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West Branch wins D-6 team championship
Monday, February 18, 2013
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
ALTOONA - The third time was the charm for West Branch heavyweight Morgan Selepack.
For teammate J.P. Hayles, his third meeting with Southern Huntingdon's Brennon Shields also proved to be the most rewarding.
The Warrior tandem claimed individual titles at the District 6 Class AA tournament at the Altoona Fieldhouse on Saturday, as they each downed rivals who have given them troubles in the past.
Selepack rallied for a dramatic 5-4 win over Cambria Heights' Aaron Gill in overtime tiebreaker, while Hayles topped Shields, 2-0, on a late takedown at the edge of the mat.
In all, seven Warriors placed in the top five at the tournament, which saw West Branch walk away with the team title and a pair of coaching honors.
"We came here five years ago with only seven kids on the team," said West Branch head coach Jason Bainey, who was named District 6 Coach of the Year. "Tonight we had seven placewinners - six going to regionals and one took fifth place - and it's awesome.
"All of our guys wrestled hard, and we got team points every round. All guys wrestled well to help us. It was just good to have."
Selepack's win was especially rewarding, as Gill had handed him two of his five losses this season.
After beating Selepack 1-0 and 8-4 during the regular season, Gill was well on his way to completing the trifecta after getting an interlocking call and escaping Selepack's grasp for a 4-2 lead in the first tiebreaker.
Selepack escaped to begin his tiebreaker period, cutting the deficit to one.
Selepack wasn't going to be outdone, however, as he was in deep on a single leg immediately after escaping.
Gill went down and the Warrior fans got up on their feet, cheering Selepack to his first district crown.
"I lost to him 1-0 and (8-4), but I'll take beating him in the district finals every time over a dual meet," Selepack said. "He keeps away and he wrestles smart. It drives me crazy because I try to do stupid things on my feet, but I didn't do it today."
Despite what seemed like an insurmountable 2-point deficit in overtime, Bainey said he was confident his 285-pounder would come out on top.
"Morgan wasn't going to be satisfied losing 4-3," said Bainey. "He came out, went after it and had a good shot. You have to give him a lot of credit because he had to wrestle eight minutes. We preach conditioning, and we won it on conditioning.
"Gill is 30-3 because he's pretty tough. He was the top seed, he's strong, and he pushes Morgan the whole time. It was a good win for Morgan."
Hayles' match with Shields wasn't nearly as dramatic, but the West Branch senior needed a third-period takedown to assure himself of a district title.
After riding out Hayles in the second to keep it a scoreless bout heading to the third, Shields' respect for the Warrior grappler was evident when he opted to begin the third in the neutral position.
Shields may have underestimated Hayles' training however, as he spent all summer training for a situation that presented itself late with a minute and a half left in regulation.
The Rocket senior tied up with Hayles, attempting to throw him.
Hayles had other ideas.
"He knows I'm tough on top and I know he's tough on top," Hayles said. "I don't think he wanted to take the chance, but once we started wrestling I felt really comfortable.
"I felt a lot more comfortable this year because I did a lot of freestyle and Greco in the summer."
As the two locked up, Hayles ended up on top with 1:25 showing on the clock. His riding ability kept it that way, even after a restart with 43 seconds to go.
"My adrenaline was going so fast that I couldn't even control myself," said Hayles. "The freestyle work in the summer helped me a lot. I knew I could take him down and I wasn't going to give up."
Despite entering the tournament with five losses, Hayles earned the top seed by wrestling a rugged regular season schedule.
Hayles took on any and all competitors, and Bainey believes the workload paid dividends.
"He wrestled tough kids all year," Bainey said. "Yeah, he has five losses, but they're all to state-caliber kids and that pays off. If you go undefeated with our schedule, you're a heck of a wrestler because you have to earn it.
"J.P. is in a zone right now. He's focused and he's wrestling tough. His weight class is the toughest weight class here, and J.P. is as good as anyone."
The Warriors entered the semifinal round with five hoping for a crack at district gold.
