Horton posts big ‘W’
INDIANA — Tussey Mountain junior 126-pounder Hunter Horton seems to have saved his best wrestling for the postseason.
Last week, Horton, ranked third in the Mirror rankings at the time, knocked off Chestnut Ridge’s second-ranked Ross Dull to win a District 5 title.
On Friday night, in the quarterfinals of the Southwest Regional Class 2A Tournament, the now second-ranked Horton outlasted Glendale’s top-ranked and returning state qualifier Suds Dubler in the tiebreaker periods, 2-0, at IUP’s Ed Frey Arena at the Kovalchick Convention Center & Athletic Complex.
When it was over, Horton stood up and flexed his muscles in celebration.
“This is awesome,” Horton said. “I’ve been battling a shoulder injury since my eighth grade year, and it feels awesome to come back from that, especially in an environment like this.
“You always want to peak in the postseason. I’m just trying to do my best and I’m trusting my coaches. We’ve been working for this all year. I’ve been putting in the work, and I’m just trying to prove it now.”
Horton was one of 18 area wrestlers who advanced to today’s noon semifinals and qualified for the PIAA Championships. The top six at every weight class advance to Hershey.
Ridge advanced the first five wrestlers in their lineup in Calan Bolman (106), Kai Burkett (113), Nathan Holderbaum (120), Dull (126) and Kaleb Miller (132), plus Duane Knisely (220). Knisely set up his gigantic semifinal with Mount Union’s Jake Ryan with an 8-0 win over Bald Eagle Area’s David Close.
The Lions are in first place in the team standing by 17.5 points, 65-47.5, over St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy. Glendale, which had hoped to win the team title, is in fifth place with 33.5 points.
Glendale’s returning state champion Brock McMIllen (132) and Cory Johnston (220) earned quarterfinal wins.
Bedford’s two-time regional champ Kaden Cassidy (138) earned his 100thwin in the quarterfinals with a pin of Philipsburg-Osceola’s Chase Chapman in a rematch of last year’s regional final. His surprising teammate, Ashton Dull (195), also reached the semifinals.
P-O’s Hunter Weitoish (160) and Parker Moore (195), Tyrone’s Hunter Walk (113), Huntingdon’s Roland Mills (120), Bellwood-Antis’ Alex Taylor (160) and Northern Bedford’s Colby Imler (170) also reached the semifinals.
Horton and Dubler went through the first three periods scoreless despite a lot of action and tough riding. Horton kept the pressure up in overtime, cut couldn’t score. He scored a reversal in the first 30-second tiebreaker period to finally take the lead.
“I was close on a couple calls early in the match,” Horton said, “and that time, I think was the mental toughness and my conditioning. I think he just wore out. I was just battling constantly for every point.”
In the next period, Horton rode hard and never gave up an escape or takedown.
“Once it goes to overtime, I think I’m heavily favored because of my conditioning and mental toughness,” Horton said.
“Credit to the Horton kid,” Glendale coach Billy Dubler said. “He looked hungrier. He looked like he was in better condition, and he looked good. Suds has to bounce back tomorrow through the consolations.”
Horton (31-7) faces Derry Area’s returning regional runner-up Tyler Cymmerman (35-4) in the semifinals.
“The goal is to keep winning,” Horton said, “so I’m going to try to go at my next competitor with everything I’ve got. The pressure is kind of off since I made states.”
Miller, a District 5 runner-up, also reached the semifinals in thrilling fashion, taking down Highlands’ District 7 runner-up Jrake Buford with 6 seconds left in overtime to win, 9-7.
“It feels great,” Miller said. “I’ve been pushing myself every day in practice. My teammate Nathan (Holderbaum) has been making me a whole lot better.
Miller was losing 7-4 in the third period, but his punishing ride wore Burford down until he scored three nearfall points to tie the score and send the bout into overtime.
“I just kept pressing for it, and I eventually broke him,” Miller said. “One good thing about our practice room is we don’t stop and we don’t get tired.”
Miller missed getting a takedown at the edge of the mat with about 15 seconds left, but he persisted and got the winning takedown
When the bout was over, Miller pumped his fists, ran off the mat and got a bunch of hugs from his coaches.
He faces McMillen in the semifinals. McMillen rolled to a 17-5 major decision over Bedford’s Jacob Dawson in the quarterfinals,
“He’s a very tough kid,” Miller said. “I’ve been hearing a lot about him. He’s been coming off of a state championship last year. We’re going to go out, put the pace on and see what we can do.”
Ashton Dull came into the tournament with a 20-9 record, but he won by fall in the first round and knocked off Glendale’s Seth Dudurich, 7-3, in the quarterfinals. Dudurich was ranked No. 1 in the Mirror rankings, while Dull was third.
Dull notched three takedowns, including two that came in the final 16 seconds of their respective periods.
After the bout was over, Dull, who will wrestle Westmont Hilltop’s Tanner Dluhos in the semis, received a hugs.
“It feels really good,” Dull said. “I’ve been working super hard all year in the practice room, the weight room, my diet, just everything. I’m just so happy to see it finally pay off. I’m to get a good night’s sleep and go back at it tomorrow.
“I don’t even know who I have to be honest. I’m just going to let it fly with whoever I wrestle. I’ve got nothing to lose at this point.”