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PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” His 143 victories were the sixth-most in District IX history and by far the most ever by a Punxsutawney Area High School wrestler. His 92 pins were second-highest in District IX lore, two behind the record holder. He won four district titles, reached the state tournament twice and earned a regional title once during his four-year career.
Though he didn't compete at a school that has ever been associated with the best in the district, Punxsy senior Kody Young just completed a career that ranks up with the best in the area.
"He has to be one of the best District IX wrestlers in District IX all-time. Coming out of Punxsy for one, he has 143 wins and 13 losses. That's just phenomenal," Young's dad and one of PAHS' coaches, Buddy Young, said. "He didn't lose to anybody who hadn't been to states or placed at states. His 13 losses are to kids that can just flat out wrestle."
And he still wanted more.
Young's ultimate goal for years was winning a state medal. He fell one victory short of that accomplishment in both his sophomore and senior years, finishing as one of the top 12 125-pounders in 2009 and 2011. The top eight receive a medal.
Now, he's going to take that desire to be the best to the next level.
"Wins wise and everything, I was happy with it. I felt accomplished," Young said. "But since I never got the medal at states, it kind of leaves that there for college â€” that mentality to keep going and make bigger goals in college since I never reached that one in high school."
Young has yet to decide what's next, though wrestling will be in his collegiate future, along with a physical therapy major. He expects to attend either Division I Edinboro University or Division II Mercyhurst College â€” both schools in Erie County.
The senior will visit both before making a decision, keeping in mind that he will have an opportunity to start immediately at Mercyhurst. If he chooses Edinboro, he will more than likely redshirt his first year before it would be a challenge for him to crack the lineup the next year for the Fighting Scots, who are one of the top 30 wrestling schools in the nation.
What Young leaves behind is a shift in PAHS' winter sports expectations. Punxsy has become more than a basketball school once the snow begins to fall.
When Buddy Young and head coach Eric Eddy arrived nine years ago, the Chucks had 11 wrestlers on the varsity team and eight on the junior-high squad. Over the years, those numbers have grown, and so have the program's accomplishments.
During Young's freshman year, Punxsy had five district champions, including two-time winner Steven Cressley, a state-qualifier his senior year, who is currently wrestling at Division I Clarion University, which has seen its share of improvement over the last few years.
Young defeated St. Marys senior Steve Simchick for the third time that year with a 1-0 decision for his first district title.
Three years and three district titles later, Young said that third win over Simchick ranks as his favorite high school wrestling moment, along with winning the 125-pound regional title two weeks ago.
He won four regional medals during that time, finishing fourth twice and third once in addition to the championship.
All the while, Young put pressure on himself to live up to his record, which was nearly spotless entering the postseason each season. He was undefeated after the regular season his freshman year, lost once each in 2009 and 2010 and had two defeats entering states this year.
Of his 13 career losses, nine of them came in the postseason, and Young felt as if he let everyone down after every defeat, especially when he didn't win a state medal.
"The program back then wasn't up to par with the other sports. I wanted to make a name for it and just put it out there for everyone," he said. "The first year of states, I really wanted to place just to get that out of the way. The wrestling program has come along. It's built itself up."
Buddy Young feels his son's accomplishments go well beyond whether he won a state medal or not. Young earned two National High School Coaches Association national championships and was a NHSCA All-American four times during the offseason.
"As far as his ultimate goal, he fell short. But the things he accomplished on his way there are simply amazing," Buddy Young said. "I always thought about how I'd feel when his career was over. At first, I was bummed. But then I looked at what he accomplished, and there's not much you can say (other than), 'Wow.'"
Young leaves a program that continues to grow. Juniors Seth Spack and Neko Cappella will become the third and fourth 100-win wrestlers in school history next year, joining Young and Matt Means.
Juniors Nathan McGregor and Josh Neal are coming off regional berths, and so are freshmen Joel Bowers and Josh Schuckers. Meanwhile, at the junior-high level, 13 wrestlers â€” led by Perry Arrington and Young's brother, Kaleb â€” had above-.500 records on a team that finished 15-2 for the program's best middle school mark since the 1980s.
"I've wrestled with Seth, Neko and McGregor all the way through, so I know what they can do for next year," Young said. "With my brother, Perry and the two freshmen that came up this year, they're going to make some big noise for Punxsy wrestling, too."
With more than 20 wrestlers on the junior-high team and 29 wrestlers to compete in today's Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Area V Tournament, Buddy Young believes the sky's the limit for the program.
"The future is very bright, but we have to keep it where it's at," he said. "That foundation is strong. It looks good. I just smile."View more articles in: