WRESTLING: Region-runner-up Fehlman realizes goal of qualifying for states
ALTOONA – “‘Ya know, it’s two years in a row you put my medal on backwards,'” Warren coach Glenn Baldensperger said sophomore D.J. Fehlman told him from the medal stand on Saturday.
Baldensperger hopes he gets another chance at the PIAA Tournament this week at the Giant Center in Hershey.
The two-time District 10 champion Fehlman has advanced to states for the first time in his young wrestling career – a career that has seen him win 65 matches in his first two seasons – after finishing second at 126 pounds on Saturday at the Northwest Region Class AAA tournament at Altoona High School.
Entering the tournament as District 10’s top seed at 30-1, Fehlman earned a 12-5 decision over Jersey Shore’s Colton Killion on Friday, and a 3-1 overtime decision over Clearfield senior Dylan Graham in the semifinal match Saturday morning to punch his ticket to Chocolatetown.
That’s when he was stunned a bit in the region finals in an 8-0 major decision loss to Punxsutawney freshman Kaleb Young, who is 26-1 as the District 9 champion.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished the main goal of the year so I have a little sense of relief,” said Fehlman, “but it still burns a little that I wasn’t the No. 1 guy.”
Last year, Fehlman won the District 10 title at 120 pounds as a freshman, before coming a reversal and takedown away from advancing to states. As a freshman, he lost to Clearfield’s Christian Stone, 6-4, in overtime of the third-place match. He finished fourth at regions. The top three in each weight class advance to the PIAA Class AAA Championships.
This year Fehlman took down Clearfield’s Graham with five seconds to go in overtime to advance to the championship match.
“Definitely that’s the most nervous I’ve been in a while,” said Fehlman of the match that guaranteed him his first trip to states. “I’m going to go down (to Hershey) and try my best, and whatever happens, happens. If you go down and win two matches, you get a medal.”
Baldensperger said Fehlman “made it happen” this year.
“I’m, obviously, satisfied with the weekend,” he said. “The win over Graham was an achievement; I mean the kid’s solid. It took us to the final seconds in the match to finally get a takedown and put the match away.”
Baldensperger said Young”definitely outwrestled us” in the final. “He was just better in some positions,” he said.
That being said, Fehlman adjusted after his first loss of the season, to General McLane’s Keller Watkins, and will adjust ow, said Baldensperger.
Other Dragons that will grow from the experience as regional qualifiers include sophomore Alex Streich and junior Dan Henry.
“Alex just had a wonderful sophomore season,” said Baldensperger. “Alex has come an awful long way the last couple of years. He’s a fast learner and works his tail off. Really, he’s one point from getting himself into the semis.”
Streich was 1-2 at 220 pounds, but finishes his sophomore season with 27 wins.
Henry was 0-2 at 182 after advancing due to a withdrawal, finishing fifth at the District 10 championships.
Warren senior Chris McNeal (23-9) was 1-2 at 195 pounds.
“Hats off to Chris, who did the best he could … with the injuries he battled through,” said Baldensperger.
Here are Saturday’s results from the Northwest Class AAA Wrestling Tournament at Altoona Area High School: