Sarbo’s win key to Lions’ victory

By John Hartsock

After placing seventh in the PIAA Class 3A wrestling tournament at 106 pounds last season as a freshman, Altoona Area High School’s Matt Sarbo is approaching this season with a laser focus.

Sarbo has a PIAA gold medal in his cross hairs.

“It’s absolutely never too early to think about winning a gold medal at states,” Sarbo said Wednesday night at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.

Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said that anything less would be a disappointment for Sarbo, who highlighted Altoona’s 60-15 dual meet win over Blairsville by improving his season record to 16-1 with a 19-6 major decision over standout Blairsville senior Jack Bruce.

“I think his goal is to be a state champion,” Gilbert said of Sarbo, who was also a District 6 and Northwest Regional champion last season. “He’s working toward it, and that’s what he wants. He’s on a mission to get it, whether it’s this year, or in all of the next three years. I don’t think he’d be happy with anything else.”

In a dual meet that included seven Altoona wins by forfeit, Sarbo’s performance against Bruce clearly stood out. Bruce — who won 35 matches last season and qualified for the PIAA Class 2A state tournament at 113 pounds as a junior — scored the opening takedown against Sarbo, but Sarbo dominated the rest of the match.

Sarbo scored an escape and takedown to take a 3-2 lead after one period, then opened a 10-4 lead after two periods on two takedowns and a three-point near-fall sequence in the second period.

Sarbo added two takedowns, a reversal, and another three-point near-fall in the third period to win the match going away.

“I don’t let getting scored on bother me too much,” Sarbo said of giving up the opening takedown. “I kept wrestling through the positions. I’ve really made a lot of gains since last season. I’ve been doing a lot of work.”

Gilbert agreed.

“Matt puts a lot of time in, focusing on his technique and getting good workout partners,” Gilbert said. “He was outstanding tonight. He got off to a little bit of a slow start, but then he got rolling and he pretty much controlled the bout.”

Sarbo’s effort helped Altoona improve to 5-4 on the season. Gilbert — who before the match was recognized with a plaque commemorating his 100th career coaching dual meet victory that was achieved this past Saturday against Jersey Shore at the Bald Eagle Area Duals — had no trouble picking up his 101st win.

Seniors Nate Simmers (220 pounds) and Corey McClellan (138), junior Jacob Schmidhammer (152), sophomores Damion Finnegan (120), Adam Zerbee (170) and Trevor Manley (285), and freshman Lucas Hileman (113) each logged forfeit victories for Altoona as Blairsville had only seven wrestlers available to compete.

It makes for a difficult dual-meet season for the Bobcats, who dropped to 0-7 in duals.

“We’ve had good success with individuals at tournaments, but it’s a tough situation now,” Blairsville coach Scott Stuchal said. “It’s tough for dual meets. We also have one kid injured right now, so we have (only) eight in the lineup on a good day. With the sparse numbers, we’re trying to focus on individual performances.”

In other matches that were contested, Altoona got victories from sophomore Josh Keirn at 195 pounds, freshman Jordan Carlucci at 106, and senior Jordan Wagner at 132.

Keirn pounded out an 11-5 win over Blairsville junior Gabriel Citeroni, on the strength of three takedowns, a reversal and three-point near-fall.

Carlucci pinned Blairsville sophomore Brayde Furman in 3:49, while Wagner ran up a 20-4, 4:14 technical fall over sophomore Cody Taylor.

“I thought all three guys looked good,” Gilbert said of Keirn, Furman, and Wagner. “We’re real happy with Carlucci’s performance. As a freshman, he’s done well.”

Altoona competes in its third dual meet in as many nights tonight, when Philipsburg-Osceola visits the Fieldhouse.

152–Schmidhammer, A, won by forfeit. 160–Witmer, BL, dec. G. Wagner, 5-3. 170–Zerbee, A, won by forfeit. 182–Henigan, BL, pinned Brandt, :35. 195–Keirn, A, dec. Citeroni, 11-5. 220–Simmers, A, won by forfeit. 285–Manley, A, won by forfeit.

106–Carlucci, A, pinned Furman, 3:49. 113–Hileman, A, won by forfeit. 120–Finnegan, A, won by forfeit. 126–Sarbo, A, major dec. Bruce, 19-6. 132–J. Wagner, A, tech. fall Taylor, 20-4, 4:14. 138–McClellan, A, won by forfeit. 145–Himes, BL, pinned Beach, 4:44.

Records: Blairsville (0-7); Altoona (5-4).

Official: Doug Fogel.