Spack, Arrington claim D-IX titles, record 10 Chucks advance
CLARION – Saturday, the Punxsy wrestling team took 11 grapplers to the District IX Individual Wrestling Championships at Clarion University, and with 10 of the 11 advancing to the regional tournament this coming weekend in Altoona, the Chucks set a school record for individuals advancing beyond Districts.
Of the 10 advancing, the highlights of the tournament for the Chucks came in a pair of District IX champions being crowned in senior Seth Spack, at 152 pounds, and freshman Perry Arrington, at 138 pounds.
While both were crowned champions, the two entered the tournament with very different circumstances. Spack was the tournament's No. 1 seed, and Punxsy's only top seed, and Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy said he and his coaching staff expected Spack to earn the title.
Spack started the tournament with a win over Clearfield's Mike Beck, who had upset Bradford's Dustin Coles in the quarterfinal to earn a shot at Spack.
Spack handled him easily, though, earning a first-period pin just 52 seconds in to advance to the finals against No. 2 seed Mike Kennelly, of DuBois.
Kennelly and Spack did not have a head-to-head matchup entering the D-IX tournament, which Eddy said he would have preferred one, but Spack proved to be up to the challenge and secured a convincing 12-3 major decision in the finals.
"Seth was seeded No. 1, and really, we expected a District title out of Seth," Eddy said. "Not that it was necessary to win it to move on, but it's a nice way to go into Regionals. Last year, he didn't win the D-IX title, and he ended up the Regional champion. It's all about where you get seeded at Regionals now, depending on which side of the bracket will be tougher. We don't watch what others have done to try to affect the seeding. We just go in, wrestle and try to win."
While Spack went into the tournament with the expectation of a title coming his way, freshman Arrington entered the No. 2 seed and was considered an underdog to St. Marys' senior representative, Sam Miller.
Arrington opened his bracket against Clearfield's Jake Lancaster and earned a quick fall at 1:15 to enter the finals against Miller.
In the final bout, Miller earned an early takedown to put Arrington in a hole, but Arrington battled back and allowed just one point for the remainder of the match to earn a 6-3 victory and claim the coveted championship.
"Perry's championship wasn't really expected," Eddy said. "But at the beginning of the tournament Saturday, I just had a feeling Perry was going to win it. He came out and wrestled well in his first match. Coming into the finals, he was losing at one point, but I had a feeling all along that something big was going to happen."
Eddy had said entering the tournament that Arrington's style could "give anyone fits," and Arrington's approach did just that to Miller, keeping him on his toes, as Arrington stayed on the offensive. But Eddy said it didn't quite happen exactly as he had envisioned.
"Perry's a great flurrier and a great scrambler," Eddy said. "What I expected was Perry to catch him with a headlock or a lateral drop, but what won it for Perry was good, basic technique. He won it wrestling well on the bottom. It was nice for him to win it as a freshman. That's hard to do. Normally, when you see a freshman champion, you see it happen at 106 or 113 pounds. So it was a big win for Perry."
In addition to his two D-IX champs, Eddy also had three seniors make the finals to earn runner-up in their respective weight class and advance to Regionals – Neko Cappella at 132 pounds, Carl Langley at 170 pounds and Josh Neal at 182.
Cappella was ranked No. 2 at 132 pounds entering the tournament, and after a 5-0 victory over St. Marys' Alex Coudriet in the semis, he faced off against the No. 1 seed, Bradford's Zach Britton, in the finals.
The bout was a close, intense battle, but Britton came out on top with a 5-3 decision.
"Britton is a tough, tough wrestler," Eddy said. "Neko's 5-3 loss was a very good match. It ended with a flurry, where Neko nearly secured a takedown, but it was just a good match. Now, we need to prepare Neko for this Friday's wrestling and go as far through this regional tournament as possible, hopefully reaching states."
Langley followed the same path as Cappella, entering the No. 2 seed and earning a semi-final win over Bradford's Dylan Lamberson with a late third-period fall to make the finals.
In the final round, Langley met a tough foe in DuBois' Geno Morelli, who wrestled the majority of the season at 170 pounds before falling to 160 for Districts.
