EBENSBURG — Quoting Somerset junior high wrestling coach Nate Phillips: “It was one wild day of wrestling.”
The weather on Friday caused the scheduled two-day Mountain Conference Junior High Wrestling Tournament to be condensed to a one-day marathon on Saturday at Central Cambria High School.
One-day tournaments are not unusual but not for 20 teams from four counties.
The day started with weigh ins at 7:30 a.m. and did not conclude until after 10:30 p.m. Central Cambria hosted the event and had to comply with the PIAA rule limiting a wrestler to five bouts in a day.
This rule did not allow every weight class place winner to be determined on the mat but instead by using a criteria voted on by the coaches. North Star head coach Patsy Codispoti used the same option when weather shortened the tournament at North Star several years ago. Codispoti said at that time the conference had 17 teams.
After the dust had settled or more accurately the sweat had dried, 18 champions were crowned. Somerset County produced five champs: Somerset’s Austin Hemminger (122 pounds), North Star’s Gus Strasiser (145), Meyersdale’s Christian Hutzell (155), Conemaugh Township’s Tobin Cahill (210) and Berlin’s Nathan Zanoni (250).
Hemminger was leading 3-1 in the finals when he gave up a two-point takedown with 30 seconds remaining in the match. Hemminger was able to reverse Terrill Williams and garner a three-point near-fall for an 8-3 win. Hemminger finished the year at 30-0 with 24 pins.
Strasiser wrestled most of the season at 138 pounds. He moved up to 145 for the tournament to make room for a teammate at a lower weight. Strasiser claimed a finals win of 1-0 over Kenny Sigler of Meyersdale.
Hutzel scored a 5-2 win over Josiah Jones of Westmont in the 155-pound final. Hutzel’s toughest match was against Dillon Charlton from North Star in the semifinals. Hutzel won 2-0 forcing Charlton into the consolation bracket. Charlton won 14-0 and 15-5 to secure third place.
Cahill was the winner at 210. After a first round bye, Cahill won with three pins in 50 seconds, 65 seconds and 25 seconds in the finals over Nick Holto of Somerset. Cahill wrestled less than two minutes in the 14 hours after weigh-ins. Holto only started wrestling in December and pinned his way into the finals only to meet Cahill.