ERIE - For the second straight year, Warren's D.J. Fehlman has a District 10 Class AAA wrestling championship and a berth in the PIAA Class AAA Northwest Regional Tournament in Altoona.
This year, he won't be making the trip alone.
Two of Fehlman's teammates - senior Chris McNeal and sophomore Alex Streich - will also compete in two weeks after second-place finishes at the D-10 Class AAA Wrestling Championships Saturday at Central Tech High School in Erie.
Times Observer photo by Allen Seybert
Two time champ
Warren sophomore D.J. Fehlman, right, fights to control General McLane’s Keller Watkins during the 126-pound championship bout of the District 10 Class AAA Wrestling Championships Saturday at Central Tech High School in Erie. Fehlman (30-1) scored a takedown with six seconds left in overtime for a 6-4 victory and his second consecutive D-10 Class AAA championship.
Warren wrestling coach Glenn Baldensperger was hoping to push five or even six guys through to next week's regional round, but said this year's number is certainly better than last year's when only Fehlman advanced out of districts.
"We would've loved to get five or six guys out, but I'm definitely happy for all three boys that did qualify for regionals," said Baldensperger. "We've got a couple weeks of work to put in before Altoona and the goal is to go down there and try to make something special happen.
"As far as those other guys go, things just didn't go our way," he said. "I don't feel the competition is that much better than us. We just need to improve and come back swinging next year."
For the second straight year, Fehlman provided the biggest headline by bringing a District 10 title back to Warren. Last year, he became the first Warren freshman to win a D-10 crown with a comeback win in the final. This year was full of intrigue as well.
After starting the day with a narrow 3-2 semifinal victory over Cathedral Prep's Alex Root, Fehlman squared off with rival Keller Watkins of General McLane in the 126-pound final. The season series between Fehlman and Watkins had been tied 1-1 and it was Watkins who handed Fehlman (30-1) his only loss of the season during a dual match in January.
Once again, the talented sophomores didn't disappoint.
Fehlman grabbed an early lead with a first-period takedown, but Watkins escaped late in the period to cut the deficit to 2-1 after one. The second period belonged to Fehlman, who scored another takedown to extend his advantage to 4-1.
In the third, Watkins rallied. The Lancers star escaped early in the period and took Fehlman to the mat with 48 seconds remaining to tie the score at 4-4. Fehlman worked to escape and score the winning point, but the third period ended with the score tied at 4-4.
A one-minute sudden death overtime period followed and Watkins appeared to control things early. With just over 20 seconds remaining, Watkins was closing in on what would have been the winning takedown, but just before he completed the move, the referee blew his whistle and called a stalemate.
The whistle gave Fehlman new life and with six seconds remaining in the overtime period, Fehlman took Watkins to the mat, scoring the two points and winning his second D-10 title in a row.
"There's nothing like winning a District 10 title. It's indescribable," said Fehlman. "Obviously, winning last year was big because it was something that had never been done before, but to win in such dramatic fashion today made this one pretty sweet, too.
"Now it's on to regionals. The ultimate goal is to make it to states. Having a couple of teammates make the trip with me adds extra motivation, too. I think it's going to be a fun experience and hopefully a memorable one."
Baldensperger was impressed with his sophomore star's resiliency.
"He just kept fighting," he said. "It was a great finals match. (Watkins) is a very solid wrestler and gave D.J. everything he had and more. D.J. really had to dig down deep to win the match."
Fehlman wasn't the only Dragon to compete in the finals with McNeal taking part in the 195-pound final and Streich following in the 220-pound bout.
McNeal (22-7) narrowly advanced to the final after holding off a strong charge from Central Tech's Seth Brown in the semifinals. Brown and McNeal were tied 3-3 late in the match when McNeal was awarded a penalty point for Brown's locked hands thus providing the winning margin.
The finals didn't go McNeal's way as the underdog tried a big move early that proved to be the difference in the match. His opponent - General McLane senior Alex Thayer - scored the pin at the 1:02 mark of the match.
