ALTOONA – The Clearfield Bison wrestling team will battle at the Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament at the Altoona Area High School Field House on Friday and Saturday.
All eight qualifying wrestlers from the Bison practice room will be working hard this week to put on the finishing touches of their own unique styles with one goal: qualify for the PIAA State Wrestling Championships in Hershey next week.
The Northwest Regional tournament is often seen by many to be even more fun to watch than the state tournament. Wrestlers are forced to let go of many of their conservative ways if they want to advance to the next round.
The consolation final blood-round may be the most exciting hour of wrestling through the entire year, as only the top three wrestlers will advance to Hershey. No one is safe, no matter how good their record is. Many top wrestlers have fallen to yet-unknown sensations who believed in themselves and their abilities over the years.
The road will be wrestled one match at a time, and only one wrestler on this Bison team has ever found the promised land: Luke McGonigal, who won a regional title last year at 170 after placing third in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He’s bumped up two weight classes this year, but he’s yet to wrestle anyone with the muscle and strength he’s developed, even when he bumped up to 285 pounds.
McGonigal is sporting a perfect 29-0 record in his senior year and will receive a bye in the first round before wrestling the winner of either Bald Eagle’s David Close or Meadville’s Thomas Pollard in the quarter-finals.
Another wrestler with a great chance at busting a move through his bracket is Bison senior Matt Ryan (24-7) at 126, but his biggest test might come in his first round against Bellefonte’s Cole Stewart. Stewart and Ryan met each other earlier in the season, where Ryan attempted a five-point move and put himself on his back. You can read about it here.
If Ryan can make it past Stewart by wrestling with his aggressive, smart, neutral offense he’s mounted over the last month, he will wrestle the winner of Oil City’s Carter Stanley or Mifflin County’s Derek Burk in the quarter-finals.
The final senior wrestling for Clearfield will be Hunter Wright (23-10). Wright will be wrestling Bellefonte’s Ethan Rossman in the first round at 160. Wright bested Rossman 6-4 when they met in the middle of January. If Wright manages to make it to the semi-finals, he will most likely meet Erie Prep’s buzz saw Carter Starocci, a returning regional champion who is currently 39-0.
Wrestling at 152 as a junior, Caleb Freeland (17-10) will be pitted against Central Mountain’s Alonzo Henry in the first round. Freeland will need to wrestle to win in order to get by his quarter finals match against Mifflin County’s freshman sensation Trey Kibe, who is currently 34-5 and won the District 6 title this past weekend.
Jude Pallo (17-14) is another junior who is set to do some damage this weekend. Pallo will wrestle Bellefonte’s Ryan Smith in the first round. If he gets past Smith, Pallo will wrestle the District 10 champion Tyler McKinney of Erie Prep.
The last junior wrestling for Clearfield is Avry Gisewhite (18-14). Gisewhite will tango with Mifflin County’s Kross Todaro in the first round. If Gisewhite can pull off some last second third period magic that he’s utilized numerous times this season, he will wrestle Erie Prep’s Kareem Carson in the quarter-finals.
The two sophomores Peyton Smay (11-13) and Nate Barr (10-11) will both be wrestling in the preliminary round.
Smay will wrestle Erie McDowell’s Nathan Digello at 113 first. If he wins, he will wrestle either Bald Eagle’s Garret Giedroc or Erie Prep’s Ben Tirpak.
Barr will compete against Erie Prep’s Marques McClorin at 138. A win for bar will put him against undefeated Bald Eagle senior Seth Koleno in the quarters. Koleno was a regional champ at 138 last year.
Overall, Erie Cathedral Prep will bring the most wrestlers to the NW regionals this weekend. Thirteen of their wrestlers will be making the trip, while Carrick and Central Mountain will each sport 11 wrestlers.
There are eight returning regional champions from last year. DuBois’ Ed Scott (126), Bald Eagle’s Garrett Rigg (145) and Seth Koleno (138), Erie Prep’s Carter Starocci (160) and Kawaun Deboe (285), Mifflin County’s Trent Hidlay (170), Clearfield’s own Luke McGonigal (195) and State College’s Cole Urbas (195) will all be attempting to repeat.
Below are the approximate times of each round.
Full brackets, courtesy of PA-wrestling.com, can be found here.