ALTOONA — After an underwhelming total of three wins on the mat Friday night amongst their six qualifiers at the PIAA AAA Northwest Regional Wrestling Championships, the Clearfield Bison wrestling team stampeded to 12 wins on Saturday and qualified two wrestlers for the PIAA State Championships in Hershey.
Junior 126 pounder Noah Cline and senior 285 pounder Jake Verchick matched 4-0 days and rumbled all the way through the wrestlebacks to earn bronze medals and their first trips to “states”.
Has any wrestler in the storied history of Clearfield wrestling ever had a career like Verchick? Probably not. From a 2-17 record as a freshman, to missing his entire sophomore season due to injury, to an unlikely post season run as a junior that ended with just a .500 record (17-17) and a top-6 finish at regionals, to a state qualifier and a 28-8 record as a senior! 10 of those 28 senior wins (and, hopefully more to come) have come in overtime – four of those in the regional tourney alone!
After losing a tough 6-4 decision in the quarterfinals on Friday night, Verchick (28-8) defeated Philipsburg-Osceola’s Logan Day 3-2 on an overtime tie-breaker, picked up just his third fall of the year over Carrick’s Mikel Betz, then won 2-1 on the tie-breaker over District 6 champion Colton Craig of Mifflin County to set up his final bout for a trip to Hershey. Standing in the way was Central Mountain’s Bryce Hanley (27-11). Not to be denied, Verchick bested Hanley 4-2, once again via the overtime tie-breaker.
Cline (28-9) has had no easy road to Hersey either this year. Missing the last month of the regular season and the final six dual meets after knee surgery, Cline returned with a third place finish at the District 4-9 tourney. Then Cline was beaten in his opening match 7-2 on Friday night. First on Saturday morning he defeated Richard Lowrie of Titusville 13-5, then he received an injury default in 4:54 over General McLane’s Hunter Hendricks, who had beaten Cline 2-1 during the Clearfield Bison Duals, then it was an 8-3 victory over Benji Yates of Erie McDowell to set Cline up with his final hurdle to Hershey. Once there, Cline earned a hard fought 1-0 win against Kyle Luben (29-8) of Meadville.
Fellow Bison sophomores Josiah McClarren at 120 and Travis Ogden at 182 each won two bouts during Saturday’s grueling wrestlebacks, but fell one win short of the decisive third place match needed to move on to the state tourney.
McClarren (21-17) avenged his District 4-9 consolation finals loss to DuBois’ Kody Cox with a fall at the 2:03 mark, then pinned State College’s Daniel Sills in 4:17, but fell to Bellefonte’s talented freshman Brock Port (32-4) by a 6-0 count.
Ogden, who had already won a consolation round match on Friday night, defeated Central Mountain’s Isaac Porter 8-3 and Carrick’s Hakeim McKenzie 14-2 before running into Erie McDowell senior strongboy Tyree Spearman (29-3) and being pinned in 1:25. Ogden’s (29-13) win total still leads the Bison this year, his first on the varsity.
Also competing on Saturday, but unable to win a match, were two more sophomores.
113 pounder Logan Gilbert finished his season at 19-16 after a 6-1 defeat to Shikellamy senior Tyler Hepler, and 138 pounder Tallin Norris finished his season at 11-17 after being pinned by St. Marys’ Kyle Pecht for the fourth time this season.
Clearfield’s strong Saturday showing moved them up eight spots from Friday’s standings to a 12th place finish with 46 team points. District 10’s General McLane claimed the title with 133 points.
The PIAA AAA State Championships will get under way for Cline and Verchick on Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
For complete Northwest Regional results courtesy Escape Sports: http://liveresults.escapesports.com/PIAA/2014-PIAA-Region-NW_AAA.html