Tom Elling’s Wrestling Mat-ters: Regional Wrestling Preview

This weekend is the North West Regional AAA tournament for our area and beyond. The two-day event will be held at the currently-under-remodeling Altoona High Field House. Wrestling will begin Friday night at 5:30 with the quarterfinals to take place shortly after the completion of round one.

On Saturday, the first round of consolations will take place at 10:00 Am with the second round of same to follow. The semis are scheduled for 12:30 PM; the Finals at 6:00 PM.

The Regionals under new direction as Paul Conklin elected to step down after five successful runs. Damian Branas and Dave Crumrine are serving as co-directors. This marks the first time that a Clinton County person has not been the director since 1972 when Big John Miller (Bellefonte) retired.

The very first Regional was in 1951 and was held at Clearfield Armory under the direction of Cy Boggs. It was then known as the Central-Northwestern Regional. The three periods were then 2-3-3. That’s right, eight minutes of wrestling.

The very first CNW champ was Johnny Johnston of Clearfield at 95-pounds. His coach was Art Weiss. There were just three qualifiers at each of the eleven weight classes. There were four PIAA State champions from that year: Dave Adams (Bellefonte) at 120; Tom Halford (Clearfield) at 138; Andy Lentvorsky (State College) at154 and Bob Good (Philipsburg) at 165. The highest weight class was 185.

There have been only five directors since 1951: Cy Boggs (1951-59); John Miller (1960-72); Bill Holland (1973-87); Tom Elling (1988-2013); Paul Conklin (2014-18).

Erie Cathedral Prep will be seeking their fourth-straight team title since the start of such award in 1982 (won by State College). BEA has the most team trophies with nine championships. Cathedral Prep amassed six. Central Mountain, Meadville and State College have four. Central Mountain is the only team (to this point) to win four-in-a-row. Bellefonte won in 2000 and Mifflin County in 2015. Clearfield (surprisingly) has claimed just one team gold and that was in their state championship year of 1986.

Look for Cathedral Prep to take the team title with Bellefonte coming in second. Central Mountain, Mifflin County, Altoona, Williamsport, Clearfield and Meadville should also challenge for the top five.

Congratulations to Central Mountain for capturing the District 6 Class AAA Team title. Also shout outs to Bellefonte coach Mike Maney for Coach-of-the-Year; Cole Urbas of State College for securing the Outstanding Wrestler; Brett Kleckner, Eric Coleman, and Gavin Caprio for the Junior High Coaching staff of the year.

Special mention to our area District Champs Taylor Weaver (113) and Lane Porter (145) of Central Mountain and to Bellefonte for tying the school’s best-ever four titles in Ryan Smith (132), Cole Stewart (138), Ethan Richner (152), and Kyle Myers (170).

The Class AA South West Regional was wrestled at IUP last weekend as well, giving the qualifiers an extra week to rest and recover. BEA will be sending Cooper Gilham to Hersey. The 113-pounder finished third. Teammate Garrett Giedroc just missed the trip with a sixth-place finish. The Eagles were 24th in the team standings.

Meanwhile down District 4 way in the Class AA, Jersey Shore had two placers who move on to North East Regionals this weekend. Hunter O’Connor was the lone champion for the Bulldog as he breezed through the 182-pound weight class with a default, a first period fall and a 9-3 decision over C-1 placer Mike Kustanbauter of Muncy. Liam Goodrich took a fifth to head back to Williamsport. O’Connor will get Shane Weidner of Mt. Carmel, the fifth placer in District 4; a wrestler he pinned in the semis. Goodrich get the District 4 champ Gabe Strictland of Benton.

OVERTIME

You probably know that Flowrestling has pretty much taken over the wrestling world. There are certainly arguments on both side as to the value of this. Probably the biggest drawback is for the older generation of fans, many of who do not own a computer or smartphone.

The media has been effusive (for the most part) in their praise as they no longer have to wait for the tournament director to pass out results and team standings. Also, fans at home or at the wrestling sites can check Flo Arena and no longer need wall charts for bracket updates. Good-bye Pete and Dan Wert- two guys who faithfully filled the wall chart role for many years at the NW AAA Region.

