T-D HS Wrestling

285 Pounds
Cambria Heights’ Aaron Gill (right) tries to escape from Mount Union’s Nik Smith during their 285-pound championship bout in the District 6 Class AA tournament on Saturday in Altoona.

Highlanders take two AA titles

By: Eric Knopsnyder

Getting to the finals of the District 6 Class AA Wrestling Tournament hasn’t been that big of a problem for Cambria Heights over the past three years.
Winning a title? That’s been a different story.
At least it was until Saturday night, when Levi Niebauer (160 pounds) and Aaron Gill (285) captured individual championships. Central Cambria’s Max Murin (106), Forest Hills’ Triston Law (120), Richland’s Adam George (126) and United’s Tyler Oliver (195) also claimed titles.
For Cambria Heights coach Mike Eckenrode, Niebauer’s title was a long time coming. Counting Joe Davis’ loss in the 126-pound championship earlier in the night, the Highlanders had lost nine straight matches in the district finals until Niebauer beat Mount Union’s Dylan Smith 3-0.
Niebauer had been one of those losses, as he was a 2013 runner-up.
“After losing last year, that close of a match, I came out this year and really wanted it,” Niebauer said.
The Highlanders didn’t have to wait long for another champion, as Gill, who also was a runner-up last year, scored a reversal in ultimate tiebreaker to beat Mount Union’s Nik Smith five bouts later.
“This feels great,” Gill said. “Last year, I felt terrible after losing. Coming in this year and winning is the best feeling in the world.”
Davis finished as a district runner-up for the third straight season, but Eckenrode was fine with that, as the coach wasn’t sure earlier in the season if Davis would be able to return from a leg injury that he suffered during football season.
“This year, for Joe, I’m just glad he got to the finals,” Eckenrode said. “That football injury is still haunting him.”
A stalling call might haunt him as well. Davis and Richland’s George were tied at 1 in the finals when George, who continued to attack throughout the match, got in on another shot. Davis fought it off on the edge of the mat but was whistled for a second stalling call, which gave George a 2-1 lead with 24 seconds left in the third period. The decision drew boos from fans – and from Eckenrode.
“If the referee would have called him any time he was backing off the mat, that’s fine,” Eckenrode said. “The kid’s in on a deep single, Joe fights it off with a whizzer, does a great job fighting it off, comes up and the referee calls him for stalling. That was a terrible call.”
George said his goal was to try to wear out Davis.
Davis made a desperate attempt for a takedown in the closing seconds and George countered it for the 4-1 victory.
“I just tried to push the pace as hard as I could because he just came back from an injury,” George said. “I wanted to keep it upbeat and just work and get him as tired as I could.”
Central Cambria’s Murin continued his impressive freshman season. He improved to 30-0 with a 4-3 victory over Penn Cambria’s Nolan Link. Murin scored a first-period takedown, but fell behind in the second when Link reversed him. An escape in the second period and another to start the third gave Murin the victory – his third over Link.
If the unbeaten record is putting any pressure on Murin, he’s certainly not showing it.
“It’s good pressure, I guess,” he said with a smile. “I like where I’m at. This is the position I want to be in.”
Law is also in the position he wants to be in. The Forest Hills 120-pounder won his second district title, and this one came in impressive fashion. He beat Mount Union’s Sage Moist 5-0 in the championship round and he did not allow a single point on the weekend.
“The first two matches I didn’t let anybody score on me,” Law said. “Then I wanted to keep it rolling. I just wanted to ride everyone out, dominate.”
United’s Oliver certainly looked dominant in his championship victory over Tyrone’s Jared Beckwith. The two had split a pair of matches this season, but it was all Oliver on Saturday night. A first-period headlock gave him a 5-0 lead and, after controlling the second period, he put a deep half-Nelson on Beckwith and pinned him.
“I expected a lot tighter match than that,” said Oliver. “I know he’s a very good wrestler. He’s been wrestling for many years and is a tough opponent.”
Like Niebauer, Gill and Oliver, Richland’s Nico Pecora was a runner-up last year. Unlike them, he wasn’t able to get over the hump on Saturday night. Penns Valley’s Corey Hazel scored a takedown in overtime for a 4-2 victory over Pecora at 170 pounds.
Westmont Hilltop’s Logan Blackburn and Ligonier Valley’s Dalton Clark and Raymond Marsh each also finished second in their respective weights. Blackburn lost 7-0 to Huntingdon’s Collin Glorioso at 113. Huntingdon’s Devon Green pinned Clark at 132 pounds while Marsh, a sixth-seed who made an impressive run to the finals, lost by fall to West Branch’s Buzzy Maines at 220.
Cambria Heights was the top local finisher in the team standings, as the Highlanders came in fourth with 131 points. Huntingdon easily captured the championship with 220.5 points compared to 145 for second-place West Branch. Mount Union was third with 142.
Blairsville’s Scott Thompson, who pinned his way to the 182-pound title, was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. Tyrone’s Jason Schopp (138), Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver (145) and Blairsville’s Drew Doak (152) also captured titles.