Sarbo looks for history
Altoona’s Matt Sarbo has bigger goals down the road, but he’ll join select company on Saturday if he wins a District 6 Class 3A Tournament title.
The Mountain Lion junior is looking to become the fifth in program history to claim a third district title and the seventh to reach the 100-win plateau.
Sarbo is the top seed at 132 pounds, while State College’s Owen Woolcott is the second seed. Sarbo beat Woolcott, 8-1, last year to earn his second district title. With 97 career wins, Sarbo would earn his 100th victory in the finals.
“I just expect him to take it one match at a time,” Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said. “He has an opportunity to get 100 wins if he wins in the finals, and I think he’s pretty excited about that. He’s having a good week of practice, and I think he’ll be ready to go.”
The eight-team tournament begins 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the AAHS Fieldhouse with the quarterfinals. The semifinals and consolations rounds will continue throughout the morning and afternoon with mandatory breaks.
The championship finals, third-place bouts and fifth-place bouts are set for 5 p.m. after the 4:30 p.m. District 6 Hall of Fame ceremony.
The top four placers at every weight class will return to the Fieldhouse next week for the Northwest Regional Tournament.
“This is the most fun part of the season,” Gilbert said. “You get an opportunity to see where your good guys are at. You also get an opportunity to see what you need to work on in the offseason.”
“We’re excited to compete in the postseason,” Hollidaysburg coach Christian Harr said. “The postseason is kind of why we train, go through those struggles, those injuries, good times and bad times. Our tournament schedule and dual meet schedule reflect that. We wrestle a pretty tough schedule.”
Sarbo is the only No. 1 seed among the two area teams. Hollidaysburg’s Aaron Sleeth (19-9), who finished sixth last season as a freshman, is seeded second to Mifflin County’s Anson Wagner (21-10) at 152.
“He could win that weight class,” Harr said. “He’s a fairly confident kid. I think that he has a very good shot at going out there and winning a district title for us.”
Altoona’s Damion Finnegan (126), Adam Zerbee (152) and Colin Allmond (182) are No. 3 seeds, as are Hollidaysburg’s Colin Smilnak (113), Nicholas Burkey (145) and Campbell Walls (160). Altoona’s Trevor Manley is seeded fourth at 285.
“For us to get some champions, we’re definitely going to have to exceed the seeds where we’re at without a doubt,” Gilbert said. “A lot of the guys are still in good positions. You’ve got to work your way to the finals.”
“We’re hoping some other guys can step up and prove some people wrong this weekend,” Harr said. “That’s kind of how we’ve been training. We’re more or less turning that dial up now since we’re reaching the postseason. We’re looking forward to it.”
Walls and Altoona’s Josh Keirn, a fifth seed at 195, are the only returning placewinners from last season. Both placed third at their respective weight classes.
Walls (19-6) is seeded behind Bellefonte’s top-seeded Ethan Richner (27-2) and Mifflin County’s second-seeded Trey Shoemaker (21-11).
“Walls has a pretty tough semifinals match with Shoemaker,” Harr said. “He also has a tough match again with Richner, who he’s wrestled already. I’m hoping for a better result there. Anything can happen. We’ve been training really hard.”
Smilnak, a fourth-placer as a sophomore who is wrestling in his third district tournament, has been hampered recently with an elbow injury.
“He’s been to regionals before, so he knows the drill,” Harr said. “The kid has been extra motivated. He’s one of the hardest working kids we have in the program. He was a little banged up a few weeks back, so he missed the end of the season. He’s ready to go.”
Finnegan enters the postseason with a 20-11 record, but he’s trying to earn his first trip to the regional tournament.
“He’s hot and cold, and we’re hoping he’s hot this weekend,” Gilbert said. “If he gets going, he’s going to be tough to beat.”
The Mountain Lions have the advantage of wrestling in their own gymnasium for the next weeks.
“You get an opportunity to sleep in your own bed at night,” Gilbert said. “You get up in the morning. It’s a short drive in. It’s something they do every day. They’re in their own locker room. They get to warm up in their own wrestling room. There are a lot of advantages to being home. I just hope people come out to support our kids.”
Notes: Central Mountain is the defending team champion. … Hollidaysburg finished fourth in the team standings last year, while Altoona was sixth. … Mifflin County junior Trey Kibe, a two-time district champion and returning state champ, recently verbally committed to wrestle for Penn State.