It was bittersweet to attend the Buffalo at Penn State meet seeing the last dual meets for the likes of Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal. They have provided PSU fans with so many thrills (and bonus points) throughout their careers. But I’m sorry I couldn’t be two places at the same time, as I regret missing the final home dual for LHU’s Chance Marsteller and Thomas Haines. And there was that little skirmish in Stillwater I’d have like to have followed. Here is wishing the Bald Eagles, Scott Moore and all the very best in EWLs and beyond.

It was like a “Who’s Who” in the wrestling world at Altoona last weekend as Carlton Haselrig, Joe Humphreys, Steve Wiser, Doug Buckwalter, Steve Krouse, Dr. John Sefter, Mike Maney and Mike Vuocolo among others graced the Field House. It’s always a good thing to see them and many other old friends.

One final word on the Mike Vuocolo D6 Hall of Fame tour. Mike requested photos with legends Joe Humphreys and Carlton Haselrig. Both were happy to comply. I do regret that I didn’t think to take one picture of Mike with family members. His brother Steve and his wife Mary Ann were there for Mike. Mrs. Vuocolo, I found out, is the sister of Barry, Steve and Dick Daniels. Barry, of course, was a PIAA Champ for George Custer in 1967 at 133-pounds. Dick worked with me during my tenure as the Lock Haven coach. He served brilliantly as the head of the junior high program.

Trivia: Who was the very first NCAA champion from Clinton County? Most would guess the great Paul Powell for Pitt at 123-lbs in 1958, but the correct answer is Joe Sapora of Renovo, who won the 115-pound title wrestling for the University of Illinois in 1929.He repeated at the same weight in 1930. In a follow-up the mention of Clearfield’s Johnny Johnston, he won the NCAA title at 130 for Penn State in 1957.

Former Slippery Rock wrestler Randy Loudon informs me that Penn State-DuBois is re-instituting the wrestling program. They are looking for some pretty good seniors who’d like to be part of what-promises-to-be a solid program. I spoke to a couple Wildcats who were of interest to Coach Loudon.

He can be contacted at rbl121@psu.edu or by phone at 814-590-7255.

Did you know the following with PA ties won three Div I NCAA Individual titles?

University of Pittsburgh ‘ Ed Peery and Hugh Peery were 3X NCAA champions.

Pittsburgh- Johnstown’s Carlton Haselrig was a 6X NCAA champion.

Lock Haven’s Gray Simons was a 4X NAIA champion and 3X NCAA champion.

Bloomsburg’s Ricky Bonomo was a 3X NCAA champion.

Lehigh’sMike Caruso was a 3X NCAA champion.

Penn State’s Ed Ruth and Zain Retherford were 3X NCAA champions.

Pennsylvania natives who were 3X champions at other schools:

Greg Jones at West Virginia, Nate Carr at Iowa State.

Jim Ferguson of Clinton County wrestling officiating fame mails me wrestling results from the Lakeland, Florida area. Florida, Georgia and Texas are the three most-improved states in high school wrestling. Since Tampa dropped the sport, there are no major colleges in that state that sponsor wrestling. Mississippi is the only state without high school wrestling. You may remember Fletcher Carr wrestled at Tampa then went on to establish and coach at the University of Kentucky. Fletcher is current LHU assistant Nate Carr, Jr’s. uncle.

Former Penn State coach Rich Lorenzo will be honored in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors Weekend (early June) with a Distinguished Member status. There is no finer person in wrestling than Lorenzo. The wrestling room at Penn State has been named in his honor. Rich is the kind of guy who always has time to stop and chat no matter who else is around.

We hear through the wrestling grapevine that Ron Bowes will be following the EWLs from Peru. We’re not sure if this is a scouting trip on behalf of Scott Moore. Safe travels, Ron.

Had some nice comments about this column from Pleasant Gap resident Brett Tyson, a huge wrestling fan. Brett is the son-in-law of Bellefonte legend Ken Moyer. Ken was one of the finest wrestling officials in the state and is called by former Red Raider two-time State Champ Dave Adams as “the best wrestler Bellefonte ever produced.” High praise, indeed. Adams was a pretty good baseballer and teamed with former BE-N teacher and coach Chuck Casper to form a solid nucleus for the Bellefonte baseball team.

Until next time.. when you have a choice, pick the positive one.

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