PUNXSUTAWNEY — Kody Young and Seth Spack enter today's PIAA Class AAA Individual Wrestling Tournament with something that not many past Punxsy grapplers can lay claim to: Experience at states.
Both wrestlers have competed at the Giant Center in Hershey before. Spack was there last year as a Northwest Region runner-up. He was eliminated after two bouts.
Young, a senior, entered states as a sophomore as the region's No. 3 seed. After losing his first bout, he won to advance to the second day, only to be eliminated in his third match — one victory away from a medal.
Punxsy coach and Kody's father, Buddy Young, said that there's less pressure on both wrestlers now that they both have observed the bright lights and big arena that Hershey offers.
"I don't think there's going to be much pressure there. They've both been there," he said. "They both know what it's like. They both know that they just have to go wrestle."
The goal for both grapplers each season since they reached the varsity level has been reaching states. This year, it's about much more, especially for Young, who won't have this opportunity again.
Young's been in search of a PIAA medal for a long time, and he's just two victories away from accomplishing that feat. Making a medal even more reachable than ever for Young and Spack is owning a top seed after each won the regional titles at 125 and 135 pounds, respectively.
Because of those top seeds, both will face lower seeds against their southern counterparts in the first round.
Young (32-2) meets Susquehanna Township junior Daniel King (38-2), a No. 3 seed out of the Southcentral Region. Spack (30-6), a junior, faces West Chester Rustin junior Steve Quinn, a No. 4 seed out of Southeast Region.
Two years ago, Young held 4-2 second-period lead over Pleasant Valley junior Jordan Toledo, a regional champion, in his first bout at states. But Toledo used a headlock and pinned Young in 2:32, dropping Young to the consolation bracket.
Young, who is ranked No. 6 in the state according to thepapowerrankings.com, was 2 1/2-minutes away from a first-round upset in 2009 and knows how important it is to win the first match. Young and Spack's advantage of wrestling a lower seed this year only add to their chances of accomplishing an opening-bout victory.
"The first match is pretty key at states. If you get that, you're sitting pretty good," Kody Young said. "If you get the first (win) out of the way, even if you lose (the next match), you know you need only one more (to medal)."
Spack's doesn't want a similar fate as last year. After losing both matches at states in 2010, he has a positive outlook about his chances this weekend.
"I think this year's going to be better. I wouldn't say I was nervous last year, but I think I matured since last year wrestling-wise," said Spack, who is the No. 13 135-pounder in the state according to thepapowerrankings.com. "I got smarter and started using my head. Last year, I was just flat."
He also doesn't want to be part of dubious history again. Two years, ago, Young went 1-2, and prior to that, now-Clarion University wrestler Steven Cressley also finished 1-2 at states.
"I at least want to win one," Spack said. "From what I've been told, they make fun of me because I was the only person who made it to states from Punxsy that didn't win a match at states."