County wrestlers look to punch ticket to states

High school wrestlers across the state begin each season with the dream of taking the mat with the best of the best at the PIAA Championships in Hershey.

For a select few, that dream is only a step away.

Seven local grapplers will head to the Pennsylvania Northwest Regional Tournaments this weekend – two in Class AA and five in Class AAA – for a shot at competing on the “big stage” March 10-12 at the Giant Center.

As it has been all postseason, the name of the game is survive and advance.

The top three finishers in Class AAA and the top four in Class AA move on to states. That means a trip to the consolation finals will suffice in Sharon, but in Altoona, Warren’s wrestlers either need to win the consolation bracket or make an appearance in the championship finals.

Here’s a look at what each wrestler will be facing this weekend:

Class AA

Districts 9 and 10

Friday-Saturday

Sharon High School

Eisenhower’s Louie Head is an early favorite at 160 pounds after defeating Sharon’s Nick McClimans for the District 10 Class AA title last weekend – in the very same building, no less.

Head enters the tournament with a record of 31-1 and received a bye in the first round. He’ll meet the winner of Brookville’s Dominic Palmer (14-11) and Joe Galvin of Iroquois (26-15), the latter of whom he defeated via an 18-2 technical fall in the D-10 semis.

On the other side of the bracket is McClimans (31-2) and District 9 champion Paul Zacherl of Cranberry. Zacherl is undefeated at 34-0 and is a returning state qualifier. Head rolled through his first two matches at districts before scoring a late takedown to win a 3-1 decision against McClimans in the finals.

At 152 pounds, Terrel Williams (20-4) of Sheffield also has a bye after taking third in last weekend’s District 9 Tournament. His reward is Greenville’s Joshua Christner (26-9), who lost a close battle with Nick Monico of Saegertown in the D-10 title match.

A darkhorse in the 152-pound bracket is Seneca’s Adam Fish. Fish has been one of the area’s best wrestlers in recent years, but is only 17-7 this season and had to settle for sixth at districts due to an injury default. Fish is on Williams’ side of the bracket as is D-9 champion Shae Bloom of Curwensville.

Along with Zacherl, this weekend will be an opportunity for several Class AA wrestlers to extend their unbeaten seasons. Brookville 132-pounder Taylor Ortz (37-0) and Smethport 145-pounder James Duffy (30-0) are perfect coming out of District 9, while Greenville has a pair of unblemished records in 195-pounder Blake Reynolds (40-0) and 220-pounder Gage Gladysz (40-0).

Franklin senior Dakota Geer is also undefeated on the year at 34-0 and is currently the No. 1-ranked high school wrestler at 182 pounds by InterMat Wrestle.

The first round and quarterfinals will begin Friday at 5:30 p.m. and action continues Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Consolation finals are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. with the parade of champions and championship finals slated for 5:30 p.m.

Class AAA

Districts 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10

Friday-Saturday

Altoona Field House

It isn’t the eight they took last year, but five region qualifiers is quite the haul for the Warren Dragons.

Derek Reagle, Jake Engstrom and Bailey Winslow have been to regions previously while Jake Fankhouser and Brett Cummings are making their first trip to the tournament this weekend.

The district runner-up at 113 pounds last weekend, Fankhouser (18-14) will meet Altoona’s Curtis Dukes (14-15) in the first round Friday evening. DuBois freshman Dalton Woodrow (30-5) and Cathedral Prep’s Tyler McKinney (25-3) are the projected favorites at 113. Fankhouser would meet Woodrow in the quarterfinals if both were to win their first-round matches.

Another runner-up, Reagle (18-10) has a tough match in the opening round at 195 against Selinsgrove’s Aaron Boob (24-8). It’s a strong 195-pound bracket from top to bottom with Cathedral Prep’s Ian Malesiewski (19-3), Clearfield’s Travis Ogden (34-1), State College’s Cory Dreibelbis (24-4), Mifflin County’s Trey Hartsock (29-4), and Meadville’s Jeff Craig all entering with fewer than five losses on the season.

Moving to 138 pounds, Engstrom (25-10) will face off against Altoona’s Jarrell Kephart (17-7) in the first round. Engstrom was fourth at districts, but took a precautionary injury default in the consolation semis due to a sore shoulder and had to fight through an ankle injury earlier in the tournament.

Winslow (21-12) opens with Perry Traditional’s Keenen Sheffield (12-8) for a chance to take on District 6 champion Noah Myers of Mifflin County. On the other side of the bracket is the favorite, Hunter Zondory (30-2) of Jersey Shore. DuBois sophomore Kolby Ho (28-5) is another contender and could meet Winslow in the semifinals.

Rounding out Warren’s region qualifiers is Cummings (16-12) at 152 pounds – he’ll get Bellefonte’s Chase Gardner (12-6) in the first round. The better news for Cummings is who he won’t have to wrestle early in the tournament, and that’s Mifflin County senior and District 6 champion Hayden Hidlay. Hidlay (33-1) is ranked second in the nation at 152 by InterMat Wrestle and is committed to North Carolina State.

Trent Hidlay (34-2), a Mifflin County sophomore, is ranked No. 18 in the nation at 160 pounds and could meet undefeated Punxsutawney senior Kaleb Young (29-0). Bald Eagle heavyweight Josh Fye (25-0) is the Class AAA tournament’s only other unbeaten wrestler.

Action begins at 5 p.m. Friday with the first two rounds and continues at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning with wrestle-backs and the winner’s bracket semifinals. Consolation and championship finals are slated for Saturday evening at 6:15 p.m.