ALTOONA - If Corey Wertz had trouble sleeping Friday, no one could blame him.
Sure, the Mount Union coach had 11 wrestlers still active going into Saturday, the second day of the District 6 Class AA tournament - but that same statement was true last year, and the Trojans' dreams became a nightmare as they failed to win one match in the 2012 morning session.
When the first two out of the gate this year suffered the same fate, it could understandably cause the folks wearing blue and gold to shudder.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mount Union’s Dylan Smith, right, tries to hold on to Cody Law, of Forest Hills, in a 160-pound semifinal at the District 6 Class AA tournament in Altoona Saturday. Law went on to win a title as the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler; Smith took bronze and will advance to the Southwest regional. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
By the end of the day, the Trojan faithful had plenty to cheer about: Half a dozen Mount Union grapplers are headed to the Southwest regional, including the school's first District 6 champion since 2009, 170-pounder Cory Kylor.
Joining them are a trio from Juniata, led by district title winner Sean Heggs.
The top four wrestlers move on from the district tournament.
Heggs had the advantage coming in of being an unknown - although he is a returning state placewinner, this is the first time he's come through District 6 after spending most of his career on the District 4 trail, where he never won a championship. He said the Susquehanna Valley and Northern Tier may be underestimated.
"There's always a good kid somewhere. I was excited to move to District 6 and be the new kid," he said.
He said, though, that he felt pressure as the top seed at 138 pounds, which made him more of a target. Despite a win by fall and two lopsided major decisions, he expected a tough match with Richland's Nick Naglic.
"They said he was good at position. I'm probably a little faster than he was," Heggs explained. "(It's all about) getting angles and scoring points when you need them."
The first takedown - and a 2-1 lead coming out of the first - helped. Heggs was able to defer choice to the third, where he still had a point on Naglic, and escaped for a 6-4 final.
"Two points is pretty big," he said of the finals, most of which were that close. "You come out of the first scrambling, pushing yourself harder. I'm not a pinner - I'm into technique. I like to score points."
Kylor admitted he got a break when the top seed at 170, Lucas Kristofits of West Branch, fell to No. 5 Nico Pecora, another Richland entry, in the semis - more for the fact that he would have the benefit of being an unknown partner than for Kristofits' No. 1 ranking to Kylor's No. 2.
"Me and Kristofits wrestled five times in the last two years. He knows me a lot better and we go back and forth," Kylor explained. "Wrestling Pecora, who did not know me, I thought would probably be a better option."
As with Heggs, an early takedown - Kylor scored the only offensive points in a 5-3 match - proved crucial.
"I always feel that first score pretty much sets it for you," he said. "It helps you get through the rest of the match. Once I got that takedown I felt pretty confident."
Unable to turn Kylor, Pecora cut him with barely more than 15 seconds in the third, hoping for a takedown tie, but Kylor easily held him off.
Mount Union's Jake Boozel also made it to the finals, where Southern Huntingdon's Dison Myers took the title on a 2-0 decision.
"He held my wrists and would just keep me from getting my cross-face cradle," Boozel explained.
The Mount Union frosh knew his best hope was to take the top when it was his choice - he got chances, but no points - and was surprised when Myers ceded the top again in the third.
"I was pretty shocked. I figured he'd go neutral," Boozel said.
By virtue of his weight - Boozel's at 126 - he actually was the first local to clinch advancement when he won his semi.
"Being a freshman and going to regionals is pretty awesome, for me and the team," he said.
Also headed to Johnstown for the first weekend in March are Juniata's Adam Barrick (132) and Luke Nanna (145), and Mount Union's Sage Moist (113), Dylan Smith (160), Philip Kyle (195) and Nikolas Smith (285).
Moist, Nanna, Dylan Smith and Kyle all made it to the semifinals before dropping to the lower bracket. Barrick and Nikolas Smith had to come back through the consolations to advance. Three others - Richie Gilson (120) and Derek Beitz (160) of Juniata, and Mount Union's Devon Kylor (182) wrestled for fifth; Beitz was the lone winner in that consolation final group.
Mount Union ended the weekend second to West Branch in the team standings, 153-145. Juniata was eighth with 106 points.
Prior to the finals, District 6 recognized a number of individuals, including inductees into the District 6 wrestling hall of fame. The induction class included Chief Logan wrestler Lew Copenhaver, who won two District 6 title, a Northwest Region title and a state championship.
Copenhaver - whose career record of 67-13-2 matches the second best in school history, won district championships in 1979 and 1980 after finishing second in 1978. His regional title came in 1979, between a pair of third-place finishes. In his three trips to states he picked up a fourth-place medal to go with the gold.
Mount Union Dennis Drake was recognized as the junior high coach of the year after his team compiled a perfect 21-0 record.
West Branch coach Jason Baney was honored as the outstanding coach and his staff was recognized after the Warriors won the dual meet title, the team title at the individual tournament and made consecutive appearances in the state duals.
Cody Law of Forest Hills was the Outstanding Wrestler.