CLARION — As it is every year, the team goal going into districts is to advance as many wrestlers on to the next weekend. Despite a down-year by Clearfield Bison standards, the District 9 Championships can be considered a success.
Overall, eight of the 11 Bisons that hit the mats at Waldo S. Tippin Gymnasium on the Clarion University campus will now participate at the Northwest Regional Championships at Altoona High School next weekend, March 2 and 3.
Picking up his third district title was junior and number one seed Christian Stone at 120 pounds. Stone (24-5) pinned Bradford’s Luke McMurtrie (2-3) in 4:56 of the championship bout. Stone was leading 6-2 when he went “head-hunting” and rolled McMurtrie right to his back for the fall. To reach the finals, Stone had also pinned Punxsutawney’s Devan Snyder in 1:21. The two wins bumped Stone’s career victory total to 90.
While Stone’s title was not unexpected, fellow junior Dylan Graham at 126 did pull off a bit of an upset to earn his first title. The number two seed coming in, Graham had to face off in the finals with a returning district champ in DuBois’ Garret Brown (27-9). Brown had defeated Stone in overtime back in the dual meet and had to be the favorite in the title match.
Graham, however, was not intimidated and went toe-to-toe the entire match to earn a hard fought 2-1 tie-breaker victory. After a scoreless first period in which Graham seemed the aggressor, Graham won the toss for the second period. There, Graham wisely took bottom and escaped within the first second or two. After another two minutes of neither wrestler being able to get a takedown, Brown was down for the third. After a three second escape the match was knotted at 1-1. Graham appeared to pick up a match-winning takedown near the end of the bout, but was ruled out of bounds on a close call. The overtime period yielded much of the same as another minute went by with no takedown. Graham was able to ride Brown the entire thirty seconds in the first tie-breaker period and then escaped with 22 seconds left in the second tie-breaker period to lead 2-1. After fighting off one final exchange, Graham (21-10) celebrated the victory and his first district title.
At 145 pounds, the third Bison junior in Clearfield’s “Big 3”, Nolan Barger was a slight favorite heading into his finals match-up with DuBois’ sophomore Tom Sleigh (29-7). In the only finals bout featuring two returning district champions, Barger (26-4) knew going in that it would be a tussle as the two had met twice previously on the season with Barger picking up two close victories, one in overtime.
After a scoreless first period Barger reversed Sleigh at the 1:15 mark of the second, but yielded an escape to Sleigh with 30 seconds left in the period to lead 2-1 heading to the third. There, Sleigh managed another escape to send the match to overtime 2-2. About halfway through the sudden victory period, Sleigh picked up a takedown at the edge of the mat to win 4-2. Sleigh was awarded the Joseph Kata AAA Outstanding Wrestler Award for his efforts.
Two other Bison wrestlers reached the finals and also had to settle for runner-up status.
Freshman 106 pounder Noah Cline (11-14) faced off with DuBois Beaver Bryce Swauger (29-8) in the opening bout. Swauger had pinned the Bison back in the dual meet and was the number one seed. Cline once again showed how much he has improved over the course of the season by losing a “closer than the score would indicate” 5-0 final. The last two points coming late in the match on a takedown by Swauger after Cline attempted a last-ditch effort throw.
Senior Jordan Lancaster lost the final bout of the night to earn his second consecutive silver medal at 285 pounds. Lancaster (13-16) lost to DuBois senior and number one seed Kyle Dixon (18-12) 2-1. Dixon had pinned Lancaster in the first period of the dual meet earlier in the season.
Bisons winning their consolation bout for third place were Jake Lancaster (6-8) at 138, Kody Hepfer (6-18) at 160, and Devin Sinclair (2-19) at 195. All three will move on to the Northwest Regional Championships. Who would have predicted that Clearfield’s 113-pounder at the start of the season would qualify for regionals at 138? Probably no one.
Suffering defeats in the consolation finals and settling for fourth place were senior Frankie Aveni (11-18) at 132 and junior Michael Beck (3-18) at 152.
Shane Billings (0-18) went 0-2 at 220, while Bison senior Garrett Timko (4-17) didn’t weigh enough for 182 and didn’t get to compete.
The Bisons had no entries at 113 or 170.
DuBois defended their team title by crowning eight champions – Swauger at 106, Anthony Vizza (26-9) at 113, Sleigh at 145, Shane Marshall (21-10) at 160, three-time champ Geno Morelli (29-3) at 170, Landon Hanna (29-2) at 195, Nich Davido (10-4) at 220, and Dixon.
Other champions were Punxsutawney’s Perry Arrington (17-10) at 138 and Seth Spack (24-2) at 152, St. Marys’ Joe McLaughlin (21-8) at 182, and Bradford’s Zach Britton (28-2) at 132.
Team Standings – 1. DuBois 188.5, 2. Punxsutawney 132, 3. St. Marys 128, 4. Clearfield 122, 5. Bradford 84.5
Complete bracket results courtesy Bob Imhoff and Bob’s Corner on crossfacewrestling.net: http://crossfacewrestling.net/Documents/2012%20District%20IX%20Class%20AAA%20Finals%20and%20Consolation%20Finals.pdf