Dominance: General McLane wins NWAAA Regional Title
(an article by Todd Warner)
They weren't even mentioned. Not listed and all but unnoticed. Coming into the Feb 27-28 Northwest AAA Regional Tournament at Altoona, General McLane was a team that had finished a distant second to mighty Erie Cathedral Prep in the District 10 Tournament a week earlier. True, Coach Tim Mulholland's Lancers had crowned a trio of district champs and qualified four more wrestlers for the regional tournament. But that was the point at which most of the "experts" in the Northwest Region figured the major part of the Lancers' solid season would end. However, in display of total, unexpected, and shocking dominance, Tim Mulholland's squad got a marvelous effort from all seven of their participating wrestlers and roared past all the pretourney favorites to claim the 2004 Northwest AAA Team Title. The Lancers's title march could be called a "Cinderella" story; but that would not accurately describe the dominating performance of the General McLane athletes against seemingly overwhelming odds coming in to the tournament. Here's the General McLane recipe for a regional team title. First, disregard the fact that the favorites have more qualifiers than you have. Case in point, District 9 champ and eventual regional team runner up Clearfield brought 13 wrestlers to the tournament. District 6 champ Bald Eagle Area had 11 and the team most figured would rule the region, Erie Cathedral Prep was counting on 9. Second, put an emphasis on taking one bout at a time and quality rather than quantity. The breakdown of a truly dominating performance:
McLane's seven wrestlers
combined to go 23-5 in the tournament.
Senior 119-pounder Jake Keene claimed his regional title by picking up a 3rd period takedown to edge Lewistown's marvelous freshman D6 champ Mike Robinson, 3-2. Earlier in the year, Keene had ended up on the losing end of a 4-3 verdict when those two met. Keene's trip to the finals was not easy as hooked up in a tight semi final battle with Brashear's D8 champ T.J. Hanna. That one was scoreless for more than 4 minutes. Then, Keene picked up a 3rd period penalty point while he was on top. In the waning moments, while clinging to his 1-0 lead, the Lancer senior picked up a 2-point nearfall before he finally decked Hanna at the final buzzer in 6:00. That not only sent him to Hershey; but gave McLane two key bonus team points.
Sophomore 125-pounder Hadley Harrison came in with a modest and deceiving 14-6 record and a 3rd place finish in D10. He left as the only non-district champion to win a regional crown. Thus, he was the only wrestler in the tournament to post a 4-0 record in the event. In the prelims, Harrison made a gutty call when he left Philipsburg-Osceola's Ryan Dobo loose in the final minute. That escape put Harrison in a 3-2 hole, but he took Dobo down with half a minute left and hung on for a 4-3 win. In the quarters, Harrison rolled past Clearfield's favored D9 champ Tom Barger, 12-5. In the semis, he majored Oil City's Jacob Spuck, 16-7; avenging a loss to Spuck in the D10 semis. In the title bout, Harrison narrowly avoided being pinned at the end of the first period by D6 champ Kyle Dolan of Central Mountain. But, he battled back and trailed 7-5 with under 10 seconds to go. From there, he took Dolan down to his back for a big 9-7 win.
Senior 152-pounder Hayden Harrison was the lone Lancer who came in as a tournament favorite. He hammered three straight opponents to join his younger brother on championship row. In the quarters, he decked Johnstown's LaRod Stephens in 2:17. He spent Saturday picking up a pair of major decisions as he beat St. Marys' A.J. Keebler, 14-4, in the semis and Cathedral Prep's Pat Smith, 12-4, in the finals.
Junior 171-pounder Branden Stearns eked out a rideout heart-stopper in the quarters over Bellefonte's Dan Hoover. But, then the Lancer majored back to back district champs enroute to General McLane's 4th regional title of the day. In the semis, he used five point moves in both the opening seconds and again in the waning moments of his 16-8 win over Clearfield's favored D9 champ Scott Hall. In the finals, Stearns completely controlled Hollidaysburg's outstanding sophomore D6 champ Brian Shaw, 14-5. Shaw came in to the finals with a 33-1 mark.