"The last match didn't go very well," said McNeal. "I tried a big move early and didn't get it and that put me in position to get pinned."
Still, McNeal's second-place finish was more than enough to advance him out of districts for the first time in his career.
"It feels great to move on," said McNeal. "All the time working has finally paid off. This was the best year to do it with it being my last year and all. I'm happy to go to regionals with my teammates and make the best of whatever happens."
"Chris has a couple real nice tricks, but he rushed one in the final and he got caught," said Baldensperger. "Still, he had a great tournament and I'm very happy to see him moving on to wrestle another weekend."
The theme of Streich's weekend was close matches. On Friday, he advanced to the semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Titusville's Ty Lohr. Then, on Saturday morning, Streich (26-7) upset second-seeded Jake Baker of General McLane, 3-2 in four overtimes.
His championship bout with East's Pat Williamson would prove to be no different with Streich battling hard, but ultimately dropping a 3-2 decision.
The score was tied 0-0 after a period before Streich took a 1-0 lead with an escape point in the second period. Williamson added an escape of his own early in the third and went to work on logging the winning takedown. With overtime creeping closer, Williamson finally took Streich to the mat with eight seconds remaining to take a 3-1 lead. Streich escaped in the closing seconds, but settled for the 3-2 loss and the runner-up finish.
"I put a lot of work into the offseason and think that really helped me improve this season," said Streich. "A District 10 title would've been icing on the cake, but I'm happy with where I ended up. If nothing else, finishing second will motivate me to come back here next year and really make my name known."
Baldensperger said Streich, perhaps more than any other wrestler, is very much improved this season.
"Alex has come so far," he said. "He needs to develop his offense a little more, but he has all the tools to be something special. His best days are in front of him."
Four Warren wrestlers - Jason Peterson (132 pounds), Jonah Hordusky (138), Garrett Smead (145) and Dan Henry (182) - came within one victory of advancing to the regional level. All four were defeated in the consolation semifinals.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking of those losses were those of Smead and Hordusky. Smead (20-11) had a third-period lead over Oil City's Alex Hargenrader before being pinned at the 4:38 mark of the bout. Hordusky (15-13) suffered a 5-4 decision loss to Central Tech's Paul Mancuso with Mancuso scoring the winning takedown with just five seconds remaining in the third period.
Here are the results from Saturday's competition at the District 10 Class AAA Wrestling Championships. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the PIAA Class AAA Northwest Regional Tournament scheduled for March 1-2 in Altoona.
Team results: 1. General McLane (GM) 216, 2. McDowell (Mc) 202, 3. Cathedral Prep (CP) 131, 4. Meadville (Me) 80; 5. Titusville (T) 64, 6. Warren (W) 62 1/2, 7. Central Tech (CT) 47, 8. East (E) 45, 9. Strong Vincent (SV) 43 1/2, 10. Oil City (OC) 32.
106: Wheeling (GM) d Lenox (Mc) 3-0.
113: Gromacki (CP) tf H. Hendricks (GM) 18-2 (3:03).
120: Deitz (Mc) d Ciotti (CP) 14-7.
126: Fehlman (W) d Watkins (GM) 6-4, OT
132: Gibson (Mc) p Coletta (CP) 2:26.
138: S. Spearman (Mc) md Z. Luben (Me) 14-4.
145: Nolan (Mc) d Carlson (SV) 7-3.
152: Sutton (GM) d Krysiak (CP) 3-2.
160: T. Spearman (Mc) d Lee (T) 7-4.
170: T. Hendricks (GM) d Rogers (Mc) 5-0.
182: Laird (GM) d Bradley (Mc) 8-3.
195: Thayer (GM) p McNeal (W) :57.
220: Williamson (E) d Streich (W) 3-1.
285: Welton (CT) d Augustine (Mc) 5-0.
106: Gregory (CP) d. Ehrgott (Me) 10-4.
113: Yates (Mc) md Chase (T) 15-2.
