ALTOONA — After making the trip by himself last season as the lone state qualifier, Punxsy wrestler Joel Bowers will have some company for next week’s trip across the state.
In his first season, the Chucks’ Kaleb Young not only became a state qualifier but also won the 126-pound weight class of the AAA Northwest Regional in Altoona Saturday night.
Bowers (120) matched his regional finish from a year ago when he secured a consolation final pin.
“It is great to have double the number from last year. Joel won the consey semis and Kaleb won the regional championship,” explained Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy. “They did a nice job this weekend.”
Young continued his yearlong outstanding freshman campaign. Following a District IX title, the Chucks’ grappler could not be scored upon amidst the tough Northwest Regional ranks.
After shutting out both his opponents on Friday night by 2-0 and 6-0 scores, Kaleb continued the dominance.
As dominant as one can be without recording a fall, Young (26-1) went out to a 5-0 lead against General McLane’s Keller Watkins before a late match escape made it a 5-1 final. The escape would prove to be the only point in four bouts the Punxsy product would allow.
In the 126-pound final, Young would face another highly-rated foe in once-defeated sophomore D.J. Fehlman of Warren. This, though, would be Young's time to shine as the better young scholastic wrestler on the finals’ matchup. Young posted his third shutout in four bouts and his largest margin of victory of the weekend with the 8-0 major decision victory over Fehlman.
“Kaleb wrestled controlled throughout the tournament. He was able to get an 8-0 major decision over Warren’s Fehlman, who was 32-1 going into the match. He just wrestled a great finals match,” said Eddy.
The Punxsy coach continued to tell how Young, with the accomplishment, joins elite company in school history.
“Kaleb is only the fourth regional champ in Punxsy history,” pointed out Eddy. “Howard Brooks was the first in 1978 before Kody Young (Kaleb’s older brother who wrestles now for Mercyhurst University) and Seth Spack both were champs two years ago (in 2011).”
Young’s junior teammate, Bowers, fell just short of matching the 2011 feat with two regional champions.
After a preliminary bye and decision win on Friday, Bowers (24-2) squared off with District X champion Paul Deitz of ErieMcDowell.
McDowell capitalized on a Bowers' mistake and was able to hold on for a 3-1 decision. It was only the second loss by the Chucks’ wrestler all season.
“Joel lost to the eventual regional champion. Of Dietz’s three points, Joel took a bad shot and gave away two of them,” added Eddy. “Joel almost secured a takedown to tie at the end but couldn’t get it.”
Bowers, then, kept his focus through the consolation semifinal round. He faced a familiar foe in Clearfield’s Noah Cline, who he shut out 7-0 in the D-IX final the previous weekend. In exactly the same fashion, Bowers repeated the result over Cline by an identical 7-0 decision.
The Punxsy third-year wrestler, again, would face a recent opponent in the consolation final.
Bowers took to the mat for the second bout of the weekend against Mifflin County’s Isaac Underhill, who he defeated 4-2 in the quarterfinals.
For the second time in as many days, Bowers proved the victor as he pinned Underhill in 2:43 for a return trip to the state championships.
“Joel won by pin with a spread eagle in the consey finals,” explained the Punxsy coach.
Bowers and Young will not have much time off, as the pair will travel to Hershey. Starting on Thursday, the three-day event will take place at the Giant Center. Opening pairings will be announced over the next few days.
The Chucks' state-qualifying pair saw another teammate fall just short of joining them.
Perry Arrington showed true grit and drive but suffered a third close defeat to a local nemesis to end his run.
At 138, Arrington fell into the consolation bracket by splitting his opening-night bouts. The sophomore took the result in stride.
In his first match, the sophomore edged past Philipsburg-Osceola’s Caleb Shively in a 12-11 decision. Arrington followed the win with another in the consolation quarterfinals.
For the third time this season, the Punxsy representative defeated St. Marys’ Alex Coudriet, this time with a 8-0 major decision.
In the third meeting in less than three weeks, Arrington (19-8) will do battle with DuBois’ Garrett Brown to move into the consolation semis.
But the same winner, Brown, had his hand raised when the buzzer sounded. The Beaver slid past Arrington, 4-3, and claimed all three meetings by a combined six-point difference. Brown won his next match in the consolation final by fall.
“Perry wrestled a real good tournament. I am real happy with his effort,” added Eddy.
Another Punxsy wrestler, Josh Shuckers, tried to make a run in the consolation wrestlebacks.
At 132, Shuckers (16-10) was able to get a measure of revenge from the district consolation final bout loss when he defeated Jersey Shore’s Hayden Swartwood, 1-0.
Shuckers was unable to string a second win on Saturday. Erie Cathedral Prep’s Beau Coletta took away a close 4-2 decision from Shuckers.
“Shuckers was real tight. He was just not quite able to do enough to get the win,” said Eddy.
In 113 bracket, Andrew Bullers wrestled hard but could not find the winning points.
The junior dropped a 5-2 decision to Carrick’s Vinnie Mion to end his season.
“Bullers battled and battled. I am real proud of him,” added the Chucks leader.
The final Punxsy entrant, Jeff Bottenhorn, succumbed to St. Marys’ Tyler Yetzer for the second straight weekend in the consolation second round.
After falling in the district consolation final to the foe, Bottenhorn could not turn around the result and dropped a 14-2 major decision to the St. Marys' opponent.
“Joel and Kaleb are going to states, but every kid in the (wrestling) room is a hard worker,” Eddy said. “They all will be back in on Monday to help Kaleb and Joel get ready for Hershey.”