Morelli used his brute strength to bully Langley around the mat and earn a 19-3 technical fall in the third period, but Eddy still liked what he saw from his 170-pounder.
"Morelli is tough, too," Eddy said. "He's already signed Division I wrestling, and he's a very strong wrestler. He secured the technical fall, but Carl wrestled well. The big thing is, when you wrestle an athlete like Morelli, you have to go after him. You want to go out wrestling. Morelli's not just the best in the district, he's one of the best in the region and the state."
Punxsy's final semi-finalist was Neal at 182 pounds. Neal's bracket had only three contenders, but he still had to earn his way into the finals with a 6-0 decision over DuBois' Brady Haines.
In the finals, St. Marys' Joe McLaughlin earned a fall over Neal in the second period, but again, Eddy liked what he saw from his senior.
"Josh Neal wrestled a good match," Eddy said. "He ended up losing by fall, but McLaughlin was a returning District champion. Josh wrestled well, but he was a little hesitant on his feet. He usually goes out and gets really physical, but he was a bit hesitant and avoided the tie ups, which is where he usually wrestles well. The thing is, though, he went down wrestling, and that's what you want. He didn't back down."
Punxsy also had five grapplers qualify for Regionals by winning their consolation rounds.
Andrew Bullers finished third at 106 pounds by defeating St. Marys' Ray Dent after falling to the No. 2 seed, Clearfield's Noah Cline.
"Bullers wrestled a couple of good matches," Eddy said. "He lost his first match but wrestled well. And in his last match, he secured another victory over Dent, who he pinned in our dual meet. It was almost a replay of it."
At 113 pounds, Punxsy's Joel Bowerd finished third in a tightly competitive bracket after a 7-3 loss to St. Marys' Evan Smith.
The 113 pound bracket had only three wrestlers, meaning each advanced. Eddy said other wrestlers bumped to 120 pounds to avoid the three top dogs in the class, so finishing third was no shame for Bowers.
At 120 pounds, Punxsy's Devan Snyder, who entered the tournament the fifth seed, went 2-1 on the day with a quarter-final win over DuBois' Kody Cox and a victory via fall over St. Marys' No. 3 seed in the consolation finals to earn the upset.
Punxsy's Josh Schuckers also finished third for the Chucks to advance to Regionals at 126 pounds.
Schuckers was defeated 16-7 in the semis by Clearfield's Dylan Graham but earned a 7-0 victory in the consolation finals to earn his spot this coming weekend.
"Josh wrestled a couple good matches in a really tough class," Eddy said. "He lost his first match to the eventual district champion, and that match was a lot closer than the score would indicate."
Punxsy's final qualifier was senior Tyler Titus at 220 pounds.
Titus opened the tourna-ment with an 11-3 loss to St. Marys' Gary Fledderman but battled back through the consolation bracket to defeat Clearfield's Shane Billings, 3-0, and Bradford's Zach Zawatski via fall at 2:38.
"Tyler came back in his final match against an opponent he had previously beaten 5-3," Eddy said. "And he was able to take a 3-0 lead into the second and turn him for the fall. So he did a really good job there."
Punxsy's Tanner James was the final competitor for the Chucks at 160 pounds. James entered the fourth seed and battled DuBois' Shane Marshall, the eventual D-IX champ, for five minutes before being pinned.
In the consolation final, James fell victim to Clearfield's No. 3 seed, Kody Hepfer.
Overall, in the team scoring, Punxsy did well to finish second behind just DuBois.
DuBois finished with 188.5 team points to Punxsy's 132, but Eddy was pleased with the team score, as well.
"Overall, the kids did a great job," he said. "DuBois has a really great team this year. They'll be really good next year too with a lot of returning wrestlers. But to finish above St. Marys and Clearfield was a nice feat for our kids."
Eddy also noted he was excited for his kids advancing a record number of Punxsy athletes through to the regional tournament.
"That's the most we've ever advanced, as we usually take six or seven," he said. "Overall, I'm proud of our performance, and I thought the kids did a great job."
Now, the Chucks turn their focus to preparations for the regional tournament.