ALTOONA – After a night in which the Clearfield Bison had put three in the semi-finals at the PIAA NW AAA Regional Tournament in Altoona, the Bison will be heading to Hershey with a lone freshman left representing the team at this year’s state tourney.
Mark McGonigal (30-8), brother of last year’s Bison state champion Luke McGonigal at 195 pounds, will continue carrying the torch in his proud family’s honor by earning a spot at the PIAA AAA State Tournament at 145 pounds this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Giant Center. McGonigal did it by pushing himself into the Northwest Regional finals Saturday afternoon after making it to the semi-finals on Friday night.
In the semi-finals, McGonigal posted a solid 3-1 decision over Cathedral Prep’s Marques McClorin (26-16) before meeting up with sophomore phenom Ethan Richner (35-4) of Bellefonte in the finals. The finals lasted all of 1:42, where Richner tech-failed McGonigal 15-0.
Still, the younger McGonigal has a slightly better record than his brother did as a freshman (Luke was 26-13 after placing third at regionals as a freshman), and he placed one position higher at regionals. Bragging rights? That may be a bit premature.
Unfortunately, no other Bison wrestler made it to Hershey this year, but senior Johnathan “JT” Thomas (13-4) came close. The senior lost 5-3 in sudden victory at 106 pounds Saturday afternoon to freshman Jacob Van Dee (34-12) of Cathedral Prep in the semi-finals. JT then rebounded with a 9-4 victory over Cranberry’s Jacob Umstead (23-9) in their third meeting of the season, all won by Thomas, in the consolation semi-finals. But in the consolation finals with all the marbles on the line, Central Mopuntain freshman Derek Keen (31-8) came away with a 3-1 decision over JT. Thomas finished his career 23-19.
The only other Bison wrestler that made it to the consolation semi-finals was senior Caleb Freeland (26-11) at 145 pounds. Freeland lost in the championship semi-finals to sophomore Paniro Johnson (35-5) of Cathedral Prep. Johnson went on to win the tournament after beating Freeland 9-1 in the semis. Freeland then fell to the consolation semi-finals, but he was unable to score any points and lost 1-0 to junior Trent Tidball (30-9). Tidball then lost 1-0 to DuBois’ Dalton Woodrow in the bronze medal match. Freeland finished his career 60-39.
Two other seniors lost out in the consolation wrestle-backs Saturday morning. At 138 pounds, senior Jude Pallo (22-10) won his first wrestle back match against sophomore Donovan Fiscus (13-15) of Warren by an 11-10 score. Then Pallo fell to Saint Marys junior Tylor Herzing (19-9) who went on to place fourth overall in Pallo’s bracket. Pallo finished his career 68-63.
Avry Gisewhite (19-17) also ended his wrestling career as a Clearfield Bison by going 1-2 at the tournament. Gisewhite finished his career with a 45-53 record. Gisewhite started the morning with a second period fall over junior Ethan Williamson (13-16) of Williamsport before his career came to a close when he was pinned quickly in the second period by Cranberry’s Trey Wright (16-11).
The remaining four wresters did not end their careers this year, but all of them gained valuable experience in the tournament that will help them next season.
Freshman Nolan Barr (22-14) went 2-2 on the weekend, picking up two falls and eventually losing 7-2 to Selinsgrove freshman Aiden Gaugler (28-12) for the third time on the season. Gaugler went on to place fourth in the tournament.
Fellow freshman Karson Kline (26-16) also went 2-2. Kline tech falled Obama’s Robert Daniels (3-7) in his first wrestle back match Saturday morning before meeting up with DuBois sophomore Chandler Ho in the third round of consolation wrestling. Ho tech’ed Kline 16-1 to move on and eventually capture the bronze medal at 120 pounds.
Moving up to 170 pounds, junior Brett Zattoni (11-23) went 0-2 in his first regional tourney appearance. Zattoni was pinned by senior Parker Noss (17-9) in the third period. Zattoni’s record will be 15-37 heading into his senior season.
The final wrestler for the 2018-19 Thundering Herd that went home Saturday was freshman Oliver Billotte (15-8). Billotte pinned Erie’s junior Geremia Parker (1-15) in just 30 seconds in his first wrestle back of the morning, but he then met his maker when senior Tanner Riggle (29-11) majored him 12-3.
Overall, the Clearfield Bison Wrestling Team placed 10th overall in a field of 26 teams by scoring 62.5 points. Last year, the Bison scored 61.5 points and sent two wrestlers to Hershey, so this talented young them has already grown into a capable team that should see marked improvement each year as they grow and fill in the ranks with even more quality junior high wrestlers that will be filling weights in the next 2-3 years.
Erie Cathedral Prep once again won the team title, placing eight wrestlers and sending six to states. They beat Clearfield 3-0 in the semi-finals, and scored 181 points to second place Mifflin County’s 130. Cathedral Prep has won the tournament four years in a row, and they seem loaded enough to continue winning in the future. In third place was Bellefonte with 121.5 points and DuBois scored 96.5 points, sending four local kids to states and placing fourth overall.
Half of this year’s regional champions were all repeats from last year. Sophomore Matt Sarbo (32-1) of Altoona at 126, junior Ed Scott (32-0) of DuBois at 138, sophomore Paniro Johnson (32-5) of Cathedral Prep at 145, senior Carter Starocci (36-0) of Cathedral Prep at 182, senior Cole Urbas (30-0) of State College at 195, sophomore Nate Schon (33-1) of Selinsgrove at 220, and senior Kawaun Deboe (33-0) of Cathedral Prep all repeated from last year.
Full brackets, courtesy of PA-Wrestling, can be found by clicking here.
The stage is set and freshman Mark McGonigal will be heading to Hershey Wednesday morning to prepare for his first state tourney that begins Thursday at 152 pounds. Stay tuned for our 2019 PIAA AAA State Wrestling Tournament preview!