ALTOONA – The bad news is that the Clearfield Bison wrestlers went 3-6 on the mat at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse on Friday night during the opening rounds of the PIAA AAA Northwest Regional Wrestling Championships.
The good news is that with the three wins and a forfeit that the Bison received, and with all of the byes that come with the uneven 14-man bracket, all six Bison entrants are still alive in their quest for a top-3 finish, and a trip to the state tourney, heading into Saturday morning’s second round of consolations which begin at 10:00. No Bison, however, will be in the semifinals that begin at 12:30.
Three of the Bison picked up preliminary round wins. At 126, junior Noah Cline got his the easy way – via forfeit when the District 8 champ didn’t make weight and Cline’s scheduled first round opponent was re-slotted to a different bracket.
138 pound sophomore Tallin Norris defeated District 8’s champion, Jordon Oliver (7-7) of Brashear, 6-2 with a late headlock and two nearfall points to move on to the quarterfinals in his first trip to regionals.
The third preliminary round winner was senior Jake Verchick at 285. As has been Verchick’s custom, it took overtime to record the win. Facing Titusville’s Jason Oakes (19-16), the match was tied at one at the end of regulation. Neither wrestler could secure the sudden victory in period four, so the match moved to the ride out, where each earned a quick escape during their turn on bottom. By virtue of scoring the bout’s first points, Verchick chose bottom during the ultimate tie-breaker period and escaped with nine seconds left to earn the hard fought 3-2 victory.
Two Bisons suffered first round defeats.
At 120 Bison sophomore Josiah McClarren never recovered from a first period 5-point move by Erie Strong Vincent’s Josh Caban (24-4) and was sent to the wrestlebacks by a 9-2 count. McClarren (19-16) then received a bye to the second round of consolations where he will battle Dubois’ Kody Cox (24-10). Cox beat McClarren last week in the third place match at districts 15-13 in overtime.
Classmate Travis Ogden got off to a slow start in his regional debut and found himself down 9-2 late in the third period to State College’s Cory Dreibelbis (6-5). Ogden mounted a late charge, but just ran out of time and the bout ended in a 9-7 loss with Dreibelbis on his back.
Ogden, the lone Bison to have to wrestle in the first round of consolations, pinned Cody Gunn (20-12) in 3:16 to move on to Saturday morning’s action. Once there, he has Central Mountain’s Isaac Porter (17-13) in which to contend.
The quarterfinals did not go well for the four Bison first round survivors.
After receiving a first round bye at 113, Logan Gilbert was beaten by Meadville’s Aaron Ehrgott (28-5) by a 4-0 count after giving up a first period takedown and one escape in each of the final two periods. Gilbert (19-15) then received another bye to the second round of consies, where he’ll face a familiar opponent in Tyler Hepler (18-12) of Shikellamy. Gilbert beat Hepler just last week in the District 4-9 championship finals.
At 126, Cline was handled by Anthony Myers (25-3) of State College by a 7-2 count. Cline had tied the match at 2-2 with a second period reversal, but Myers reversed right back for a 4-2 lead heading to the final period. Myers scored an escape and takedown to secure the victory. Cline (24-9)also received a bye in the first round of consies and now has Williamsport’s Richard Lowrie (14-14) in his second round consy match.
Tallin Norris (11-16) ran into State College senior Mike Kauffman (25-3) and was dispatched in 1:01 of the first period. Norris also received a first round consolation bye and he too will face a familiar foe in the second round. Norris will, for the fourth time this year, be up against St. Marys’ Kyle Pecht (27-7). We’ll just say Pecht has had the upper hand the first three times.
At 285, Verchick (24-8) was in another tussle, this time with Joshua Fye (25-7) of Bald Eagle Area. Verchick had beaten the Eagle wrestler in the dual meet back in December, but Fye returned the favor here with a five point third period to edge the Bison 6-4. Two takedowns by Fye in the final minute sealed the win. With his career on the line, Verchick will be up against Philipsburg-Osceola’s Logan Day (13-9) in the second round of consolations. Verchick was a 7-3 winner in the dual meet on February 4.
The Bison stand in 20th place in the team race with 11 points. Meadville is the team leader heading in to day two with 49 points.
The complete bracket results can be found here courtesy Escape Sports: http://liveresults.escapesports.com/PIAA/2014-PIAA-Region-NW_AAA.html