ALTOONA — When Punxsy junior Seth Spack fell shy of a second-straight District IX Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championship Feb. 26 in Clarion, his family was disheartened.
But Spack quickly quelled their upset feelings, knowing that Saturday's Northwest Region Class AAA Tournament was yet to be decided and the district tournament wouldn't affect his ability to reach states.
"The whole last week, my family was down. But I don't get mad when I lose, because everybody loses," the ever-positive Spack said. "I told them, 'Don't worry, I'm winning regionals.'"
Spack backed up his forward-thinking talk by not only clinching his second-straight berth into the state tournament, but also winning the 135-pound championship Saturday.
The win came a year after Spack shocked the district by upsetting then-senior T.J. Stanton in the 112-pound district final. Spack then carried that momentum into the regional final, where he lost by a 14-1 major decision to Bellefonte's Thomas Traxler.
Even though he would still have a chance to wrestle at states a week later as the regional runner-up, Spack said Saturday that he was pestered about the defeat to Traxler immediately after it occurred.
"It was kind of embarrassing. I felt like I shouldn't have even been able to go to states," Spack said. "This year, it's much better."
Spack had nothing to feel ashamed about at this year's regional tournament, as he turned his endless amount of technique and potential into an undefeated four matches. He first edged Titusville freshman Ehrin Lee, 4-1, before upsetting District VI champion and Central Mountain junior Dillon Gavlock, who, at 30-10, was widely considered the 135-pound favorite.
Spack led 1-0 in the first round when he dodged a Gavlock shot and used an overhook to power Gavlock to his back. Moments later, Spack had a fall in 3:03 and was headed to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, he scored the first takedown and wrestled a conservative match from there, earning a 4-2 victory that earned him a state tournament berth.
But much like his teammate, senior Kody Young, Spack saved his best for last. After trailing Cathedral Prep senior Michael McBryde in the final, 2-0, Spack took control.
McBryde took a 2-0 lead with a reversal 26 seconds into the second period, but Spack's escape midway through that period and reversal early in the third period pushed the bout in his favor, 3-2.
A chin pick is what helped Spack (30-6) turn the tide an ultimately put McBryde onto his back. Spack thought he had a pin wrapped up, but McBryde was in so much pain that he called for injury time. In turn, Spack received four back points to leap ahead 7-2.
After using his strength in the quarterfinals against Gavlock and the final versus McBryde, Spack suddenly became more than just a technician on the mat.
"If you didn't know either one of them, you would have picked (McBryde) to win (based on size). Seth put him on his back with a chin pick," Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy said. "I guess Seth this weekend went from being the most technical guy in our (practice) room to being a a guy that just wants to use muscle moves.
"Maybe he's hitting the weight room in his down time," he said.
Spack entered his high school career as an undersized 103-pounder. Upon wrestling at 112 last year, Spack's growth spurt arrived, and he was suddenly a regional champion at 135 pounds, something that was unthinkable just a year ago.
"I think people thought I wouldn't be able to do it," Spack said. "Last year, I looked at the 135-pounders, and they looked huge. I kind of surprised myself."
Not surprised was Punxsy coach Buddy Young, who knows just how powerful Spack has become.
"People don't know that Seth is strong. He's unassuming," Young said. "He gets in positions that he can be strong, because he doesn't use that a lot. He showed that off in the final and the quarterfinals."
After falling short at regionals his freshman year, confidence was an issue of Spack's.
Last year, he wasn't strong enough at states and finished with an 0-2 record.
This year, he's heading to states with confidence and a strong outlook.