T-D HS Wrestling

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Cambria Heights’ Joe Davis (right) controls Richland’s Adam George during their 126-pound fifth-place match at the PIAA Class AA southwest regional tournament at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

Cambria Heights’ Davis battling his way to Hershey

By: Eric Knopsnyder

Joe Davis was afraid that his high school wrestling career was over.
The Cambria Heights senior was sitting in a doctor’s office on Jan. 2 when he learned that he had to have a screw removed from his surgically repaired right leg, which he broke in a football game three months earlier.
He had already missed more than a month of wrestling season and if he had the procedure done then it likely would have ended his hopes of making a comeback.
“It was hard hearing that I might not get to wrestle at all,” he said.
Davis asked if the removal could be postponed until after wrestling season and if he could compete with the screw still in his leg.
A week later, he was back on the mat for the Highlanders. On Saturday, he qualified for the PIAA championships.
“That was 100 percent guts,” Cambria Heights coach Mike Eckenrode said after Davis beat Richland’s Adam George for fifth place at 126 pounds in the Southwest Regional and a spot in Hershey. “Good job by Joe there.”
Davis, who is 27-5 this season, has had plenty of ups and downs in his career. He has consistently been one of the best lightweights in the area, as he reached the District 6 finals in each of the past three seasons. Each time he finished second.
Despite his injury, he was able to pick up his 100th career victory this year.
Last season, he reached the semifinals of the Southwest Regional but lost his next three matches to finish sixth – one spot out of the state tournament. He reached the semifinals again on Friday, then lost two straight on Saturday to put himself in another precarious position.
In order to extend his high school career he needed to beat George, the same wrestler who denied him a district title two weeks ago.
Just like the last time, it was a tight match, but this time, Davis came away with a 5-4 victory and a long-awaited trip to Hershey.
“Pretty nerve-racking,” Davis said of the fifth-place match. “Win you go to states, lose you go home. Being a one-point match, it’s always nerve-racking.”
So how did his emotions after the win compare to those he felt after last year’s loss?
“You can’t compare them,” Davis said. “Last year, I was devastated. I worked so hard to try to make it to states and dropped three in a row. This year, almost doing it again, I just had it in my head I wasn’t doing it again. I wasn’t doing the same thing a second year in a row.”
The victory earned him a spot in the state tournament – and a very tall task.
In the first round of the tournament, which begins Thursday, Davis will face Zeke Moisey of Bethlehem Catholic, who is 40-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state and fourth nationally at the weight.
Still, just getting to the state tournament has been an accomplishment, considering what Davis has been through this year.
Davis still has a plate in his leg, and he estimated that there are 12 screws in it. He said that when a player fell on his leg it broke the fibula and “tore almost everything on the inside of the ankle.”
He still has some problems with it – he hurt it in his consolation semifinal bout and was forced to take an injury timeout near the end of his match with George – but that he’s able to deal with it.
“A little sore,” is how he described it a few minutes after he triumphantly limped off the mat. “It hurt a little bit the match before, but nothing to major. I can probably get through one more week.”
Eckenrode was afraid the screw might have broken.
“Today, I didn’t think he was going to be able to finish the match, let alone beat the kid that beat him last week,” the coach said. “He really gutted it out.”
Davis is already scheduled to have surgery four days after the PIAA tournament ends. He’s just happy he was able to put it off long enough to realize his dream.
“To go to states (after having to) come back, get into shape, fight hard to get where I need to be, I couldn’t be happier,” Davis said.