Sophomore 130-pounder Don Osinski spent much of this season at 125; but he moved up when Hadley Harrison returned from an injury. The gutty 10th grader placed 3rd in D10 and then managed to go 4-1 overall and place 3rd in the region. Osinski picked up a first round fall; but each of his final three wins were one-point verdicts; including a Hershey-trip clinching 1-0 dandy over Hollidaysburg's Nate Barroner in the consi finals.
Junior 189-pounder Travis Goss weighed in more than 15 pounds under weight. He was another D10 3rd place finisher and came in with a modest 25-14 record. But, he won two close bouts to become an unlikely regional semi finalist. After falling to eventual champ Monty Rockey of Bald Eagle Area by fall in the semis; Goss picked a crucial consi semi final win, 7-3 over DuBois' D9 champ Mike Stewart, for extremely valuable team points. He ended up placing 4th and posting a 3-2 record.
Junior 103-pounder Ashton Osterberg did not place in the regionals. However, he posted a 3-2 record and picked up huge team points because his three wins included a pair of major decisions and a fall. His opening round win, a 13-5 major decision over Bellefonte's Brandon Reish, was the first of McLane's 23 wins in the tournament and started Coach Tim Mulholland's crew off and running toward a team title that few people, outside of Edinboro, believed they had any chance of winning.
While General McLane's stunning performance was the story of the tournament; their comrades from much-maligned District 10 also did a fine job overall of running roughshod over much of the field. D10 crowned 8 of the region's 14 champs. In addition to the four titles General McLane picked up, McDowell claimed a title at 145 when Bryan Kuhn decisioned Meadville's Matt Baker, 11-4, in an all D10 final. At 160, Warren's tough Jake Lauffenburger won three straight 2-point decisions to grab his title. In the finals, he edged Bradford's strong Casey Neeley, 3-1. The heaviest two weight classes were dominated by District 10. In a pair of all D10 finals, Oil City's Josh Cherish won the 215-pound title with a 5-4 win over Conneaut Lake's Ben McMillin and at 275 Cathedral Prep crowned their lone champ when Stefan Tighe beat McDowell's James West, 8-4. D10 swept the three PIAA qualifying spots at 275 when Erie Central's Joe Welton became the Falcons second-ever state qualifier by placing 3rd.
Team Runner-up Clearfield
crowned two of the more impressive regional champs you will ever see.
Coach Jeff Aveni's lightning bolt opening duo of Matt Kyler (103) and
Brad Pataky (112) recorded totally dominating performances. Kyler glided
to a pair of 15-3 major decisions in his first two bouts, before shutting
out Indian Valley's D6 champ Andrew Winters, 5-0, in the title match.
Pataky's title march was one for the ages as he spent 5:13 on the mat
while recording an amazing three straight first period tech falls by a
combined 47-0. His last two victims were D10 champ John Heynoski of Cathedral
Prep and D6 champ Kyle Fluke of State College. Third place team Bald Eagle
Area also had two champs. 135-pound champ Clint Shirk outscored three
opponents 24-1 and pounded Altoona's Joe Ciampoli, 7-0, in the title bout
in which Shirk spent nearly 4 ½ minutes riding his opponent. 189-pound
Eagle Monty Rockey pinned his way through the tournament; including a
fall in 0:52 over D10 champ Sean Connole of Cathedral Prep in the finals.
At 130, Central Mountain's Garrett Desmond defeated all three D10 entries
enroute to his title. In the finals, he dominated on his feet for a 7-2
win over McDowell's Chad George. At 140, Lewistown's Mike DePelligrini,
who placed 4th in the state at 145 while wrestling for State College last
season, cruised to the regional title and improved to 33-1 on the season.
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