120: K. Luben (Me) p Lopez (CT) 3:59.
126: Root (CP) d Cousins (Mc) 5-2.
132: Burns (T) d D. Twitchell (GM) 6-4 SV.
138: Stoll (GM) inj. def. over Mancuso (CT) 3:40.
145: Hargenrader (OC) d O'Sullivan (CP) 4-0.
152: Deboe (SV) d Dailey (Mc) 4-3.
160: Bowers (GM) md T. Zdarko (OC) 16-3.
170: Starocci (CP) d Crawford (Me) 8-3.
182: Selker (CP) d Bish (Me) 3-2 UTB.
195: Nicole (T) inj. def. over Brown (CT).
220: Baker (GM) inj. def. over Carr (Me).
285: Mallory (GM) d Plott (E) 6-5.
113: Derek Ridgeway (Me) md Bailey Winslow (W) 15-2.
120: Jordan Motter (GM) d Seth Johnson (W) 10-5.
126: Brock Ridgeway (Me) by forfeit over Josh Caban (SV); Derrick Bish (T) d Trenton Hogue (OC) 4-1.
132: Dalton Burns (T) d James Carr (E) 9-2; Jason Peterson (W) d Zach Frazier (OC) 7-3.
138: Jonah Hordusky (W) d Easton Hogue (T) 4-0; John Beach (OC) d Andy Hutzel (CP) 6-4.
145: B. Twitchell (GM) by forfeit over Justin Cruz (CT); Garrett Smead (W) p Triston Nadonly (T) 2:30.
152: Troy Beauchat (T) md Mike Card (W) 10-2; Jacob Zdarko (OC) p Cameron DeMaison (Me) 4:30.
160: Connor Wurst (CP) p Hunter Mohney (W) :24; Patrick Adams (Me) md Daquan Pope (CT) 11-2.
170: Chris Starocci (CP) p Derek Reagle (W) 2:38; Austin Thompson (E) by forfeit over Deyshawn Carr (CT).
182: Dan Henry (W) p Nate Morrison (OC) 2:17.
220: Ryan Kramer (CP) by forfeit over Dakota McLean (Mc).
285: Jason Oaks (T) p Mike Milner (OC) 1:18; Caleb Prater (Me) d Stephen Crone (W) 6-1.
106: Ehrgott (Me) md Isaac Donovan (T) 11-0; Gregory (CP) p Austin Isacks (CT) :33.
113: Yates (Mc) d D. Ridgeway (Me) 10-4; Chase (T) md Kyle Nash (CT) 13-2.
120: K. Luben (Me) p Motter (GM) 4:30; Lopez (CT) d Chase Ackerman (T) 7-2.
126: Root (CP) md B. Ridgeway (Me) 11-0; Cousins (Mc) d Bish (T) 5-1.
132: Burns (T) p Harris (CT) :59; D. Twitchell (GM) p Peterson (W) 4:59.
138: Mancuso (CT) d Hordusky (W) 5-4; Stoll (GM) p Beach (OC) 2:30.
145: O'Sullivan (CP) p B. Twitchell (GM) 2:23; Hargenrader (OC) p Smead (W) 4:38.
152: Deboe (SV) d Beauchat (T) 6-3; Dailey (Mc) p J. Zdarko (OC) 2:22.
160: Bowers (GM) d Wurst (CP) 8-6; T. Zdarko (OC) d Adams (Me) 6-0.
170: Starocci (CP) d DeRose (T) 2-1; Crawford (Me) p Thompson (E) 3:38.
182: Bish (Me) md Henry (W) 12-4; Selker (CP) p Aaron Mowrey (T) 2:15.
195: Brown (CT) md Kane Patron (SV) 10-1; Tyler Nicole (T) d D. Kramer (CP) 10-4.
220: Baker (GM) md R. Kramer (CT) 9-1; Carr (Me) d Ty Lohr (T) 1-0.
285: Mallory (GM) d Oaks (T) 5-2; Plott (SV) p Prater (Me) :04.