ALTOONA - The Mifflin County wrestling team was on a mission as it invaded the Altoona High School Field House for the 2014 District VI Class AAA individual championship tournament.
Obviously inspired following its narrow loss to Central Mountain in the District VI Class AAA duals championship match, the Huskies were out to prove a point to the other eight teams and they did just that in fine fashion as they captured the team title in the tournament while qualifying nine wrestlers for this week's regional tournament.
"The slogan I gave the guys in the morning was no guts, no glory," said Mifflin County head coach Kirby Martin. "If they couldn't grasp at the beginning of this post-season, then it was going to be long day for us as well as a long post-season. It has been a long layoff (since the district duals) so I think they were itching to compete again, but you still have to get your feet wet and back under you and they did that."
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Mifflin County’s Hayden Hidlay, right, goes for the take down against State College’s Mike Kauffman during his 22-9 win at the Altoona Field house during the District 6 Class AAA Championships on Saturday. Hidlay won the 138 pound title.
As for the long layoff without any "foreign" competition, Martin said he didn't see any signs of that affecting his squad.
"We didn't have any long practices, but we kept them intense," Martin said. "We had some snow days that shortened some of our weeks. We would go a couple of days and then a snow day, then a couple more days and another snow day so that seemed to work for us this year. But in the end, it was the kids today and how they wrestled more than anything else."
After a so-so quarterfinal round that saw them advance nine of 14 wrestlers into the semifinals, the Huskies turned it up a notch or two as they went 8-for-9 in the semis to open up a wide gap (182-148) over district rival Central Mountain.
"Thankfully we had that good semifinal round," said Martin. "That was a very good round for us. There was a lot of guts shown and this team has a good rapport with each other and once the ball got rolling, they weren't about to let each other down. After that (semifinal round) I thought we might have a great finals round as well, but we just didn't win them all."
Of the eight finalists, the Huskies split the results down the middle to come away with four champions and four runners-up.
Claiming titles for the Huskies were Hayden Hidlay (138), Trey Hartsock (182), Timmy Pearce (195) and Colton Craig (285), while Isaac Underhill (132), Noah Stewart (152), Brandon Wilson (160) and Kyle Kahley (220) each came up a win short of picking up a gold medal.
Hidlay majored Mike Kauffman of State College 22-9, Hartsock disposed of Philipsburg-Osceola's Dennis Lumadue 9-2, Pearce outlasted David Gawryla of BEA for a 3-1 win in overtime and Craig won his rubber match with Central Mountain's Bryce Hanley when he made an escape stand up for a 1-0 win.
Hidlay, who was dominant throughout the one-day tournament, was a solid choice for the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award.
"I wanted to go out there in the finals tonight and prove a point," said Hidlay. "I wanted to pin him to end the match, but he kind of ran away a little bit so I had to settle for my takedowns to carry me. I have put a lot of time and effort into my left underhook and until somebody can stop it I am just going to continue to go with it. Whenever that happens, I have some backups."
Hartsock became the second Husky to win a title when he dominated Philipsburg-Osceola's Dennis Lumadue for the 9-2 win.
"I am happy with the way things are going, but I am not where I want to be yet," said Hartsock. "I want to be a state qualifier and that opportunity will come next weekend."
As for having to face practice for at least one more week and hopefully two, Hartsock said, "I won't mind it at all. As a matter of fact, I'll be disappointed if it doesn't happen."
Pearce became the third Husky to pick up a title with his 3-1 overtime win over David Gawryla of Bald Eagle Area before Craig edged Hanley.
"I like to wrestle on my feet the best so that is the position I would rather be in," said Pearce. "It was the tie-breaker and I don't think it should have gone that far. Even though I won, I had an off day so all I can do is work hard this week in practice and get back at it next weekend."
After earning his way to the state meet one year ago as a freshman, Hidlay wants to move beyond the disappointment he experienced in the final meet of the year.
"We had a three-week break so I am just looking forward to getting back out there and compete again next week," said Hidlay. "I have a big itch just to go out and compete and I am feeling ready for regionals next week. I am hoping that I can just go out there and wrestle like I did this weekend."
Joining his eight teammates in the regional tournament will be Noah Myers who finished fourth at 113. Myers dropped a tough 2-0 overtime verdict to Luke Leathers of Bellefonte in his place bout.
Now that the first of three steps is complete with hopefully stops at the regional and state tournaments, the Huskies will face another week of practice and possibly another opportunity to refocus for what lies ahead.
"I think this will keep the drive going," said Martin. "I do think this group wants to go deep (into the tournaments). I am expecting another great week of practice with the kids continuing to push each other and at the same time have fun with each other."