PUNXSUTAWNEY — Three-time champion Kody Young and a trio of underclassmen embody Punxsy's lightest four weight classes entering District IX Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships Saturday at Clarion University.
Young, a senior, will compete for a fourth district crown, while three other Chucks — sophomore Devan Snyder and freshmen Josh Schuckers and Joel Bowers — will compete in the varsity tournament for the first time.
Young is the only top seed among the four, and he's a heavy favorite at 125 pounds. The upperclassman is the only three-time champion in school history, and he's one of two grapplers in the bracket with a winning record.
St. Marys sophomore Alex Coudriet enters districts with a 17-13 mark, but he is the No. 3 seed opposing DuBois senior Matt Bussatto (11-16), who beat Coudriet, 8-5, Feb. 3 to earn the No. 2 seed.
Young (27-2), the school record holder in career victories, didn't face any of his four bracket-mates this season. He will have to beat Bradford's Travis Laird or Clearfield's Frank Aveni — who combined for four victories this season — before meeting Coudriet or Bussatto in the final.
"The unfortunate thing is: He doesn't get to see a lot of these guys during the season. That's just the way things go," Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy said. "He just needs to stay focused to be a four-time D-IX champ."
Young is in search of more than just a district title Saturday. He's looking to continue building his pin fall total.
The senior has 89 career falls and is five away from tying Clarion's Kyle Cathcart (1999-2002) for most pins in District IX history.
While Young is more than likely to advance to regionals, Schuckers is guaranteed to move on at 103 pounds. Schuckers is the No. 3 seed among three 103-pounders, and three grapplers from each of the 14 weight classes will head to regionals in Altoona next weekend.
St. Marys' Damien Wensel, who Schuckers beat Feb. 9, 4-0, withdrew from the district tournament, leaving just three at 103.
"It's nice that he's going to get that experience (at regionals), but it was a close match (Wensel)," Eddy said. "We'd like to see Schuckers get into the final."
Schuckers (20-12) still wants to reach the final to compete for a district crown, but he'll first have to upset DuBois sophomore Bryce Swauger (20-10), who bested Schuckers in the final match of the season Feb. 17, 7-5.
Waiting on the opposite end of the bracket is Clearfield senior Shane Peters (27-3), who pinned Schuckers in Schuckers' second-ever varsity match and is 3-0 against Swauger this season with two falls.
At 112 pounds for Punxsy is Bowers (16-13), who will compete in the only weight class that contains all plus-.500 wrestlers. He enters as the No. 4 seed thanks to a 6-0 decision over the No. 5 seed, St. Marys senior Trenton Bowers (17-12), but lost to the other three in his weight class — Clearfield's Christian Stone (27-3), DuBois' Anthony Vizza (17-8) and Bradford's Evan Smith (23-5).
Joel Bowers, the only freshman at 112, lost 17-5 to Stone, 11-3 to Vizza and 3-1 to Smith.
"When you have a senior at 112 and he's seeded fifth, you know it's a pretty tough weight class," Eddy said. "If anybody beside Stone wins that weight class, they may very well be the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament."
Punxsy's Seth Spack, then a sophomore, upset DuBois then-senior T.J. Stanton in last year's 112-pound final to earn the Outstanding Wrestler honors.
Joel Bowers felt he didn't wrestle his best against Vizza, so if he gets past Trenton Bowers and is unable to beat Stone, he'll still have confidence when he most likely faces Vizza or Smith with third place on the line.
"Coming off that (11-3 loss to Vizza), it's not like Joel's nervous, but we have to win that first match. If we can get that first match, that'll be a great way to start the weekend," Eddy said. "(Trenton) Bowers is going to be hungry coming off a loss to a freshman like that. It's going to definitely be tough."
Another quality weight class is 119 pounds, with Punxsy's Snyder (5-23) needing to earn a few upsets to reach regionals.
DuBois' Garrett Brown (26-4), St. Marys' Evan Smith (20-7), Bradford's Luke McMurtrie (19-9) and Clearfield's Dylan Graham (23-9) each have a shot at winning the district title at 119 Saturday.
"119 is a loaded weight class. Nobody in the weight class is a shoe-in to be the champion ... but that weight class is so evenly matched," Eddy said. "Devan has a really, really tough bracket."
This report was Part One of a three-part series that previews the PAHS wrestling team, which will compete in the District IX Class AAA Individual Championships at 10 a.m. Saturday at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.