READY TO RUMBLE: Central Mountain begins PIAA AAA State Championships Thursday

Central Mountain High School senior Tanner Weaver (170, top) wrestles his opponent during a high school wrestling meet against Mifflin County High School. The Wildcats begin the PIAA AAA State Championships on Thursday, March 8. (The Express/Tim Weight)

LOCK HAVEN — When the 2017-18 high school wrestling season began, the Central Mountain Wildcat squad didn’t boast a multitude of battled-tested veterans.

However, during the season, you could see the improvement by each of the members of the squad that resulted in three top-three finishes in tournaments along the way while the ‘Cats compiled an outstanding 13-2 mark with only an early season loss to Bald Eagle Area and a setback to Mifflin County in the District VI Duals on their record.

In the post-season, the ‘Cats were strong as ever in winning the team title in the District VI individual tournament before posting a strong third-place finish in the NW-AAA regional tournament.

While placing third in the regionals, Central Mountain continued to battle and scrap, turning some apparent defeats into exciting wins as they qualified five wrestlers for the Big Dance that starts Thursday in Chocolatetown at the Giant Center.

The five CM wrestlers includes three consolation survivors and a pair of regional runners-up.

Entering the championships as regional runners-up for the Wildcats will be Johnny Shreffler (113), a junior with a 23-13 log, and senior Seth Andrus (132) with a 31-4 record.

Shreffler will meet SC-3 finisher Tim Uhler of New Oxford, a sophomore with a 37-9 record; while Andrus will meet junior Tyler Williams of Souderton, the SE-2 finisher with a 30-7 mark.

Going into the tournament as a result of finishing third in the Northwest-AAA affair will be Logan Long (145), a senior with a 30-8 log; Tanner Weaver (170), a senior with a 33-6 log and Mahlik Houtz (220), a senior who comes in with a season record of 23-10.

Long’s first opponent will be SC-2 finisher Tate Nichter, a freshman from Chambersburg with a 28-9 log. Weaver is paired against Steven Newell of Dallas, the NE-4 placer, a junior with a 39-3 record and Houtz’s first opponent is senior John McCarthy from Delaware Valley, the NE-4 place-winner with a record of 32-6.

Following the regional tournament, Central Mountain head coach Biff Walizer expressed how proud he was of his athletes for the way they battled and fought all the way through the tournament while representing the area.

Joining the handful of Wildcats in the Big Dance will be Jersey Shore’s Hunter O’Connor, the runner-up at 182 pounds in the Northeast Class AA tournament.

A junior with a record of 31-7, O’Connor will meet Matt Lewandowski of Mahanoy Area, the SE-3 finisher with a record of 32-3 in the Round of 16.

Wrestling in the first session of the AAA championships is set for 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Class AA will kick off the weekend of state wrestling with a first session scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday.

While the five current Wildcats are doing battle in the Giant Center, a former Central Mountain wrestler, Bryce Hanley, is a few miles away from Hershey in Texas, representing PSU-DuBois by competing in the NCWA national championship tournament.

“This is my third trip making it to the NCWA National Championships,” said Hanley. “Being a national qualifier for a third time is an awesome feeling. The last two years, I’ve been a match away from All-American status. Both those years I was competing at the 285 division. My division has a 235 weight class, so this season I decided to make the drop to 235. The drop has helped me both physically and mentally. It has helped me become more disciplined. As far as, how I’m going to approach the tournament. I’m just going to go out and wrestle hard for 7 minutes, and let it all on the mat. We’ve been training really hard this week with conditioning and really focusing on our technique. I’d say the biggest thing for me is to just have fun and let it fly. The ultimate goal is to be a national champ, but getting over the bump to become an All-American will be a great accomplishment too.”