ALTOONA — Not often does running factor into a wrestling match, but Punxsy senior Kody Young showed off his sprinting ability for a brief moment Saturday at the Northwest Region Class AAA Individual Wrestling Tournament.
With a spot in the 125-pound final and a berth in the PIAA tournament on the line, Young escaped the grasp of General McLane junior Tim Wheeling with fewer than five seconds left in the ultimate tiebreaker to earn a 4-3 victory. The win clinched Young's second trip to states and provided him with his school-record fourth regional medal.
Later that night, Young made a great day even better by winning his first regional title in his last year at the tournament. But Young's win in the final wouldn't have been possible if not for his down-to-the-wire victory in the semifinals.
With his bout against Wheeling tied at three, neither grappler could score until the ultimate tiebreaker created a situation where the winner would be decided in 30 seconds or less.
Young was at a height disadvantage to Wheeling by a few inches, but he had the confidence of escaping Wheeling's hold earlier in the bout. His early second-period escape to take a 1-0 lead also allowed him to choose whether he wanted to be on bottom or top in the 30-second ultimate tiebreaker.
If Wheeling could hold Young down or score back points, he would win. If Young could escape or reverse the action, he would win.
"The first time I went down (in the second period), I escaped real fast. I knew that if you get hand control, you're out," Young said. "Thirty seconds is short, but sometimes, it's long, especially on top. It's a long 30 seconds to ride out, especially when it means that much."
Only 10 seconds remained after Young nearly scored a reversal that took both wrestlers out of bounds, but a few seconds after the restart, Young was the one celebrating.
Young (32-2) created separation by standing up quickly and getting hand control. Once Wheeling took Young back down to the mat, Young quickly lifted his leg and turned away from Wheeling. As Wheeling made a last-gasp dive to maintain his hold on Young, the Punxsy senior ran away as he put his arms in the air, taking in all the emotion that came with advancing to states once again.
"I took down and knew what I had to do," he said. "I took 26 seconds of the 30, but I got the job done."
It was yet another heart-pounding match at regionals for Young, who has always headed to overtime to win or lose once a state berth is on the line.
"I had to keep the streak going, I guess, and keep it exciting," he joked.
Young was able to wrestle free and easy in the final against Indian Valley senior Kaleb Loht (30-3) and looked like the 125-pounder who was 31-2 entering the bout, rather than a 30-2 grappler who was nervous to make a mistake in the semifinals.
"He wrestles more conservative (in the semifinals). He wrestles not to lose, which sometimes puts you behind the eight ball," Young's father and coach Buddy Young said. "It has put him behind the eight ball four years now."
Over the past four years, Young was never able to reach the regional final. He twice lost to State College's Erik Galloway in the championship semifinals and once in the quarterfinals.
Galloway graduated over the summer, and after a former State College teammate of Galloway's asked Young in the locker room whether he was happy Galloway wasn't there, Young said that it took a lot of pressure off his back.
"It's my senior year, and I've worked four years every day all season and the offseason," Young said. "I wanted to get this one, and I had to get this one. It was my last chance."
Young was rarely in a troublesome spot against Loht, though he trailed 3-2 at one point. But after scoring his second takedown of the match midway through the second period, Young cruised to the 7-5 victory.
Young scored the inital takedown to lead 2-0 and broke a 4-4 tie with his second takedown that clinched the win.
"I knew I was more in shape than him because we go hard all year every night," Young. "I just kept it in my head that I could beat him. I kept pressing and kept the action going."
Coaches Eric Eddy and Buddy Young agreed that Saturday's regional final was one of Young's finest performances.
"That match against Loht was one of the best I've ever seen him wrestle," Eddy said. "He wrestled a smart match start to finish."
"He went out there and wrestled the finals beautifully," Buddy Young said. "That's probably the most solid, technical match he's wrestled in a long time."
Two weight classes after Young won the regional championship, teammate Seth Spack did the same by beating Cathedral Prep senior Michael McBryde, 7-2.
Now, Buddy Young hopes that his son will wrestle comfortably again and not put too much pressure on himself at states, which will take place Thursday through Saturday in Hershey.
"All the stuff down at Hershey is the icing on the cake. Both of them have to go down there and wrestle free, like they both did in the (regional) finals," Buddy Young said. "They can beat anybody."