course of the year, which is big for him. He wrestled within himself, and he has a great desire to win. If he stays within himself, he’ll be wrestling for a regional title.”

Despite having only three qualifiers, P-O is feeling good after Micah Sidorick made history by winning the 220-pound title at districts. The last time P-O had won a title was in 2008, when Bo Reifer (189) and Micah’s cousin, Dimitri Sidorick, won back-to-back championship bouts.

“It was an exciting night for Micah,” P-O coach Brad Pataky said. “We were all excited. He’s the living example of the type of determination and work ethic that wrestling requires. I remember working with him last summer, and he came to every single practice. He just kept getting better. He’s an example of if you continue to work hard, good things will happen.

“Our guys are excited. It’s the most excited that I’ve seen them this year.”