CLEARFIELD - Seven Redbank Valley wrestlers and one from Clarion placed in the top three of their respective brackets at last Saturday's District 9 Class AA Championships (Feb. 20) in Clearfield, thereby advancing to this weekend's regional tournament at Sharon High School (Feb. 27).
Brookville took the team competition with 174 points, followed by Port Allegany (154 points). Redbank Valley, with 11 wrestlers, placed third (140.5 points) among the 13 teams entered, while Clarion, despite having one of the smallest teams in the competition, finished ninth (29 points).
Leading the way for the Bulldogs was Trenten Rupp, who won the 138-pound district title with authority. He pinned Evan Hepler of Cranberry in the quarterfinals (2:22), stuck Brockway's Garret Park in the semifinals (0:57), and won his bracket by taking a 10-1 major decision in the finals over Curwensville's Ryder Kuklinskie.
Rupp, a senior, is now a four-time regional qualifier and a two-time district champion, having won at 113 pounds as a sophomore.
"He (Rupp) had an excellent day. He dominated the whole bracket. He seems like he's peaking right now. It's a good time to peak," commented Redbank Valley head coach Mike Kundick.
The Bulldogs had a pair of seniors finish second, Hudson Martz at 189 pounds and Aiden Gardner at 215 pounds. Martz will be heading to regionals for the first time in his career, whereas Gardener is now a three-time qualifier.
Martz, seeded seventh in an 11 person bracket, was a force from the preliminaries through the semifinals, scoring first period pins against, in order, Clarion's Peyton Means (0:47), Isaac Zimmerman of Johnsonburg (1:08), and Curwensville's Jake McCracken (0:57). In the finals he faced the first seed and fourth ranked 189-pounder in the state per PA Power Wrestling (PAPW), Ethan Finch of Sheffield. Finch jumped out to a 5-0 lead before pinning Martz at the 1:30 mark.
Said Kundick about Gardner, "I've told you in the past, he's probably the most dangerous wrestler in the district. He could be an underdog in the match, but at any time he could put you on your back and he's strong enough to hold you there. He proved it most of the day."
Like Martz, Gardner, ranked 19th in the state by PAPW, was also in the mood to end his bouts early, scoring second period pins against Clarion's Logan Edmonds in the quarterfinals (3:35) and Gavyn Ayers of Coudersport in the semis (3:45). Brookville's Bryce Rafferty, who PAPW has ranked 20th in the state, relegated Gardner to second place, taking an 8-4 final round decision.
"(Gardner) wrestled good all day. He was every bit as good as the kid that beat (Rafferty), but he just didn't finish his shots and the kid capitalized on that. Nine out of 10 times (Gardner) wins that match, he just didn't win that one," reported Kundick.
Daniel Evans (106 pounds) rebounded from a semifinal loss to win in the consolation finals and finish third.
Evans, a freshman, opened with a 19-2 technical fall (5:39) in the quarterfinals over Curwensville's Damian Brady. During his semifinal bout, Evans was pinned (0:28) by PAPW's second ranked 106-pounder in the state, Cayden Walter of Brookville, who finished second.
Evans came back in the consolation finals with a first period pin of Sheffield's Chase Kyler (0:55).
Cole Bish (113 pounds), Ridge Cook (120 pounds), and Kobe Bonanno (285 pounds) had somewhat longer routes once on the consolation side of the bracket than did Evans.
Bish started from behind the eight ball, falling 5-0 in the first round to eventual champion Jacob Carfley of Curwensville.
In the consolations, Bish, the fifth seed, took a 13-0 major decision against the event's second seed, Sheffield's Collin Brown. He then proceeded to beat third-seeded Jared Popson of Brookville, 7-0, for third place.
Cook started with a first round pin, sticking Wyatt Daisley of Coudersport (0:51). This set up a bout with PAPW's 25th ranked 120-pounder in the state, Port Allegany's Chase Weimer. Weimer, who finished as the bracket runner-up, pinned Cook in the second period (2:55).
Cook started the consolation rounds by decisioning A.J. Barnes of Sheffield, 4-3, and then pinned Kane's Alex Bechakas, ranked 25th in PAPW's state poll, toward the end of the second period (3:56) to take third.
Bonanno, 12th ranked statewide by PAPW, pinned Cooper Rossman of Sheffield (3:34) to open the tournament, after which he fell, 1-0, to Port Allegany's Justin Young.
The Bulldog grappler began his trek through the consolation bracket by pinning Sheffield's Danah Campbell. This earned Bonanno, a state qualifier last season, a bout for third place with the state's 25th ranked heavyweight, Jacob Kunselman of Ridgway. Bonanno converted a throw to pin Kunselman early in the second period (2:25).
This is the first time Evans and Bish have advanced to regionals. Bonanno is a regional qualifier for the second year in a row and Cook is making his third consecutive trip to Sharon.
"They came back," Kundick said referring to Evans, Cook, Bish and Bonanno. "That's a lot of mental toughness. You win you go (to regionals), you lose you don't. They came through."
Clarion's sole regional qualifier out of its five wrestlers at the tournament was 172-pounder Cutter Boggess.
Boggess pinned Cranberry's Jacob Kuney in the third period (4:25) of their quarterfinal bout. In the semifinals he faced PAPW's 22nd ranked 172-pounder, Jackson Zimmerman of Brookville. Zimmerman, who finished second, pinned Boggess in the first period (1:44).
In the consolations, Boggess pinned his way to a third place finish, first decking Johnsonburg's Cole Haight in the second period (2:50) and then Isaak Baumgarner of Port Allegany in the third (4:46).
Boggess is now a two-time regional qualifier.
Clarion head coach Lee Weber, in assessing Boggess's performance, said, "Besides getting caught in a cradle in the semifinals (against Zimmerman), he wrestled pretty solid. I thought he did as well as he could have done on his feet. If he continues to set up his shot, he's might surprise some people at regionals."