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Barger wins regional title
Monday, March 4, 2013
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
ALTOONA - The Class AAA Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament does not give out an award for Outstanding Wrestler.
But if it did, it would be hard to argue with Clearfield 145-pounder Nolan Barger as the 2013 recipient.
Barger made the regional tournament at the Altoona Fieldhouse on Friday and Saturday his own personal playground as he dominated each bout he wrestled from start to finish on the way to his first regional title, earning him his third trip to the PIAA Tournament.
Teammates Christian Stone (second at 132) and Dylan Graham (third at 126) will join Barger in Hershey after placing in the top 3 at their respective weight classes. This is the fourth time Stone has qualified for PIAAs.
Clearfield finished fifth in the standings in the 34-team tournament.
"I thought overall we all wrestled real well," Clearfield head coach Jeff Aveni said. "It was a great weekend to get three guys out of the tournament. It was an outstanding tournament for Christian, Nolan and Dylan. All of them have bigger goals, and we'll see if we can get to them next week."
Barger didn't place in last year's regional tournament after a second and a third the previous two years, and that was a driving force this time around.
"After last year's finish, I wasn't going to let that happen again," Barger said. "And I don't like wrestling in conseys. I don't like wrestling back.
"I was a little nervous when I first saw my draw, but this could have been the last time I put on the Bison singlet and that meant a lot. So I just went out there and did what I do."
What Barger did was dismantle each of his opponents .
After a pin and a technical fall on Friday, Barger pinned Allderdice's Brian Estep in 1:21 in the semifinals, aggressively going after the fall, and then scored a 13-5 major decision over McDowell's Cody Nolan in the finals. Barger ran his record to 35-1.
"Nolan just dominated the tournament," Aveni said. "I thought he had a great weekend. He took care of about every match in the first period."
Barger racked up 10 points in the first period against Nolan, scoring a takedown right off the opening whistle and then piling up eight nearfall points with a series of tilts.
"I wanted to get a lead in the beginning," Barger said. "I wanted to go out and finish it off as quickly as possible. I didn't want to spend any more time on the mat than I needed to. I went out and got a pretty decent lead and from there on out I tried to keep my offense going but didn't want to do anything dumb either."
Barger took top in the second, but gave up a quick escape before taking down Nolan again for a 12-1 lead. In the third, Nolan picked up a pair of takedowns to make things appear closer than they really were.
"It's been a long time coming," Barger said. "It's been one of my main goals to be on top of that podium since I came up as a freshman. My brother (Tom) won it once and Brad Pataky won it a bunch of times ... Matt Kyler, too. I wanted to be in the category with those guys so I came here with a match lit under my seat."
Stone, who won a regional title as a freshman, was also looking for gold, but had to settle for second after suffering a 7-4 setback to McDowell's Nick Gibson in the finals.
Gibson scored the opening takedown, and then during a scramble near the edge of the mat placed an inadvertent knee right in Stone's face. Stone surrendered three back points following the knee and found himself staring at a 5-0 deficit.
"We weren't sure what happened there," Aveni said. "Giving up the takedown wasn't a big deal, but when he went to the scramble he took a knee to the face. He gave up three backs there and needed to not give up any."
Stone escaped in the first and again in the second and nearly turned the bout completely around when he tried to dump Gibson to his back while catching a headlock through the move. But Gibson broke loose of the headlock before any points were awarded.
"We talked about making sure we get back points there," Aveni said. "You should be able to come out of a dump chest to chest. We'll make some adjustments with that this week. That could be a big difference in a match."
Gibson reversed Stone in the third before the Bison senior escaped and picked up a stall point to set the final. Stone takes a 33-2 mark to states.
"It was a tough bout, but they all come out of the same starting gate next week," Aveni said. "Christian's goals are still the same and what he needs to do is still the same. It was a tough loss, but I think it will fuel his fire."
Graham had a disappointing semifinal bout, falling to Warren's D.J. Fehlman, 3-1, in overtime in a scramble that was eerily similar to last weekend's district finals loss to Punxsutawney's Kaleb Young in overtime.
This time, Graham's opponent was awarded a takedown quickly even though he rolled through the move and came out of it in a neutral position.
Graham (32-5) rebounded from that, picking up a 5-1 win over McDowell's Coleman Cousins in the consey semis before rolling to a 7-2 win over General McLane's Keller Watkins in the third-place bout.
"Dylan gutted it out and came back and got a third not feeling his best," Aveni said. "Tough call there in the semifinals, but he was very confident in himself after that. He wrestled very relaxed. It was kind of a weird feeling for me because I couldn't get a good read on what he was doing. But he was relaxed and confident and did what he does.
"He just needs to go out and be Dylan and beat people on their feet. If he does that, he'll be upsetting some people in Hershey and hopefully getting himself a medal."
Logan Gilbert (106), Josiah McClarren (113), Noah Cline (120), Mike Beck (152) and Jake Verchick (285) were all eliminated at various points during Saturday's consolations, but each contributed to Clearfield's strong finish as a team.
Gilbert was 2-2 in the tournament and finished his freshman year with a record of 24-14. Cline was 3-2, eventually falling to nemesis Joel Bowers of Punxsutawney, 7-0, in the consolation semifinals. He ended his season, 26-13.
Verchick made an unlikely run to the semis as an undersized heavyweight before losing, 4-3, to Hollidaysburg's Matthew Barton and 2-1 to Altoona's Austin Rosenberry in the consey semis.
McClarren was eliminated by Bald Eagle's Travis Giedroc, 16-12, in a wild second-round consolation, while Beck was edged by D-9 champ Josh Corignani (Bradford), 5-2, in the same round.
"We really showed up as a team," Aveni said. "When we were losing matches in the (conseys), we were big underdogs and we had our opportunities. We were right in those matches battling and scrapping. My young guys left it on the mat. I'm very pleased with that."
McDowell won the team title with 151.5 points, crowning three champs and picking up two seconds in the process. General McLane placed second with 144 points, followed by DuBois (110), Mifflin County (89) and the Bison (82.5).
Beavers' Tom Sleigh (170) and Landon Hanna (195) won titles, while Curwensville native and current DuBois 106-pounder Shae Bloom was second.
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