Unfortunately, the other three all came up shy in the round.
Parker Bumbarger was a hard-luck loser at 138, as he escaped the grasp of Richland's Nicholas Naglic in the waning seconds to take a 1-0 lead.
As quick as a Bumbarger escaped, Naglic was awarded a controversial takedown with no time left on the clock.
Instead of letting the loss affect him, Bumbarger bounced back with a pair of wins to finish third.
"That was a heartbreaker because he got the escape with one second to go," said Bainey, "and a mat judge's job is to watch the clock. The clock was clearly out when we got taken down. It's tough to lose a match like that, but he rebounded to get third.
"We won 4-1 in that rebound match, plus he wrestled banged up."
Warrior 106-pounder Dustin Deliman was yet another feel-good story, as he overcame a semifinal loss to Huntingdon's Collin Glorioso to take third in his first trip to the tournament.
Deliman earned a 4-2 overtime decision in the consey semis before topping Marion Center's David Wiles, 7-4, in the third-place bout.
"There's a kid that could have quit as a 10th grader or an 11th grader," said Bainey of Deliman. "He didn't start either year for me, but he kept working and kept coming to practice. He struggled to get his weight down, but then he goes and finishes third here.
"That's pretty amazing to me, so hat's off to him. He's never been to districts and he had never been in the lineup before this year."
Luke Slippey also rebounded to take third at 152 pounds, as he avenged a quarterfinal loss to Penns Valley's Cole Confer.
Slippey battled his way through the conseys, defeating a former runner-up in Marion Center's Phil Crook along the way.
It was his match against Confer that drew Bainey's praise, however, as Slippey's double-leg takedown at the buzzer in the second proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win.
"He wrestled completely different than he has all year," Bainey said. "He was on a mission today, and he wrestled like how I know he can wrestle. He wasn't getting beat today.
"You can't show a better double in the room. He had a perfect penetration step, head to the outside and finished it clearly with one second to go. It was beautiful."
Buzzy Maines entered the tournament as the second seed at 220, but was hobbled due to a nagging injury.
Maines' tournament appeared to be over when Patrick Fitzgerald held a 9-2 lead in the third period of their fourth-round consolation bout, but the Warrior sophomore saved his best for last.
Maines threw Fitzgerald to his back to earn the fall in 3:42 before downing Ligonier Valley's Raymond Marsh in the consolation semifinals to punch his ticket to the regional tournament.
Penn Cambria's Seth McLendon handed Maines a loss for the second time in the tournament to give him a fourth-place finish.
"Last year we were beating Fitzgerald 10-0 to go to regionals and we get lateral dropped and pinned," Bainey said. "We were down 9-2 and I thought about pulling Buzzy off because he was hurt. He said, ‘coach, I want to finish this match,' and he went after the kid and got the fall.
"He has a lot of heart because his ankle is banged up. I didn't think he was going to be able to wrestle, but he went out and gutted it out. Anything can happen at regionals, and he knows that. We'll get him healthy and give it a shot there."
West Branch senior Lucas Kristofits also fell in his semifinal bout. Unlike his teammates, however, Kristofits was unable to follow the loss with a win to earn a regional bid.
Kristofits finished fifth after besting Penns Valley's Andrew Hurd for the second time in the tournament.
West Branch was followed by Mount Union, Cambria Heights, Blairsville and Penns Valley in the team standings.
Forest Hills' Cody Law, who won the title at 160, was dubbed the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
Other champions included Forest Hills' Triston Law (106), Claysburg-Kimmel's Josh Brown (113), Ligonier Valley's Josh Patrick (120), Southern Huntingdon's Dison Myers (126), Juniata's Sean Heggs (138), Blairsville's Noah Tarr (145), Andrew Doak (152) and Scott Thompson (182), Mount Union's Cory Kylor, and Moshannon Valley's James Stodart (195) and Jake Ludwig (220).
The Southwest Regional will be held at the Cambria County War Memorial on March 1 and 2.
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