T-D HS Wrestling

United’s Seth McClendon takes on Penn Cambria’s John Wilkinson in the District 6 Class AA 220-pound consolation final at Altoona Area High School.

District 6 wrestling notebook: McClendon tops former teammate

By: Eric Knopsnyder

ALTOONA — Seth McLendon wasn’t excited to face his old practice partner in the District 6 Class AA Wrestling Tournament on Saturday.
And McLendon, who transferred to United after wrestling for Penn Cambria last season, didn’t really want to talk about it.
“No comment,” he said when asked what it was like to wrestle against the Panthers’ John Wilkinson. “I like him. That’s why I’m not saying anything.”
McLendon pinned Wilkinson in the consolation final at 220 pounds. The good news for him – and Wilkinson – is that the top four finishers in each weight advance to the Southwest Regional tournament in Johnstown in two weeks. If they had met one round earlier, only one of them would have advanced and the other would have been eliminated.
“This is much better,” McLendon said of both advancing. “I would have felt bad (if they had met earlier).”

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Comeback kid: Qualifying for the regional tournament in the first year on the varsity team is difficult enough for most wrestlers. Doing it as a senior? That’s almost unheard of in Pennsylvania.
But Carlos Chavez of Ligonier Valley did just that on Saturday by placing fourth at 106 pounds.
Chavez had not wrestled since junior high, but decided to go back to the sport as a senior.
“My goal was to make the ultimate comeback,” Chavez said. “I wanted people to be like ‘Wow, this kid was out for so long and now he’s the comeback kid.’ “
The fifth seed in the tournament, Chavez did enough to earn a spot in Johnstown despite wrestling against opponents who have more experience in the sport.
“I knew my technique wasn’t going to beat most kids, so I relied on strength and speed,” he said.

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Long road to Johnstown: Cambria Heights’ Austin Gill battled all year to return to the mat after a back injury. After an impressive run through the District 6 tournament, he qualified for the regional tournament, but whether or not he’ll be able to wrestle there is still to be determined.
Gill entered the tournament as the No. 16 seed at 145 pounds. He finished fourth after defaulting to Richland’s Nick Naglic in the consolation finals.
Cambria Heights coach Mike Eckenrode said Gill hurt his shoulder in the match and wasn’t sure when he’ll be able to return.
Gill lost his second bout to top-seeded Jacob Oliver of Huntingdon on Friday night but rebounded to win five consecutive matches to reach the consolation finals. Along the way he beat the No. 3 seed in West Branch’s Parker Bumbarger and the fourth seed in Forest Hills’ Travis Templeton. Including Naglic, who was the No. 2 seed, he wrestled each of the top wrestlers in the weight.
“He was definitely a sleeper. We knew he could get some wins,” Eckenrode said. “He did a great job. This was outstanding.”

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Class acts: Four of the 11 men inducted into the District 6 Wrestling Hall of Fame on Saturday night are from Cambria County. Brothers Eric and Jim Bowser, who starred at Richland in the 1980s, were inducted along with Cambria Heights’ Brian Murphy and Dave Yahner.
Eric Bowser won the Rams’ first state title in 1986 and was a national runner-up while at Pitt-Johnstown while Jim was a PIAA runner-up during a high school career that ended in 1989. Jim Bowser went on to make his mark at Forest Hills, where he went 111-25 as head coach. The Rangers won three District 6 dual-meet titles under him, two district tournament titles and two Southwest Regional tournament titles. He also coached Jake Strayer – Forest Hills’ current head coach – to two state championships.
Murphy won the Class AA state title in 1990 to cap a 24-0 season. He went 125-21-1 at Cambria Heights and went to Notre Dame to wrestle, but the school dropped the program while he was there.
Yahner also won a Class AA title after an undefeated season for the Highlanders, but his came in 1986. A knee injury derailed his senior season and a chance to repeat, but Yahner was a three-time Division II All-American at Pitt-Johnstown and was a four-time Academic All-American.