ALTOONA — The third time was the charm for Bison junior Luke McGonigal in his quest for a Northwest Region AAA title.
After third place finishes his freshman and sophomore seasons, McGonigal (33-1) stormed through his bracket to win the 170 pound title with a convincing 8-2 victory over the District 10 champion, Luigi Yates (36-6) of Erie Cathedral Prep, in the championship finals.
McGonigal notched the opening takedown and worked a tilt for three nearfall points before giving up an escape for a 5-1 lead after the first period. A McGonigal escape in the second was the lone point and stretched the lead to 6-1 heading to the final two minutes. There, Yates chose a neutral start, hoping for a big move to close the gap on McGonigal. It was not to be as McGonigal picked up another takedown to up his lead to 8-1 to ice it. A late escape by Yates closed out the scoring at 8-2.
McGonigal had reached the finals with a similar victory in his semifinal bout with Iilyaz Veysalov (28-9) of Erie McDowell. That 9-2 win was done via three takedowns, a 2-point tilt, and an escape.
McGonigal will take a career record of 97-19 to the PIAA-AAA State Championships in Hershey, which begin on Thursday.
According to info provided by Clearfield wrestling historian Jessica Shirey, McGonigal’s regional title, the first for Clearfield since Nolan Barger’s in 2013, was Clearfield’s 64th overall and the 14th under current Head Coach Jeff Aveni.
Two other Bison, senior 160 pounder Thayne Morgan and sophomore heavyweight Trae Kitko made it to the final eight in their respective weight classes.
Morgan (17-16) had a fall in 1:19 over Erie McDowell’s Zennon Bardsley (1-4) in the second round of consolations, but then had his career ended in the next round after being beaten 9-1 by Nick DeSimone (27-8) of Warren.
Kitko (16-5) also picked up a fall in the second round of consies, his in 2:40 over St. Marys’ Joe Kucenski (17-10), but was then eliminated by State College’s Drew Linnes (21-5) by a 2-1 score in the third round. Kitko’s two losses were to the eventual third and fourth place finishers, both seniors.
Another three Bison, freshman 106 pounder Peyton Smay, junior 120 pounder Matt Ryan and senior 182 pounder Steven Sawyer made it to the second round of consolations before bowing out.
Smay (13-17) was pinned in 2:48 by Carter Stanley (20-6) of Oil City to close out his successful freshman season.
Ryan (26-15) was dealt a 13-0 loss by Bellefonte’s Ryan Smith (21-17) and will take a 60-52 mark in to his senior campaign next year.
And Sawyer (15-15) ended his career with a 7-1 loss to Thomas Pollard (14-11) of Meadville. A fall in 3:50 over Warren’s Liam Stevenson (9-13) was Sawyer’s first round consy win.
Cole Smay (10-18) was defeated 13-1 in his first consy match by Hayden Butterfield (18-16). Smay will take a two-year record of 17-31 in to his junior year next season.
The Bison ended up with 42 team points, good enough for 14th place out of the 31 teams represented. Team champion was Erie Cathedral Prep with 140 points, while DuBois finished in the runner-up spot with 118 team points.
District 9 will send nine representatives to the state tourney. Joining McGonigal are five wrestlers from DuBois, two from St. Marys and one from Punxsutawney.
Champions were as follows: 106 – Trenton Donahue (36-2), DuBois; 113 – Ed Scott (35-1), DuBois; 120 – Tyler Dilley (24-4), St. Marys; 126 – Garrett Rigg (31-6), BEA; 132 – Cole Manley (21-0), Altoona; 138 – Seth Koleno (31-3), BEA; 145 – Brock Port (36-0), Bellefonte; 152 – Carter Starocci (42-2), Erie Cathedral Prep; 160 – Trent HIdlay (34-0), Mifflin County; 170 – Luke McGonigal (33-1), Clearfield; 182 – Cole Urbas (28-0), State College; 195 – Ethan Laird (36-1), General McLane; 220 – Pete Haffner (25-3); 285 – Kawaun DeBoe (42-3), Erie Cathedral Prep
Complete bracket results courtesy PA-Wrestling.com can be found by clicking here.